The 2020 European Le Mans Series officially got underway, a little later than planned due to the Covid-19 pandemic, at France’s Circuit Paul Ricard on Tuesday with the first of two day’s of official testing.
As is often the case this time of year here in the Mediterranean hills of France’s southern coast, the weather was a balmy mid twenties with blue, sun drenched skies under which 36 cars were lined-up to test; 15 LMP2s, 12 LMP3s and 9 LM GTEs, including Aston Martin Racing’s WEC GTE Am car entered for the Le Castellet and Spa ELMS rounds prior to the re-start of the World Endurance Series.
The morning session kicked off at 9am and ran for just under 50 mins before the first, and only, red flag of the day was thrown taking 12 minutes out of the session. There were seven yellow flags and one FCY throughout the four hour session.
The LMP2 class was super-close with just 1s separating the top 10 cars. The morning was topped by Dragonspeed’s ‘carbon naked’ Oreca 07 – Gibson with Ben Hanley setting the session’s fastest laptime of 1:40.889 on lap 41. Cool Racing’s new co-owner and LMP2 expert Nicolas Lapierre was a mere 0.247s behind. Third fastest of the session was Phil Hanson in the #22 United Autosports car.
In LMP3, the updated Ligier JS P320 took the top two spots with Wayne Boyd setting a 1:49.418 in the #2 United Autosports and Realteam Racing’s David Droux 0.216s behind in second. Third spot went to the first of the new Duqueine M30 D08 (the next generation of last year’s Norma M30) with Colin Noble setting a 1:49.857 lap half way through the session in the #7 Nielsen Racing car.
The GTE AM class was a little more spread out with just under two seconds between the fastest and slowest on the track. The #60 Ferrari F488 GTE EVO of Iron Lynx topped the tables at the end of the session with Sergio Pianezzola at the wheel clocking in a 1:53.969 on lap 19. Michele Beretta took the #77 Dempsey – Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR to second spot, his fastest lap being just 0.120s behind Pianezzola. Third spot went to the second Iron Lynx car with Rachel Frey setting a 1:54.507 in the #83 Ferrari F488 GTE EVO.
The afternoon session again saw one red flag, along with three yellows and times drop across the three classes. Cool Racing’s Nico Lapierre, the LMP2 master, taking the session’s fastest time setting a 1:39.475 in the team’s Oreca 07 LMP2. Phil Hanson was again fast in the #22 United Autosports Oreca 0.355s behind Lapierre and Mikkel Jensen, in his first outing in the LMP2 class, brought the #26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 into third spot setting a 1:39.907.
The Ligier JS P320 took a clean-sweep of the top three spots in the LMP3 class with the #2 United Autosports car again topping the times this time with Tom Gamble at the wheel setting a 1:48.421 on lap 43. Realteam Racing’s David Droux again finished the session in second place with a 1:48.895 and Nigel Moore closed out the top three in the #13 Inter Europol Competition car 0.753s behind Droux. The first of the Duqueine M30 D08s was again Nielsen racing with the #7 car in fourth place.
Iron Lynx again topped the times in the LM GTE class however this time it was the all-female crewed #83 Ferrari F488 GTE EVO in which Michelle Gatting set a 1:53.410. The green #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari took second spot courtesy of Matt Griffin who set a 1:53.458 on lap 61 the #77 Dempsey – Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR rounded out the top spots with a 1:53.461 from Alessio Picariello.
The ‘night’ session finished 15 minutes before sunset, so should probably have been named the ‘evening’ session, however, that aside the classes saw a bit of a shake up from the earlier sessions. Tristan Gommendy in the #30 Duqueine Team Oreca topped the sessions times with a 1:39.559. Next up was Anders Fjordbach who set a 1:39.624 time in the #20 High Class Racing Oreca on lap 68 and Simon Trummer topped out the three fastest LMP2 cars of the session setting a 1:40.128 in the #25 Good Year liveried Algarve Pro Racing car.
Only seven of the LMP3 teams chose to run in the night session and Graff Racing topped the LMP3 times with Vincent Capillaire clocking in a 1:48.677 in the #9 Ligier. The all carbon #11 Eurointernational car of Niko Kari set 1 1:48.745 to take second spot and Laurents Hörr brought the #4 DKR Engineering Duqueine M30 D08 into third spot.
Iron Lynx again topped the GTE AM times, this time with the #60 car back at the top of the pile. Andrea Piccini set a 1:52.245 to not only take the session’s, but the whole day’s fastest lap time. AF Corse’s #51 Ferrari took second fastest with a 1:56.683 and third went to the #77 Dempsey – Proton Racing Porsche with a somewhat pedestrian 2:11.431. Only three GTE AM cars ran in the session.
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