Toyota Locks Out Front Row At Le Mans, Kobayashi Smashes Lap Record


Toyota TS050 hybrid race cars will start first and second at this year’s 24 Hours Of Le Mans endurance race. The action begins precisely at noon on Saturday and continues non-stop until 12 noon on Sunday.

Toyota TS050 Le Mans Pole Sitter

Former Formula One driver Kamui Kobayashi smashed the lap record by more than 2 seconds on the second day of qualifying on Thursday, turning a time of 3 minutes 14.791 seconds around the storied La Sarth race course. The first Porsche hybrid qualifier was nearly two and a half seconds slower. Kobayashi will share driving duties with  shares Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin.

British auto racing news source, AutoSport, enthused over Kobayashi’s fast lap, which “eclipsed the 3:14.8 with which Hans Stuck claimed pole for Le Mans in 1985 on a circuit that had yet to include four of the corners on the current circuit layout.”

By definition, starting on the first row in a race that lasts 24 hours is no guarantee of a brilliant finish. Many pole sitters in the past never finished the race at all. Endurance racing is a test of driver and machine like few others. Often, cars suffer mechanical breakdowns that require long pit stops for repairs.

The biggest source of attrition at Le Mans is collisions with other cars. Up to 60 cars can be on track at the same time and some of them are much faster than others. It’s a challenge to be racing another car in your class and suddenly have one of the LMP1 prototypes come whistling up your tail pipe going 50 miles per hour or more faster. Shuffling through traffic, especially at night, requires every ounce of attention a driver can muster.

For more information on how to watch or listen to live coverage throughout the race and to access the handy and authoritative spotters guide put together each year by Andy Blackmore, visit Road & Track’s pre-race article listing all the on air personalities who will broadcast the race this year. For viewers in the US, Fox Sports 1 and 2 will have the coverage live during the entire race.

Kobayashi’s full qualifying lap is shown in the video below.

Source:     Image via Facebook

About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • mb

    Kudos to Toyota and Kobayashi. The 24h of Le Mans was always one of my favorite motor sports (rally being the other). Cars as fast as F1 that could last a full day; engineering and drivers at the highest level! Hopefully Toyota puts this drive train on a road car as well…

    • Steve Hanley

      I agree, Le Mans and rallying are the only true motorsports left. All the rest are just motorized versions of Roller Derby.

      • mb

        Well. it wasn’t meant to be this year…

  • Kieran Delaney

    Wow, that was riveting and I’ve never even been into Le Mans…

    What a shame McLaren F1 didn’t team up with Toyota instead of Honda…

    Toyota’s hybrid drivetrains last 24h…Honda’s last 24m…

    • Steve Hanley

      Oh, that is HARSH, amigo. ; – ) Also funny. Happens to be accurate as well.

      Interesting that Honda and Toyota both elected to pull out of Formula One just before the new engine rules package went into effect. They both must have known what was coming and decided they didn’t want to play.

      Why on earth Honda decided to jump back in is a great mystery.

      • Kieran Delaney

        Hubris. That’s why.

        It’s a very common affliction here in Japan…

  • Damien

    Let’s see how Toyota will do this year reliability wise. Should be easier to have a better position given Audi’s departure…

    • Steve Hanley

      Yup. “To finish first you must first finish” is still the most important rule in motor racing.

  • It’s a very nice article and great videos thank you for shear a good post

    • Steve Hanley

      Thanks for your comment, Edward.