Kevin Estre delivers sensational pole for Porsche Penske at Le Mans

Kevin Estre delivers sensational pole for Porsche Penske at Le Mans

Kevin Estre delivered the fastest lap to put Porsche Penske Motorsport on pole position for the 24 Hours of Le Mans by beating Cadillac with a last-gap effort in Hyperpole.

In a stunning reversal at the chequered flag, Kevin Estre and Porsche Penske Motorsport have won the pole position for the 92nd annual 24 Hours of Le Mans, knocking off Cadillac and Ferrari right at the death.

With just minutes left on the clock in the thrilling grid-defining session, and with the #2 and #3 Cadillac entries leading the field, Estre went all in with a 3m24.634s lap that edged the first of the two American machines by a mere 0.148s!

While Alex Lynn at the wheel of the #2 Cadillac had produced a monumental final sector to snatch the fastest tour, but there was no denying a stunning Estre his first career pole at Le Mans.

The Hyperpole session itself was delayed 35 minutes due to barrier repairs, brought on by Louis Rossi’s hard crash at the end of Road To Le Mans Race 1. At 8:35 PM local time, the session began under dark, cloudy skies with the threat of rain hanging over their heads.

When the action began, seven Hypercars were among the 23 cars that rolled out to fight for their respective class pole positions.

The two Ferrari AF Corse 499Ps set the early benchmark, with Antonio Fuoco in the #50 setting a 3:26.498, and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 following with a 3:26.142. Fuoco then improved to a 3:25.598, marking him as the favourite to win back-to-back poles for Ferrari.

But right behind him, the golden yellow #3 Cadillac V-Series.R of Bourdais put up the fastest sectors all around the course and knocked Fuoco off the top spot with a 3:25.294. And on his next lap, Bourdais went even better, setting a 3:24.816.

That time stood as the fastest lap as, with less than eight minutes to go, Dries Vanthoor locked up into Indianapolis Corner and slid into the gravel. The Belgian, who was the fastest man in Qualifying Practice yesterday, couldn’t get out of the gravel and brought out a red flag.

Bourdais got out of his car and celebrated with his Cadillac and GM colleagues, even though the session would resume with 7:41 remaining – because the #3 didn’t have enough fuel for another run. The Le Mans native was content with his efforts.

The two Ferraris would make one final push for the pole, however. But Fuoco ran off course at the Dunlop Chicane on his first push lap, and backed out, leaving Pier Guidi as the last man from the Ferrari stable to make a push for the pole – but not the last driver that could displace Bourdais!

That’s because the blue #2 Cadillac of Alex Lynn put in searing first and third sectors and knocked his team-mate off the top spot at the chequered flag, with a time of 3:24.782 – just 0.034 seconds ahead.

But just behind him, Estre in the #6 Penske Porsche 963 had put together personal bests in the first and second sectors – and he kept his right-rear wheel just inside the boundary lines exiting the final chicane.

The fiery Frenchman drove across the start/finish line and won the pole with a 3:24.634, 0.148 seconds ahead of Lynn with an incredible final sector!

It’s the 18th overall pole position for Porsche (since qualifying began at Le Mans in 1963) – and their first since Neel Jani won back-to-back poles in 2015 and 2016. For Estre, it’s his first Hypercar pole and first at Le Mans in any category.

Lynn’s time would put the #2 Cadillac in second, ahead of the #3 of Bourdais in third. Pier Guidi’s best time of 3:25.156 put the #51 Ferrari in fourth, ahead of the #50 of Fuoco. Paul-Loup Chatin, last year’s LMP2 pole winner, clocked in with a 3:25.713 to put the #35 Alpine Endurance Team A424 sixth on the grid.

The #15 WRT BMW starts seventh tomorrow after Vanthoor’s lap times were deleted for causing a red flag, while the #12 Hertz Team JOTA Porsche is still being rebuilt at pace, assured of eighth on the grid if their team can complete the herculean task of rebuilding the car around its new tub.

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In LMP2, it was Louis Deletraz in the #14 AO by TF ‘Spike’ ORECA 07 who took pole, with an incredible lap of 3:33.217 – the fastest time of the weekend so far!

Deletraz held the top time at the fall of the red flag, ahead of Malthe Jakobsen in the #37 COOL Racing car. It was a six-car dash for pole at the resumption of the session, with COOL Racing electing not to send the #37 out for the last dash.

Deletraz the last in the line of the LMP2 players, with an eigh-tenth buffer to the rest of the field. First to cross the line was the United Autosport pair – Ben Hanley in the #23 ahead of Oliver Jarvis in the #22 – then Mathias Beche managed second in the #65 Panis Racing car until Job Van Uitert put the #28 IDEC Sport car to the top with a 3:33.827.

But it was short-lived. Five seconds later, Deletraz crossed the line, smashing the time set by van Uitert with a 3:33.217 to take pole by six-tenths of a second.

This now makes Spike the LMP2 Dragon the first fantasy animal to win pole position in any class at Le Mans – and for Deletraz, the second-generation Swiss driver, it is his first Le Mans pole in any category.

It was Job van Uitert in the #28 in second, then the Panis Racing of Beche #65 in third. The United Autosport pair, #23 ahead of #22 were separated by only half a tenth, in fourth and fifth, then Jakobsen in the Cool Racing #37 – clearly missing out on the best track conditions.

DKR Engineering’s Laurents Hörr put the #33 in seventh after losing a string of laps due to track limits violations, while the #10 Vector Sport car rounded out Hyperpole as the veteran Patrick Pilet set a 3:35.855.

Bob Akin Trophy winner Brendan Iribe conquered LMGT3 Hyperpole for Inception Racing, as the red #70 McLaren LMGT3 Evo took not only the first pole position in the history of the upstart class – but also the McLaren marque’s first Le Mans pole position.

The American driver was the best of his Bronze-rated peers as he hustled the car through on his fourth and final flying lap to deliver a 3:58.120, but the car had set the pace throughout the session.

Manthey PureRxcing’s #92 Porsche 911 GT3 R’s 3:59.695 laid down the first marker, as Alex Malykhin posted the first sub-4-minute lap, but was upstaged by Iribe’s first flyer, going one second better having hung back to get clear track position.

A 3:58.533 from Iribe also beat the #66 JMW Ferrari’s improvement to 3:59.151, which had also taken time out of the Manthey Porsche for second – a solid effort from Giacomo Petrobelli.

Even though Petrobelli would improve into the 3:58 range too, Malykhin managed an improvement to 3:58.928 that regained second until the end of the session to share the GT3 front row.

Iribe looked like he would improve further before the red flag but he carried too much speed into the Ford Chicane, spinning his McLaren. At the restart, the car looked poised for further improvement, and the final push from Iribe consolidated the McLaren pole.

The blue #77 Proton Competition Mustang of Ryan Hardwick headed the trailing LMGT3 contenders with a 3:59.443.

The two Aston Martins will form the third row, the #27 Heart of Racing car of Ian James three seconds clear of the #77 D’Station Vantage’s time by Satoshi Hoshino, trailed by the #82 TF Sport Corvette of Hiroshi Koizumi and the #60 Iron Lynx Lamborghini of Claudio Schiavoni, both over five seconds off the pole time.

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