Ferrari AF Corse has locked out the front row for the 100th anniversary running of the Le Mans 24 Hours, after Antonio Fuoco and Alessandro Pier Guidi produced blistering times in the team’s pair of 499Ps during tonight’s Hyperpole session. It was a landmark result for the Italian manufacturer, which will start the French endurance classic from pole for the first time since 1973.

The two works drivers traded provisional pole times during the 30-minute session, with Pier Guidi in the No. 51 setting an astonishing 3m23.897s benchmark time on his first flying lap. This easily eclipsed the 2022 pole time (a 3m24.408s by the No. 8 Toyota) and was the first time of the week to dip under 3m24s.

After Pier Guidi set the bar, Fuoco in the No. 50 made it his mission to raise it, and with eight minutes left set a remarkable 3m22.982s. This was an improvement of almost a second, putting him 0.7s up on his teammate. What was most impressive was that the lap was set despite the Italian losing time at Indianapolis when he came up beh ind the No. 57 Kessel Ferrari on the entry to the slow left-hander.

Fuoco’s lap was also nearly a full second faster than the previous qualifying lap record set in the admittedly young history of the Le Mans Hypercar class, a 3m23.900s, set by the Toyota GR010 HYBRID in 2021.

“It was a really good lap, really tough qualifying. My first lap was slower than the sister car, then I put it all together. It’s something special, to be honest!” Fuoco said. “I want to enjoy the moment, then we will think about the race.”

While the Ferraris were pushing for improvements, the remaining six cars in Hypercar were also pushing to challenge the 499Ps. Kamui Kobayashi in the No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 HYBRID was on course to move up the order from fourth, but halfway through his most promising flying lap local hero Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R stopped on the Mulsanne Straight, with the rear end of his car on fire. Replays showed the car briefly bursting into flames before the fire settled under the car.

Thankfully Bourdais was able to climb out of the car unharmed. It was a major blow for Cadillac though, after it had opted to change the engines on all three of its V-Series.Rs earlier in the day to ensure its fleet had fresh motors for Hyperpole and the race. Adding to the misery was the news that filtered through shortly after that Bourdais’ best time, a 3m24.908s that briefly put him third overall, would be deleted by regulation because he caused a red flag. As a result, the car dropped to eighth (last) by the end of the session, with its best time a 3m25.521s.

Cadillac Racing engineers have determined that a burst high pressure fuel hose caused the fire, and Cadillac Racing and Dallara engineers and the Chip Ganassi Racing crew are working to prepare the car for the race.

When the session went green again, Ferrari AF Corse opted to stay in the garage, confident they wouldn’t improve. On the other end of pit lane, Toyota sent both GR010 HYBRIDs out for a final stand, but neither Kobayashi nor Brendon Hartley in the No. 8 sister car could split the Ferraris or come close to pole. In fact, no Hypercar came within a second of pole-setting No. 50.

“We have no words. For all these people it’s less than a year since the car first turned laps at Fiorano. This is for all the people working on the project,” Fuoco’s teammate Miguel Molina said.

Both Toyota drivers did set better times, although Kobayashi lost his best tour to a track limits violation and dropped to fifth. Hartley’s best time in the No. 8 — a 3m24.451s at the end of the session — put him and his teammates third on the grid, a tenth up on the fastest of the two Penske Porsches that made it into the session, the No. 75. It was an interesting strategy from Porsche, which opted to keep its cars in the garage for half the session, before setting times late on.

The No. 75 guest-entered IMSA car will start fourth, while the No. 5 WEC entry will start from seventh, behind the No. 7 Toyota and No. 2 Cadillac.

In LMP2, Paul Loup Chatin was the man of the half-hour, setting a blistering 3m32.923s in the IDEC Sport No. 48 ORECA to beat JOTA to the class pole. The Frenchman the only driver in the class to set a time under 3m33s. Pietro Fittipaldi ended up second in the JOTA example, which continued its fine showing of pace in the session and was just a tenth off.

“I am so proud of this. I am proud of Pau Loup, and the team — big respect,” IDEC Sporting Director Nicolas Minassian said. “To do this at Le Mans at the hundred years, it’s all aligned. There’s a long way to go but we have to enjoy what’s here,”

The top five in LMP2 was completed by the No. 41 WRT, No. 47 COOL Racing and No. 63 Prema ORECAs.

In GTE, Ben Keating put the factory Corvette Racing team atop the times for the final GTE race at Le Mans. The Texan was fast throughout the session and sat on provisional pole before the red flag. He then went out for one final lap and set a 3m52.376s to improve by 0.8s and set pole by over a second. If Keat ing continues this form in the race, the Pratt Miller-run team will be extremely hard to beat this weekend…

Corvette will be joined on the front row by the ORT by TF Sport Aston Martin. Ahmad Al Harthy put in a fine effort ahead of his first start. The Omani driver reeled off a 3m53.905s which secured second. The No. 54 Ferrari will start third after a strong showing from Thomas Flohr.

This story has been updated since it was originally published to include additional details about the fire on the No.3 Cadillac.

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