• Jun 15, 2012
There were times during the past two days of qualifying when it looked like Audi might own the first two rows of the starting grid for this weekend's 24 Hours of Le Mans. The R18 e-tron quattro hybrid cars were running the quickest lap times, with the two diesel R18 Ultras following close behind. The two Toyota TS 030 hybrid cars were also quick, but it seemed they were always nipping at the heels of an Audi's lap time, much like the Audis used to trail the faster Peugeots during qualifying for Le Mans races of the recent past. And we all know how that usually ended for Peugeot.

So when the third and final qualifying session ended last evening, we were surprised to learn the starting grid had ended up as anything but expected. An Audi will have pole position, and a hybrid car at that, which marks the first time such a powertrain has earned the honor. The No. 1 R18 e-tron quattro beat all comers with a fastest lap of 3:23.787, nearly two seconds quicker than last year's pole.

Next to the first R18 e-tron quattro will be another R18, but not a hybrid. The No. 3 R18 Ultra will be starting second, followed by the No. 8 Toyota TS030 hybrid starting third, the other R18 e-tron quattro starting fourth, the No. 7 Toyota TS030 hybrid starting fifth and the final R18 Ultra starting sixth. So not a single car of the quickest six will start next to its twin, which suggests that none of the three powertrain technologies has a lock on leading the race.

In LMP2, the No. 25 Oreca Nissan led the field with a fastest lap of 3:38.181, followed closely by the No. 24 Oak Racing Morgan Judd and then four more Oreca Nissans. The Nissan DeltaWing, racing in an experimental class of its own, wound up near the back of the LMP2 field with a fastest lap of 3:42.612 set on the first day of qualifying.

The GTE Pro class promises to be as exciting as ever this year, with the pole being led by the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia, which recorded a particularly quick lap of 3:56.484 during the final qualifying session. The Ferrari will be followed by Aston Martin Racing's No. 97 Vantage V8 and the first of two Corvette Racing C6 ZR1s.

Lastly, the GTE Am class will be lead by the No. 79 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 RSR with a leading lap time of 3:57.594, followed by another 911 from Prospeed Competition and the No. 99 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage.

Click here to find out the best place, time and way to experience this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      The race could go either way. The forecast is for rain on Saturday. If the rain is isolated it will be problematic for every team. The edge in that case would have to go to Audi since they have more cars and can run different strategies. If the rain is steady then it can go either way. Audi in the past has shown their setup to be better than Peugeot in we conditions. We don't know how it will compare to Toyota. If the rain is torrential, it will be about fuel economy because the safety cars will be out for large chunks of the race. Generally the diesels have been much better compared to the petrol cars. I'm not sure how the hybrids will factor. Since Audi has hybrids as well I would put it in the favor of Audi. Otherwise with the cars running close qualifying times it comes down to pitting and tire life. The Audi teams have a lot of experience at Le Mans and we know their pit crews are up to the task. But the Toyota team is still in question. How fast will those tire changes and driver changes be? Will there be any minor mechanical issues and can they be addressed quickly? In the end it all depends on who is lucky.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I've got the food. I've got the beverage. I've reserved the couch. I've told the wife and kids to leave me alone. I'm ready for Le Mans 2012. Between Speed and streaming, I have most of the race covered.
      • 2 Years Ago
      They're not hybrid in tradtional sense of the word. Electric motor only powers the front wheels creating a faux 4x4, but it is not directly linked to the main engine as it's in the Toyota or Honda full-hybrid cars. Imagine a bi-engined car with each engine powering only one axle.
        • 2 Years Ago
        It's still just as much a hybrid, but specifically a through the road hybrid. Energy gets to the wheels via two paths; mechanically from the engine, and electromechanically through the motor from the energy storage (battery or KERS flywheel.) The motor and engine are just connected through the road rather than through a planetary gearset.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Nice foreshadowing image for LMP1 and GT class. Go Jake!
      • 2 Years Ago
      rooting for the nissan deltawing!
      • 2 Years Ago
      Glad to see the Toyota's keeping a good pace, hopefully that means there will be some decent competition against Audi for the outright win. Of course that's depending on the Toyota's keeping that pace over a 24 hour period, which is honestly highly doubtfull for their first year. It does make the aspect of continued competion for the Audi's, which is a great thing for LeMans and the continued advancement of these vehicle. And here I was so upset about Peugeot leaving...
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why no ford
      • 2 Years Ago
      Looks like another Audi win this year as long as the cars are reliable.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Guess they won't win
          • 2 Years Ago
          I can only hope you were being sarcastic. I'm very critical of VAG's street cars, but they put on a reliability clinic in 2010 when the R15s pressed Peugeot into driving all four 908s into the ground. From behind.
      • 2 Years Ago
      The Nissan DeltaCar is idiotic...it looks like one major...Sir dick...pecker...privates...wang...willy...johnson...schlong...wiener...nuts...salty nuts...one eyed monster...woody...prick... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYSOmYyNHpU
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why does the speed channel make it so damn hard to see the starting grid lineup. its not like someone wont sell a program and make money, I an 4000 miles from the track.
      Shahul X
      • 2 Years Ago
      So much for Toyota... Just like a normal Toyota driver.. Slow and then wreck lol ..kidding.. Hope that guys ok
      • 2 Years Ago
      So the Nissan Delta wing is at the back of the pack?... what a surprise.
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