Kamui Kobayashi established a new benchmark this June when he recorded the fastest ever pole position qualifying time for Toyota.
The past decade has been record-breaking in many ways on the 13.6-kilometre long Circuit des 24 Heures in Le Mans. Thanks to improved technology and techniques, prototypes have never performed as well as in the last seven years.
On Wednesday 14 June, in the first qualifying session, Kamui Kobayashi completed a lap in 3:14.791 at an average speed of 251.9 kph, the fastest ever qualifying time at the French 24-hour marathon, earning him pole position for the race start.
The driver of the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid broke the 32-year-old record set by Hans Joachim Stuck in the Porsche 956 (3:14.80 at an average speed of 251.815 kph). As the circuit has been altered over the years, the record is based on actual time, not on average speed.
The distance record was broken in 2010 and the fastest lap in the race was set in 2015.
In 2010, at the wheel of the Audi R15 TDI Plus, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Mike Rockenfeller covered 5,410 kilometres at an average speed of 225 kph. The previous record, held by Helmut Marko and Gijs can Lennep (Porsche 917) dated back to 1971. In 2015, Audi also set the fastest lap in race, which still stands. On the Sunday morning, three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer clocked a lap in 3:17.475, averaging 248 kph.
Of course, you can’t talk of records without mentioning Tom Kristensen. The Dane, who turned fifty this summer, is the most successful driver at the Le Mans 24 Hours, having broken Jacky Ickx’s record of six wins in 2005. He went on to extend the record to nine wins.
Is the next Mr Le Mans among the promising young drivers currently competing on the world’s circuits? Time will tell!
Photo: Kamui Kobayashi (pictured) broke a three-year-old record held by his fellow countryman and Toyota teammate Kazuki Nakajima.