FACTORY Toyota driver Kamui Kobayashi has obliterated the Circuit de la Sarthe lap record - home of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and you may need to recalibrate your senses after strapping in for this one.
Piloting the TS050 LMP1 hybrid, Kobayashi lapped the iconic French track, made up of part permanent racing circuit and part closed public roads, in a staggering 3:14.791 – slashing two seconds from the previous record set by Neel Jani in 2015.
Kobayashi’s lap time was so bonkers fast, it not only reset the bar for the current circuit layout, but crushed a pole record set in 1985, when the circuit had four fewer corners!
Assisting Kobayashi’s massive cojones on his high-speed jaunt were near perfect conditions, with tailwinds on the long Mulsanne straight, and a headwind through the twisting Porsche Curves.
Last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans ended in heart wrenching fashion for the Japanese manufacturer, leading at the end of the race, before the number-five car crawled to a stop in sight of the team’s mechanics with just three minutes remaining. The ensuing scenes are some of the most evocative and emotional in the history of the race.
Kobayashi’s lap sets up a fierce battle between Porsche and Toyota for this year’s 24 Hour race. Toyota has locked out the front row, and appears to be the outright pace setters in their search for redemption. Meanwhile, Porsche, the defending race victors, are searching to extend their all-time win tally.
An interesting note for this year’s Le Mans race, while the LMP1 cars remain several seconds a lap quicker than the lighter LMP2 cars, the smaller prototypes are actually faster on the Mulsanne straight.
It’s not just Kobayashi resetting records during qualifying either. With the entire 60-car field qualifying in under four minutes for the first time in the event’s history.