The stage is set for a Le Mans Hyperpole battle to remember

With both Toyotas and two of the three factory Porsches failing to make it through to Hyperpole shootout on Thursday evening, it’s fair to say that there’s been plenty to talk about and keep an eye on during the second day of track action at Le Mans.

By the conclusion of the Test Day on Sunday, it appeared as though Porsche was poised to set the pace all week, continuing its fine run of form through the opening races of the season. Toyota’s technical director David Floury even made the bold claim that “If Porsche doesn’t win they will have done a pretty bad job.”

However, two days is a long time in the world of sportscar racing it seems, as after the first six hours of track time yesterday, other manufacturers have started to raise the stakes.


Porsche’s factory cars haven’t had their own way so far. Look no further than the qualifying results sheet, which displays the No. 5 and No. 4 963s a rather disappointing 10th and 19th in the times after the best efforts of Matt Campbell and Nick Tandy.

Toyota, which like Porsche was expected to contend for pole with its GR010 HYBRDs, also struggled. It led set the fastest time in both practice sessions but failed to get a car into Hyperpole. The No. 8 couldn’t string a fast lap together in qualifying, while the No. 7 looked set to make the cut but had its laps deleted for causing a red flag.

So who has impressed? Ferrari, Cadillac and Alpine have all had moments in the sun and will battle for pole tonight.

But perhaps the main headline was the performance of the No. 15 BMW Team WRT M Hybrid V8, which stole the show in Qualifying with a session-topping performance from Dries Vanthoor. It’s left many in the paddock wondering whether or not BMW may emerge as a surprise package here at La Sarthe.

After a tricky start to life in Hypercar for WRT through the races at Qatar, Imola and Spa, it would be quite the story if it could contend for podium places this weekend. In part because the program is so new, but also because it’s a particularly special weekend for the Bavarian brand, which is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its overall Le Mans win with the V12 LMR.

“We are really happy. From the Test on Sunday onwards, we have been happy with the car balance,” Andreas Roos, head of BMW Motorsport, told RACER.

“We’ve had no big issues there and we have prepared quite well. Now we are on the provisional pole and Dries did the fastest lap time. Being here 25 years after the last victory in the top category, makes us pumped and motivated. The lap yesterday really helped everybody to stay motivated and put that little bit extra into this effort.

“The list of teams that made Hyperpole was definitely a surprise to us, and it’s unexpected for us to be the quickest. If you’d have asked me before I’d have told you I’d be happy if one car got through to Hyperpole, that would have been enough. We watched that lap and wondered where it came from, and he would have improved too had he not lost that last lap to a red flag.

“Other cars were still improving so maybe we were lucky Dries nailed the lap earlier, though it’s nice to see the potential in the car, the team and the drivers on this unique track.

“Here you can be quick over one lap yet what counts is long stints in the race and we’ve worked a lot on that, we didn’t actually focus on single-lap pace for qualifying so far.”

Nobody within the WRT camp is getting ahead of themselves, but confidence is brewing ahead of their first major test in Year 1 for the effort.

Roos clearly has faith that the M Hybrid V8 is a winning package that will become a contender going forward. Evidence of this is in the brand’s strategy towards developing the car. There are no “Evo Joker” updates planned to rectify performance concerns and no reliability-focused upgrades in the pipeline.

“Maybe we will have a different understanding (of the car) after this race, but at the moment, nothing is planned,” he said.

Looking beyond the Hypercar headlines, LMGT3 too has provided its fair share of intrigue so far, with both Proton Competition and TF Sport looking strong with their new-for-2024 LMGT3 machinery from Ford and Corvette respectively.

Ben Barker topped qualifying in the No. 77 Proton Mustang and was extremely complimentary of the car’s capabilities on the La Sarthe circuit.

“Honestly, I’m at a loss for words,” he said. “This is great. We came into this not knowing truly where we were going to be.

“Everyone from Ford Performance, Multimatic Motorsports to Proton Competition has worked tirelessly in every single test to get this car faster each session. It’s proven here, and it’s not top-speed.

“Everyone may think Mustang is all about top speed, but it just feels balanced and really nice. The car was working for me and I had so much confidence in it. I’d say this lap was one of the most enjoyable I’ve had at Le Mans… and I’ve done it quite a few times.

“It’s a testament to the team and the car. It’s a long way to go, but it’s a good start. You have to enjoy these moments.”

In Balance of Performance-governed formulas like Hypercar and LMGT3, making bold predictions ahead of major races like the Le Mans 24 Hours is rarely smart.

There’s a long way to go yet and we won’t know for sure which cars have the edge on long-run pace through changing conditions until we get deep into the race. There’s also the prospect of rain showers on both Saturday and Sunday, which may yet throw a significant spanner in the works for the teams in pit lane, as every track session thus far has been held in the dry.

This is something to be savored. You only need to flip back a few chapters in Le Mans history books to find examples of races dominated by one or two teams. Yet here we are, with infinitely more questions than answers midway through the week and three classes that appear pretty wide open, with at least four manufacturers seemingly in play for overall honors in Hypercar and LMGT3.

Drink it in folks, because this won’t last forever. Le Mans 24 Hours Kool-aid has never tasted so good.

Story originally appeared on Racer