Le Mans, France - New Zealander Brendon Hartley led a qualifying one-two for Toyota at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Thursday with the Japanese team taking its sixth successive pole position at the Sarthe circuit.
Hartley, who shares the number eight GR010 hybrid car with Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japanese Ryo Hirokawa, lapped with a best time of three minutes and 24.408 seconds.
Japan's Kamui Kobayashi, who took pole last year in 3:23.900, was denied a fifth in six years and had to settle for second in the number seven Toyota after lapping 0.177 slower than Hartley.
"It's an incredible feeling. I was ready for it last year. I'm sorry for Kamui who wanted his fifth pole position, but there you go," said Hartley, a Le Mans winner in 2017 and 2020 with Porsche and then Toyota.
“Thanks to the team for preparing such a fast car today and to my team-mates for letting me have all the fun. There is also some pressure, particularly on the last lap. I had traffic on my penultimate lap so it was all on the last one and it felt amazing to cross the line and see the result,” Hartley added.
The number seven car won last year with Kobayashi, Britain's Mike Conway and Argentine Jose Maria Lopez who remain in the line-up.
Renault-owned Alpine took third on the grid after the hyperpole session with Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre at the wheel of the number 36 car and looking like he could seize the pole from Toyota.
There are only five entries in the top hypercar category for the 90th edition of the race, a showcase of the world endurance championship, which starts on Saturday with 62 teams and 186 drivers.
In the second tier LMP2 category, Dutch driver Robin Frijns was fastest with the WRT team.
The hyperpole qualifying format was first introduced in 2020 and features the six quickest teams in each class, or five in the case of the hypercars.