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The #7 Toyota of Kazuki Nakajima, Alex Wurz and Stephane Sarrazin will have the honour of starting the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours from pole position after prevailing over Porsche and Audi in a closely fought qualifying battle.
Having shown its hand with a series of fast provisional pole-sitting lap times towards the end of an interrupted – and carnage-filled – Q2 session, Toyota entrusted the TS040 Hybrid to Nakajima once more when an extended Q3 session began just 30mins later, the Japanese driver keeping up the momentum to continue improving the benchmark.
Making the most of the good track conditions of an earlier-than-expected Q3 start, prompted in order to give the teams more track time following several red flags over the two days, Nakajima's lap time of 3m 21.789secs would stand firm as darkness fell and the teams switched their focus to race pace instead.
It is the first time Toyota has taken pole position for the blue riband endurance race since its return to LMP1 in 2012, the Japanese manufacturer in turn denying Porsche a fabulous result on its comeback after a back-and-forth over the three sessions.
Having been a provisional 1-2 overnight in favour of the #20 machine, it was the #14 919 Hybrid that emerge ahead by the end, Romain Dumas three tenths short of pole position having set his best lap shortly after Nakajima managed his.
Toyota heads up row two as well with Sebastien Buemi getting the #8 TS040 Hybrid up to third position ahead of the #14 Porsche, the two manufacturers freezing out Audi on a day when the German marque appeared unable – and possibly unwilling – to go toe-to-toe with its rivals.
Indeed, appearing visibly slower over a single lap throughout the week, it was notable that Audi spent much of the two sessions chasing consistency in race pace, with all three cars maintaining a low profile in Q3. In the end, the #3 car of Oliver Jarvis, Filipe Albuquerque and Marco Bonanomi would emerge ahead of its full-time WEC counterparts in the #2 and #1 car, the latter finally staying out of trouble following its fracas in FP1 and Q2.
The trio would be 1.4, 2.4 and 4.0secs off the pace respectively, but would appear more competitive during the longer stints.
A flurry of fast times at the start of Q3 saw the LMP2 order change significantly, with the Thiriet by TDS Ligier emerging fastest, the all French line-up of Tristan Gommendy, Ludovic Badey and Philipep Thriet giving the new JS coupe an impressive start to its Le Mans debut.
The JOTA Zytek starts second after going seven seconds quicker than its previous best in the hands of Harry Ticknell, while Jann Mardenborough helped the second of the new Ligier machines – this one run by OAK Racing – up to third. G-Drive and Signatech Alpine complete the top five.
In the LMGTE classes, AF Corse claimed pole for both Pro and Am categories with the two quickest times of all the GT cars. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Gimmi Bruni, Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella secured the honours for the Pro drivers, with Michele Rugolo, Stephen Wyatt and Sam Bird set to start directly alongside as the fastest Am car.
The new Corvette C7R starts second in the Pro class, ahead of the sole remaining Aston Martin of Bruno Senna, Stefan Mucke and Darren Turner. Porsche endured a difficult session, however, the #92 car losing crucial time being repaired after an accident in Q2, while the #91 car stopped with technical issues.
Meanwhile, the #71 AF Corse Ferrari is still set to compete despite its heavy crash in Q2. James Calado, who crashed at the Porsche Curves, is out for the weekend, but he will be replaced by Pierre Kaffer.
Less eventful than earlier sessions, there were no red flags, though Alvaro Parente and Karun Chandhok gave their respective RAM Racing and Murphy Prototypes teams with work to do after spinning off.
The 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours kicks off at 14.00GMT on Saturday afternoon