Sports are weird in 2020. Does a shortened season really count in the NBA, NFL and MLB? It’s debatable, but every league is doing what it can to salvage what’s been an incredibly rough year. The 24 Hours of Le Mans, on the other hand, is a single event so the results will be pretty cut and dry when the checkered flag drops…this weekend. Did anyone else forget it was this weekend?
Everyone knew Le Mans was postponed from its original June date, and it was also well-publicized that no fans would be allowed at Circuit de la Sarthe this year. That said, I was almost surprised to see qualifying highlights on Friday morning—maybe it’s because no one’s there to tweet about it. Or I’m bad at keeping up with the calendar.
Still, it only took a few minutes to get caught up on the action. Toyota is on pole in the LMP1 class—shocker, I know. Le Mans’ one-lap record holder Kamui Kobayashi drove the No. 7 TS050 Hybrid to the grid’s top spot. It’ll be joined on the front row by Rebellion Racing’s No. 1 prototype which was four seconds behind in initial qualifying but within a second in the race’s new HyperPole round that decided the top six spots in each class.
The No. 8 Toyota will start in third as it welcomes driver Brendon Hartley after the Kiwi won it all at Le Mans in 2017 with Porsche. There’s no Fernando Alonso this time—he’s OOO until the 2021 Formula 1 season when he’ll return with the rebranded Alpine team that’s replacing Renault on next year’s grid.
The quickest LMP2 car in qualifying, United Autosports’ No. 22 Oreca, was just 1.5 seconds off the slowest LMP1 entry, ByKolles Racing’s ENSO CLM P1/01-Gibson. That’s not too shabby over the course of 8.467 miles, most of which are comprised of high-speed straights.
Despite an early round of dominance by the Aston Martin Vantage GTE Pro cars, they fell behind in HyperPole running to the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR as well as the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE. Twenty-four hours is plenty of time to make up that difference, of course, and it’s bound to be a race of attrition.
The new Chevy Corvette C8.R race car won’t be in attendance, sadly, as the team decided to withdraw from Le Mans after it was rescheduled earlier this year.
Finally, GTE Am will be led by Luzich Racing’s No. 61 Ferrari when the green flag flies Saturday at 8:30 a.m ET. A lot can and certainly will happen by 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, so if you’re dedicated enough to buy a MotorTrend TV subscription and watch the race, then keep your eye out for drama at the eerily empty track. It’s supposed to rain, after all.
I’ll try paying closer attention from here on out.
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