Endurance Racing

Tricky conditions not enough to topple Toyota in FP2

Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

A rain-soaked free practice two saw Toyota finish back on top. Aston Martin continue to make their mark in GTE Pro with 1st and 3rd fastest times.

The rain graced us with its presence just in time for free practice two. So, we threw out the earlier benchmarks as the lap times ventured up beyond the two-minute mark. But standing water and falling rain make for treacherous conditions and the session saw four red flags.

The first for Augusto Farfus in the #82 BMW who managed to return to the pits under his own steam. The second, just ten minutes later, was for Stephane Sarrazin. The #17 SMP Racing BR1 seemingly aquaplaned off the track up at Blanchimont and had to be recovered. Following some good, green running, a third red flag was thrown. With just under half an hour to go, the Larbre Competition Ligier found itself off the circuit. The final red flag essentially replaced the chequered. There was only about a minute left on the clock as the #36 Signatech Alpine caused the final stoppage.

Though changing flags so early in the session makes for amusing timing screens. At one point Jordan King in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing led the pack. And after the third green flag, Marco Sorensen in the #95 Aston Martin sat in second for a while.

As the drivers began to get to grips with (or lack of grip in this case) the times settled, and Toyota was back in the top spot. Once again, the #8 led the #7 as Buemi, Nakajima and Alonso were the only drivers to break into the 2:19s.

One SMP Racing car certainly faired better than the other. Stoffel Vandoorne, Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin in the #11 beat the conditions to wind up third fastest. Rebellion finished fourth and fifth, though the #1 put in a time almost two and a half seconds clear of the sister car. ByKolles rounded off the LMP1 field (not including the wounded #17) and managed to clear the LMP2 field this time around with a 2:25.222.

There was a little bit of a shakeup in LMP2, with Dragonspeed claiming the fastest time. Roberto Gonzalez, Pastor Maldonado and Anthony Davidson managed a 2:27.682 in the challenging conditions. TDS Racing finished second fastest, while the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca was third. Leaders from FP1, Signatech Alpine dropped down to sixth in class, ahead of the second Jackie Chan DC Racing car, and the stricken Larbre Competition Ligier.

Once again it was Aston Martin topping the times in GTE Pro, with the sister car finishing third quickest. Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen brought the #95 Vantage back with a fastest time of 2:32.648, just two tenths ahead of the #91 Porsche. AF Corse climbed up the order from this morning finishing fourth and fifth. The second Porsche split the Ferraris from the two Fords, while BMW brought up the rear of the order.

In GTE Am it was the #77 Dempsey Proton Competition Porsche. A 2:34.093 from Matt Campbell, Christian Ried and Riccardo Pera set them clear of not only their Am rivals but also the #66 Ford and the two Pro BMWs. Second in GTE Am went to the #70 Ferrari of MR Racing, though they were reported to the stewards on a couple of occasions for dangerous driving. Third fastest was Gulf Racing with a 2:35.911.

Free practice three kicks off at 11.00 local time tomorrow, with the qualifying sessions starting in the afternoon.

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