Brendon Hartley left it until the last moment to earn TOYOTA GAZOO Racing their sixth consecutive Le Mans 24 Hours pole position in a thrilling Hyperpole contest at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
In the final seconds of the session, Brendon snatched his first Le Mans pole thanks to a lap of 3mins 24.408secs in the #8 GR010 HYBRID Hypercar he shares with Sébastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa.
Kamui Kobayashi was in the hunt for a record-equalling fifth pole at La Sarthe in the #7 GR010 HYBRID he drives alongside fellow 2021 winners Mike Conway and José María López, but he fell just 0.420secs short and took second on the grid.
Four-time Le Mans winners TOYOTA GAZOO Racing now move level with Audi on eight pole positions, second on the all-time list.
Hyperpole, in which the best single lap time from one driver per car determines the starting order, featured a five-way fight for pole. Top spot changed hands repeatedly over the 30 minutes as Glickenhaus and Alpine joined the GR010 HYBRIDs in an exciting contest.
Lap times improved continuously until, with the chequered flag already waving to end the session, Brendon led Kamui across the line one last time to seal the team’s fifth front row lock-out in six years.
Either side of Hyperpole, the team focused on race preparations. An electrical issue delayed the #8 GR010 HYBRID in third practice, in which Kamui set the quickest time, while a trouble-free fourth practice featured two hours of night-time running and ended with José setting the fastest time for the #7.
Although there is no track activity on Friday, the team will nevertheless be very busy. Mechanics will rebuild and prepare both cars for the race, engineers will finalise set-ups and plan strategies while the drivers meet the fans during the traditional parade in the city centre.
Kamui Kobayashi (Driver, car #7): “It’s a bit disappointing for me and the #7 car crew but Brendon did a great lap. Congratulations to him and the whole #8 car crew for this result. They had a few troubles earlier in the week but the team worked really hard to come back and they deserved this pole position. I tried my best but I had some traffic and couldn’t manage. That’s how it goes in qualifying. I’m pleased that TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is one-two on the grid; it’s a good starting position for the 24 hours and we are quite confident in our race performance. It was close with the other Hypercars so I’m looking forward to an exciting fight. The race is long and reliability is the most important thing. Our target is to win.”
Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “It’s an incredible feeling to do that lap. I am very happy to take my first pole position here. Thanks to the team for preparing such a fast car today and to my team-mates for letting me have all the fun. There is also some pressure, particularly on the last lap. I had traffic on my penultimate lap so it was all on the last one and it felt amazing to cross the line and see the result. I’m sorry for Kamui to miss out on a pole position record but I know he will have more chances. We need to focus on the race but I’m going to enjoy this moment because it felt great.”