bmw surprise in Le Mans qualifying

BMW produce a surprise in Le Mans qualifying

12 June at 19:26
  • Ludo van Denderen

In an extremely exciting qualifying session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the #15 BMW (with Dries Vanthoor at the wheel) very surprisingly placed fastest for the hyperpole. Behind the German team - debuting in the hypercar class of the WEC this season - the equally remarkable Cadillac (#3) of Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon finished second, ahead of the fastest Ferrari (#50).

For a race in the World Endurance Championship (WEC), qualifying is divided into two parts - so too is the race at Le Mans. After an hour-long qualifying session, the fastest eight cars in each class (in this case) are left to battle for the final pole position in the so-called hyperpole. At Le Mans, this hyperpole is completed on Thursday, so the first part took place on Wednesday.

The field at Le Mans close together

It became clear that times have changed at Le Mans. Where in the past, there could easily be a difference of more than a second between the number one and two during qualifying, the best eight hypercars finished within six-tenths of a second on the 13.626-kilometre circuit on Wednesday night.

The pace was initially set by Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande's teammate, in the surprisingly quick Cadillac. Only in the last ten minutes did the former F1 driver lose his first place to the #15 BMW. At that point, the track was extremely crowded, with several teams posting purple sector times but regularly getting stuck behind a slower competitor. They had to get off the throttle; the chance of a good classification could be immediately forgotten.

Porsche and Toyota had a tough time

It was remarkable how much the usually strong teams of Porsche and Toyota struggled. The former is considered the big favourite for the overall win, but saw only one car reach the hyperpole (eighth and last). Kevin Estre even had a moment after going off track in the closing stages. The #7 of Kamui Kobayashi, Nyck de Vries and Jose Maria Lopez was the only Toyota to join the top eight (fourth).

Japanese driver Kobayashi slid into the gravel trap just under three minutes before the end of the session, after which the red flag was waved and the session was over. In doing so, he troubled his teammate Brendon Hartley, who was fast on the road in the second Toyota. Incidentally, Hartley had made a 360 himself shortly before.

Hypercars results

LMP2 results

GT results