Porsche edges Cadillac to claim pole for 24 Hours of Le Mans

Porsche Penske Motorsport’s No. 6 963 will start the 92nd edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend from pole position after a masterful performance in the Hyperpole shootout on Thursday night from Kevin Estre.

The best lap from the Frenchman, a 3m24.634s, came at the end of the session and saw him vault ahead of the two Ganassi-run Cadillacs, which briefly sat 1-2 at the top of the timing screens.

Estre’s pole-clinching tour, set on medium compound Michelins in tricky overcast conditions, was 0.148s clear of the quickest of the two Cadillacs – the No. 2 – which was steered by Alex Lynn. The lap secured Estre his first overall WEC pole at Le Mans, and Porsche’s 18th.


“It was crazy,” Estre told RACER. “We were last in the queue, there was traffic and I didn’t do a perfect lap but felt the tires were still coming. 

“Then on the second lap, I was convinced I wouldn’t have enough fuel. But the engineers kept pushing me and I had a very nice slipstream from an LMP2. I had to overtake him at Indy, but he blocked me so it wasn’t easy to get past. 

“I am so happy I did though because the Porsche Curves were amazing, I really had a perfect run with the car I had. I didn’t know where I was (on the leaderboard) when I crossed the line, but I knew that the lap wasn’t too bad!

“Conditions were OK, but we couldn’t beat last year’s pole time. The track was so good on Sunday, but since then with track time for us and support races it has dropped pace. The wind also didn’t help today heading into the chicanes. If you are slow down the straights here it counts a lot!”

Lynn’s best lap came on his final tour with the checkered flag out, a 3m24.634s, which saw him rise from sixth to first after a monster run through the final sector.

That time came after Sebastien Bourdais’ best effort in the sister No. 3 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R halfway through the session before a red flag – a 3m24.816s. During the stoppage the No. 3 crew opted to park the car in the garage, hopeful the time was good enough. In the end, though, it was 0.2s shy of the top spot.

“It was a really solid lap,” Bourdais said. “You always leave something on the table at a track like this. But at the end of the day, I’m really happy where we ended up. The car hasn’t felt great for most of the test, but when we hit the track for qualifying, the car was amazing. This time I didn’t get any traffic.

“The first prep lap I just pushed through because I knew it was a throwaway lap. That’s why when they told me I was only going to get one lap, I was thinking there was no way and that I couldn’t get the tires up to temp. We probably were going to be too low on fuel to do three and two. It is what it is. At the end of the day, I was super happy that we could jam that thing in. It’s amazing and awesome for Cadillac. We can go racing now.”

Joining Bourdais and the No. 3 crew on the second row of the grid will be the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, which looked quick early in the session but didn’t quite have enough pace to challenge at the end.

The No. 50 Ferrari also looked like a contender but will start fifth. Antonio Fuoco – who took pole with a 3m22.9s last year – ended up having his final flyer ruined by a track limits violation at Turn 3 and missed out on a final effort.

Sixth, and last of the Hypercars that set a competitive time, was the No. 35 Alpine driven by Paul Loup Chatin.

The fast times came after the fans that packed the grandstands were made to wait for Hyperpole to reach a crescendo.

The session started 35 minutes late due to lengthy barrier repairs following a huge crash in the Road to Le Mans support race held prior to Hyperpole. The end was then delayed further when BMW’s Dries Vanthoor caused the aforementioned red flag with an off at Indianapolis.

The Belgian, who topped qualifying on Wednesday, ended up nose-first into the tire barriers at Indy after suffering understeer at turn-in. The crash occurred with just under eight minutes remaining, eliminated the No. 15 M Hybrid V8 from the session and prompted race control to delete all its laps.

This reduced it to a five-car fight for Pole in the final moments, as the No. 12 Hertz Team JOTA Porsche was unable to take part due to the ongoing effort to build up a new car from the team, and Bourdais had parked the No. 3 Cadillac.

In LMP2, Louis Deletraz stormed to pole for AO by TF with a last-ditch effort in the ‘Spike’ liveried Pro/Am entered ORECA. The Swiss’ best time was a 3m33.217s, 0.6s quicker than Job Van Uitert’s best time from IDEC Sport, which was posted moments before Deletraz reached the line.

Inception’s No.70 car gave McLaren its first Le Mans pole in LMGT3. JEP/Motorsport Images

The No. 65 Panis ORECA also improved and took third, while the No. 23 United ORECA claimed fourth.

Initially, Malthe Jakobsen was Deletraz’s main threat, but like Bourdais, the Dane parked up at the red flag and dropped down the order as a result.

LMGT3 was the only class which didn’t see a major shuffle in the final moments. Brendan Iribe starred in the class, despite a spin on a hot lap at the Ford Chicane. A 3m58.120s claimed Inception Racing and McLaren their first Le Mans pole positions.

“I’ve been with McLaren form the very beginning with their Pure McLaren days and I truly love this car,” Iribe said. “With our other two appearances here in GTE cars they really didn’t suit me, but it seems that everything has just come together. Our choice to do IMSA, even though that’s a Silver/Pro series, has helped me to raise my game.

“The team have been exceptional, from preparing the car and the recovery after the problem just a couple of hours ago we’ve kept to a plan and here we sit. When they called the names Kevin Estre and Louis Deletraz its just wild that my name was next.”

Asked about scoring the first ever McLaren pole and LMGT3 pole at Le Mans, Iribe replied, ”It’s just unbelievable. When people talk about history it’s completely wild to hear your name and your team’s name spoken about like that.

“LMGT3 is an awesome formula and it’s only going to get stronger when more and more people realize that if a guy like me can do this they can have a shot too.”

The WEC championship-leading Pure Racing Porsche ended up second, with the JMW Ferrari third.

Next on the schedule is the final practice session ahead of the race, which will start at 22:30 local time.


Story originally appeared on Racer