2020 Le Mans 24 Hours - Pre-Qualifying Results

Toyota emphasised its odds-on favourite status for the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours with its two factory cars well clear of its slim LMP1 opposition in first qualifying around the iconic French circuit.

With this year’s event being postponed due to the coronavirus, it is only the third time it has been held outside of its traditional June date slot. With only the 1968 race being held in September too, as a consequence it is subject to an earlier dusk and a longer night-time stretch than usual, plus likely lower temperatures than previous years.

It also means much of the running has been completed on a Thursday, including the first part of a new  qualifying format that will see the top six from each class qualify for a ‘Hyper Pole’ shootout session on Friday.

In LMP1 terms, this is inconsequential as only 5 cars have made the trip to France - the two world Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrids, a pair of Rebellion Racing R13 Gibson machines and the ByKolles Racing ENSO CLM-Gibson P1/01.

As expected, Toyota were dominant to be more than four seconds a lap faster than their rivals, with the #7 machine of Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi taking provisional pole with a 3m 17.089s lap courtesy of the latter. The #8 car is campaigned by Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima.

With such a slim LMP1 entry, the LMP2 class is by contrast thronging with 23 entries - all Oreca-Gibson based, save for three Ligiers and a Dallara - and with a good chance to make it on the overall podium at least if they can be more reliable than their faster counterparts.

Topping the timesheets here was 2019 F2 champion Nyck de Vries in the Racing Team Nederland car he shares with fellow Dutchmen Fritz van Eerd and Giedo van der Garde.

Ex-F1 driver Will Stevens placed the Jack Chan DC Racing Oreca into second place, ahead of another former F1 pedaller Paul di Resta driving the United Autosport car.

Jean-Eric Vergne briefly went top before a track limits time deletion, but he was still third best in the G-Drive Aurus (rebadged Oreca), with Alex Brundle getting the second United Autosport car into the top six shootout in fourth.

They will be joined by the High Class Racing, who impressed in sixth with Kenta Yamashita at the wheel.

In LMGTE Pro, Aston Martin sealed a 1-2 with Marco Sorensen getting the better of Alex Lynn by less than a tenth, ahead of the AF Corse Ferraris, the #51 leading the #71. As expected, the factory Porsche pair filled the top six to put the three manufacturer entries directly against each other.

In LMGTE Am, the Paul Dalla Lana, Augusto Farfus and Ross Gunn entry topped the timesheets in 36th overall.

The Le Mans 24 Hours - and by extension the WEC - are in a transition phase ahead of new regulations that will see Toyota joined by Alpine (using ex-Rebellion chassis’) and Glickenhaus next year, with Peugeot to join the fray from 2022.