Kiwi Hartley starts fourth on grid at Le Mans

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 19:33 13/06/2014
Brendon Hartley
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KIWI RACER: Brendon Hartley.

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Kiwi driver Brendon Hartley will start from fourth on the grid after a frustrating final qualifying session for the Le Mans 24 hour race today.

Kazuki Nakajima became the first Japanese driver to secure pole position for the famous race after nailing the fastest lap in his Toyota.

Hartley, 23, had set the fastest time in early qualifying yesterday but couldn't repeat that when it mattered on a track that became clogged with traffic.

"It was a tough session out there with slow-zones and red and yellow flags," Hartley said.

"It was a matter of luck who got a clear lap and who didn't, which I found a bit frustrating. But I think from the team's point of view it was a great effort. Second and fourth on the grid at the return of Porsche to the prototype class in Le Mans - this is fantastic."

Hartley will share his Porsche with Australian Formula One great Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard (Germany) for the race that starts at 1am Sunday (NZ time).

Romain Dumas got a clearer track to get the other Porsche on to the front row alongside Nakajima, just 0.375s off his pace.

"I had a great run. We improved the car all the time. We still had to fight a bit of understeer, but I'm happy. Unfortunately, on my best lap I had to overtake another car, which I think cost a few tenths of a second, but it was fun to drive and I enjoyed it," Dumas said.

"The front row in Le Mans has been kind of a secret target, and we have been able to tick it off the list at our first attempt. It is not pole position, but it is totally fine. We knew we would have been fast enough, but in the end we weren't lucky enough to get a clear lap. Now we will focus on the race and try to avoid mistakes," said Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche's research and development boss for these radical hybrid cars.

On a race of this length pole position isn't crucial. This will be an endurance test and while Porsche have shown they have the speed they now need to produce the reliability on their return top Le Mans after a 16-year absence.

Le Mans qualifying results:
1. Wurz/Sarrazin/Nakajima (A/F/J), Toyota TS 040 Hybrid, 3:21,789 min.
2. Dumas/Jani/Lieb (F/CH/D), Porsche 919 Hybrid, + 0,357 s
3. Davidson/Lapierre/Buemi (GB/F/CH), Toyota TS 040 Hybrid, + 0,734 s
4. Albuquerque/Bonanomi/Jarvis (POR/I/GB), Audi R18 e-tron quattro, + 1,575 s
5. Bernhard/Webber/Hartley (D/AUS/NZ), Porsche 919 Hybrid, + 2,347 s
6. Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (CH/D/F), Audi R18 e-tron quattro, + 2,940 s
7. Di Grassi/Gené/Kristensen (BRA/ESP/DK), Audi R18 e-tron quattro, + 4,025 s

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