As these words are written, the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is well underway. And it seems that it could shape up to be a rather interesting one, especially as far as hybrid cars running in the LMP1 Prototype class are concerned.
During Friday’s final qualifying session, some surprising results emerged. When the dust settled, a hybrid car was on pole for the first time in history, thanks to André Lotterer’s stunning lap at the beginning of the session in the #1 Team Joest Audi R18 eTron Quattro.
In fact, his lap time of 3 minutes, 23.78 seconds, beat the last year’s qualifying record by almost two seconds. What then emerged was a mixture of conventional, diesel and hybrid cars in the mix. The next hybrid vehicle on the starting grid was in 3rd place. Anthony Davidson, driving one of the Toyota TS030s, managed an impressive 3 minute 24.842 second lap to secure the third spot on the grid, which was also within one second of pole sitter Lotterer.
Hybrids also made the fourth and fifth top spots on the grid, with the #2 Audi eTron, driven by Romain Dumas, Loic Duval and Marc Gene earning fourth and #7 Toyota piloted by Alex Wurz, Nicolas LaPierre and Kazuki Nakajima rounding out the top five spots.
However given the length of the Le Mans race and the toll it takes on both cars and drivers, anything can happen; so those who did well in qualifying and got off to a good start could lose momentum. Nevertheless, if a hybrid does indeed win this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, it could mark the start of a paradigm shift when it comes to vehicle propulsion in the higher echelons of motorsport.