Fifty years after the Ford GT40's original 24 Hours of Le Mans win, there’s a Ford back at the top of its class. Ford GTs were the two fastest cars in the LM GTE Pro class for the first of three Le Mans qualifying sessions. Two LMP1-H Porsche 919s qualified the fastest overall.
The two top LM GTE Pro Ford GTs were Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA entries. (USA! USA!) Dirk Müller was the fastest with a 3:51.185 lap time in the No. 68. The No. 69 Ford GT ran the second fastest, and fittingly, the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE was close behind it.
Only 0.383 of a second separates the top 3 now that teams are starting to show what they’ve really got. That 488 was surrounded by Ford GTs in the standings, as the two Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK GTs ran fourth and fifth fastest.
Some think the Fords may have merely released a few proverbial sandbags that were holding them back, including Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia:
We’ll leave this debate with whoever determines the Balance of Performance modifications that are supposed to put the different GT-class models on a somewhat even playing field.
García’s No. 63 Corvette C7.R was one surprise. Teammate Ricky Taylor nudged the tires with the No. 63's front left corner, spoiling their chances for a fast lap. The No. 63 ran slower than everyone in LM GTE Pro as well as four of the LM GTE Am cars.
Its sister No. 64 Corvette was the second slowest in LM GTE Pro. Another conspiracy theory posits that the Corvettes are saving their true pace for later in order to force Balance of Performance changes for the Fords. Adjust those tin-foil berets, folks, and welcome to Le Mans week.
At the top of the standings were the LMP1-H cars. Neel Jani in the No. 2 Porsche 919 set a blistering lap of 3:19.733, followed by a 3:20.203 lap from the No. 1 Porsche 919. That’s right: No. 2 is number one, No. 1 is number two, and the world is a sadder place for not having Beavis and Butt-Head’s take on this.
The No. 6 Toyota TS050 wasn’t far behind with a 3:20.737 lap. It was followed by the No. 5 Toyota, and then the No. 8 and No. 7 Audi R18s in fourth, fifth, and sixth respectively.
Rebellion’s No. 13 car was the fastest of the privateer LMP1s. It had to be a Rebellion after the No. 4 ByKolles CLM P1/01-AER caught fire in practice and was unable to be fixed in time for qualifying.
The G-Drive Racing No. 26 leads LMP2 with a 3:36.605 lap, and the No. 61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia leads LM GTE Am with a 3:56.827. Less than a minute separates the top three times in both of those classes.
This year’s Garage 56 entry, the No. 84 SRT41 by OAK Racing, is a Morgan LMP2 modified for a quadruple amputee to share with two drivers, per Sportscar365. While Garage 56 is a one-car class for innovative cars, the No. 84 ran faster than two of the regular LMP2s with a 3:45.178.
This is the first of three qualifying sessions, with the two remaining two-hour sessions tomorrow. At Le Mans, the fastest laps from each car set the starting order. We’ll see if an, ahem, sediment container falls out of a Corvette tomorrow.