Brendon Hartley in pole position at Le Mans

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 07:42 13/06/2014
Brendon Hartley
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CLOSE CALL: Kiwi driver Brendon Hartley's car was forced out of the Le Mans 24-hour race with mechanical problems.

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New Zealand driver Brendon Hartley has put his Porsche team on provisional pole for this weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours race after a sizzling performance at the opening qualifying session.

Hartley lapped the famous track in 3min 23.157sec.

That was more than half a second faster than Porsche's second hybrid car, driven by Neel Jani, giving the German manufacturer a real confidence boost on their return to this legendary race.

Hartley, who will drive the car with Australian former Formula One great Mark Webber and German Timo Bernhard, was thrilled with his drive although realistic enough to know his rivals would come at him again in today's final qualifying sessions.

"The car felt fantastic in last night's qualifying, what a buzz," Hartley said.

"There is still four hours of qualification waiting to be fought out today, but it was anyway very nice to see my name and #20 at the top of the list yesterday."

Hartley describes this as "the biggest week of my life" and he's certainly impressing his new bosses.

"That was not bad for the first day," Porsche LMP1 vice-president Fritz Enzinger said.

"We don't know what the others were doing, but we are still very happy.

"The afternoon [practice session] was quite difficult for us, because we did not have the right set-up but the evening was good."

Porsche headed off two Toyotas with Audis qualifying fifth and sixth.

It was a dramatic day, with defending Le Mans champion Loic Duval crashing heavily at the Porsche curves, destroying Audi's lead car.

The session was eventually stopped early after a couple of other incidents.

With just under an hour left to run, Fernando Rees crashed his GTE Pro Aston Martin Vantage, also at the Porsche Curves.

And when Stephane Sarrazin's Toyota sprung a bad oil leak at the Dunlop Chicane the red flags were brought out and the session closed half an hour early.

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