Endurance Racing

Toyota top in Le Mans Free Practice

Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

The first track action at the Circuit de la Sarthe kicked off today with a four-hour free practice session.

Toyota continued their run at the top by finishing the four-hour free practice session at the head of times. In the hands of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez, the #7 TS050 managed a 3:18.718 – the only car to break into the 3:18s and faster than the time set by Fernando Alonso in the test day a couple of weeks ago.

Directly behind them, unsurprisingly was the sister car. Sebastian Buemi, Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima finished the session second fastest, ahead of the #3 Rebellion Racing of Thomas Laurent, Mathias Beche and Gustavo Menezes. The #10 Dragonspeed BR1 with Ranger van der Zande, Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman on board finished fourth – the car looking like it’s performing well following the rebuild. Next up came the two SMP Racing BR1s both setting 3:21 lap times, followed by the #4 ByKolles. Both CEFC TRSM Ginettas suffered electrical faults with the #5 finishing as the quicker of the two, ninth in class with a 3:25.203.

Fastest of the 20 LMP2 cars was the #26 G-Drive Racing ELMS entry with Jean-Eric Vergne, Roman Rusinov and Andrea Pizzitola aboard. The car set a 3:26.529 to finish ahead of the #48 IDEC Sport Oreca and the #28 Oreca of TDS Racing. All three LMP2 manufacturers were represented in the top ten of LMP2, with the #22 United Autosports Ligier coming in sixth the #47 Dallara of Cetillar Villorba Corse finishing ninth.

GTE Pro gains an extra manufacturer for Le Mans in the shape of Corvette. The vibrant yellow V8 C7.Rs are always a fantastic sight (and sound) around La Sarthe, and the pair finished 12th and 13th in a class of 17 cars. At the sharp end of the field, it was all about Porsche who claimed the top three fastest times. Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber brought the #93 home in the top spot, thanks to a 3:50.121. The two retro liveried Porsches came in second and third with the ‘Pink Pig’ finishing ahead of the Rothmans #91. Ford stopped the four Porsches finishing all together, as Olivier Pla, Stefan Mucke and Billy Johnson put the #66 in fourth. The four cars making their debut at Le Mans, the two BMW M8s and the pair of Aston Martin Vantages finished at the back of the pack – the German GTs ending up 14th and 17th and the British effort ending up 15th and 16th.

In GTE Am it was a great showing from Porsche again, with Dempsey Proton Racing claiming the fastest time. The #88 of Giorgio Roda, Khaled al Qubaisi and Matteo Cairoli set a time of 3:52.903, finishing ahead of the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche and the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488.

The first of the qualifying sessions kicks off tonight at 10 pm local time.

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