Circuit de la Sarthe, Friday 16 June 2017 – One of the fastest and most dramatic qualifying sessions in recent history has set the tone for motor sport’s greatest endurance event, the 24 Hour of Le Mans. The sixty cars and 180 drivers entered into the 85th edition of the race took to the track to determine who would lead the starting grid at 15:00 CET on Saturday 17 June. With track temperatures soaring and the weather forecast set to be a potential race-defining topic at Circuit de la Sarthe this weekend, motor sport fans across the world are bracing themselves for yet another exciting running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Rolex continues its partnership as Official Timepiece of this iconic race, considered the pinnacle of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Taking the field by storm with a sensational record-breaking lap during the second Qualifying Session, was Kamui Kobayashi in the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, clocking 3:14.791 and claiming pole position in the Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) class. While Porsche was the surprise pacesetter in the free Practice Session, all eyes will be focused on Toyota, who will command the front row of the grid on Saturday afternoon. Neither of the two Porsches could improve on their earlier lap times in the final Qualifying Session, and will start from third and fourth position. In the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class, the #26 Oreca-Gibson 07 driven by Pierre Thiriet for G-Drive Racing was fastest, while the #97 Aston Martin Vantage topped the time sheets in the LM GTE Pro class. The #50 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R also made the most of the final Qualifying Session, setting the quickest time in the LM GTE Am category.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is considered one of the most physically and mentally demanding sporting contests in the world, with last year’s event serving as a poignant reminder that when it comes to endurance racing, every second counts. Two motor sport legends familiar with the pressures of speed, endurance and pushing the limits on track, are Rolex Testimonees, Tom Kristensen and Mark Webber. This year’s race not only marks 20 years since Tom Kristensen’s debut win at Le Mans, but will also see Mark Webber take on the honour and role of Grand Marshal.
Speaking of his return to the Circuit de la Sarthe, Mark Webber said: “It is very special to be back here and a privilege to play a key part as Grand Marshal this year. I was lucky enough to enjoy many years of being a racing driver and now I can come back to the track, share my memories with fans and experience Le Mans from an entirely different perspective. This race is poised to be an intensely competitive battle and I can’t wait to watch how it unfolds, this time from the sidelines and as part of the Rolex family.”
ROLEX AND ENDURANCE
In 2017, the FIA World Endurance Championship will race on four continents and continue to bring the ‘Spirit of Le Mans’ to motor sport fans in the UK, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, US, Japan, China and Bahrain. In line with its passion for speed and drive to push back the boundaries of what is possible, Rolex partners the FIA World Endurance Championship as well as the three world-class endurance events that have come to form the Triple Crown of endurance racing: the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Engine speed and reliability, along with team and driver stamina are magnified during these challenging races, which require unique concentration, skill and mental strength.
Leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, Rolex, headquartered in Geneva, enjoys an unrivalled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its Oyster and Cellini watches, all certified as Superlative Chronometers for their precision, performance and reliability, are symbols of excellence, elegance and prestige. Founded by Hans Wilsdorf in 1905, the brand pioneered the development of the wristwatch and is at the origin of numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the Perpetual rotor self-winding mechanism invented in 1931. Rolex has registered over 400 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated and independent manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces in-house all the essential components of its watches, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Rolex is also actively involved in supporting the arts, sports, exploration, the spirit of enterprise, and the environment through a broad palette of sponsoring activities, as well as philanthropic programmes.