Le Mans 24h: Toyota seals pole after Nakajima flyer

Nakajima puts Alonso's Toyota on provisional pole at Le Mans

Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi will start the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours from pole position after team-mate Kazuki Nakajima secured the #8 Toyota pole position.

A clean lap from Nakajima significantly improved the pole position time and set a new track record for the updated 13.626km circuit lay-out, in use for the first time this year.

Another familiar face is former F1 driver and current Sky Sports pundit Paul Di Resta, who starts off in 18th for United Autosports.

Already having been provisional pole setter overnight after Wednesday's first runs, Nakajima found another two seconds on Thursday to set an unmatched time of 3:15.377s.

"I think he really enjoyed doing the Indy 500 last year because he suddenly had a vehicle at the front which he hadn't had for a number of years and it was such a career-changing moment if you win that race", Chilton explained.

That meant few improvements were made in the second half. However halfway through the rain finally arrived.

The category has consistently delivered close racing in the past, such as Aston Martin driver Jonny Adam's thrilling last-lap battle with Corvette in 2017 to take the win.

The ORECA-built Rebellion Racing R-13s ended up third and fourth.

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Ben Barker put the #86 Gulf Racing machine up to second with a time 0.663s shy of Cairoli and some six tenths up on the second of Dempsey-Proton cars.

The 2014 European Le Mans Series champion shaved a tenth off his Wednesday benchmark in the session's opening runs, which proved enough to keep the IDEC vehicle ahead of Nathanael Berthon's #31 DragonSpeed Oreca, also running on Michelins, by just 0.041s.

Also failing to improve after clutch issues kept them in the garage, the #11 SMP Racing entry driven by 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button alongside Vitaly Petrov and Mikael Aleshin will start seventh ahead of the ByKolles Racing #4.

SMP Racing and DragonSpeed were the biggest surprises of the session, managing to set lap times that were not predicted, following their performances at Spa Francorchamps and the Le Mans test day.

In the LMP2 field, the #48 IDEC Sport Oreca held on to top spot. That time was briefly beaten by the #28 TDS Racing of Loic Duval, but unfortunately for the 2013 victor, it was deleted by the stewards, dropping Duval and co to 13th overall and fourth in class, behind #31 DragonSpeed and #26 G-Drive.

Duval's 3m25.240s from first qualifying on Wednesday was good enough for fourth, while the top five was completed by Will Stevens in the best of the Ligiers entered by Panis-Barthez Competition, another auto running on Michelins.

The #10 DragonSpeed vehicle secured sixth, 5.733 down on the pole time, whilst the second SMP Racing LMP1 - featuring Jenson Button - starts seventh ahead of the #4 ByKolles and #6 CEFC TRSM Racing machine, more than eight seconds adrift.

Second in the GTE-Pro charts was Michael Christensen in the No. 92 "Pink Pig" Porsche, while Ford Chip Ganassi Racing ran third and fourth.

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