Another weather compromised morning session at Circuit Paul Ricard today with a short but rather heavy hailstorm emptying the track in just a few minutes time. The session stayed dry afterwards, with rain coming back in about half an hour into lunch break.
A frantic final 15 minutes saw laptimes dropping fast with more than a handful of drivers improving lap after lap right on to the end of the session. In the end it was Gustavo Menezes who clocked the fastest time in 1.44.537 in his #31 APR-Rebellion Racing Oreca 07. Right on his heels was Victor Shaitar in the #35 SMP Racing Dallara, just 0.123 seconds shy of the American. Out of the blue came Andrea Belicchi who suddenly put the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara on the third spot, 0.369 seconds off the lead. Rounding out the top 5 were both United Autosports Ligiers, Hugo de Sadeleer (#32) 0.052 seconds faster than Bruno Senna in the #22.
Sean Rayhall set the #2 United Autosports Ligier JSP3 back on top of the LMP3 class with a laptime of 1.53.651. Both young Dutch drivers who already showed their speed yesterday completed the top 3 this morning. Kay Van Berlo in the #11 Eurointernational Ligier the fastest of the two in 1.54.161 ahead of 19 year old Job Van Uitert in the #15 RLR Msport. Alexander Toril and his Norma didn’t get any higher than fourth fastest this morning.
For the first time, Ferrari went ahead of Porsche in the GTE class. Andrea Bertolini in the #83 Krohn Racing Ferrari 488 was quickest overall in 1.59.535. Matt Griffin put the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari on second place, followed by the #88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR. The Ebimotors Porsche also made it back to the track after its crash yesterday managing 7 laps. JMW Motorsport and the #77 Proton Competition Porsche didn’t come out for the morning session.
Rain started to fall down again during lunch hour so the fifth and final session of the official test started on a wet track. Teams waited to come out ’till the rain passed by & the track started to dry up again, only to run into a few short showers from time to time for the rest of the afternoon.
Fifth and final session of the official test and the fifth different car who went on top of the leader board this afternoon. After setting the second fastest time in the morning, Egor Orudhzev now was fastest overall with the #35 SMP Racing Dallara. His time of 1.47.824 was over 1.4 seconds quicker over Will Stevens’ 1.53.840 in the #23 Panis Barthez Ligier who managed to get into the top 3 for the first time this week. More “new faces” behind Stevens with Alexandre Imperatori third fastest in the #26 G-Drive Oreca and Nelson Panciatici fourth in the #29 Duqueine Engineering. Anders Fjordbach completed the top 5 with the #49 High Class Racing Dallara P217. “
In his final lap of the afternoon, Alexander Talkanitsa Jr set the fastest time of the LMP3 runners. With a time of 1.58.690, he was … seconds quicker than Jakub Smiechowski in the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier. Matt Bell put his #3 United Autosports on the third spot with a 1.59.525. Danil Pronenko (#5 Nefis by Speed Factory) and Giorgio Mondini (#11 Eurointernational) completed the final top 5 of the two day testsession.
All GTE cars got out on track for the final session except for the #77 Proton Porsche. Liam Griffin took the honours for the fastest lap this time in 2.03.958 with the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari. Big differences in the class this time, with Duncan Cameron in second place but almost 2 seconds slower than Griffin. Fabio Babini set the third fastest time with the #80 Ebimotors Porsche, over 4 seconds slower than the JMW Ferrari.
Next up at the track in Le Castellet is the official test for the Michelin Le Mans Cup tomorrow (with a horrific weather forecast) before we head into the first racing weekend of the season at Paul Ricard later this week.