DragonSpeed’s opened their European Le Mans Series account today when Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre stormed to a 1:48.580 to claim the fastest lap in this morning’s first Free Practice session at Paul Ricard. After rain early in the session, Lapierre clocked in the time on the drying track midway through the session.
DragonSpeed’s time was two seconds clear of the #33 TDS Racing ORECA in second spot with the #39 Graff ORECA third. The best non-ORECA chassis was the #22 United Autosports Ligier which ran three seconds off the pace finishing fifth overall behind LMP2 debutants Duquenine Engineering with their #29 ORECA.
Russian team SMP Racing appeared to struggle with their Dallara P217 Gibson, the #35 car crashing at Turn 7, bringing out yellow flags. As a result it only managed 20 laps in the session.
Moving onto LMP3, Ultimate led the way having swapped from the Ligier they campaigned in 2017 to a Norma M30. Matthieu Lahaye pushed the #17 car to a 2:01.612 putting the French team at the top of the table. Behind them was the #10 Oregon Team’s Norma M30 with Riccardo Ponzio setting a 2:02.367. Rounding out the top three was the first of the Ligier chassis with Giorgio Mondini taking the #11 EuroInternational car to a 2:02.927.
In the GTE class, Italian young-gun Matteo Cairoli beasted the #88 Proton Porsche 911 RSR around the circuit to eventually set a time of 2:01.282, bettering that of Lahaye in the Ultimate LMP3 by 0.3 second! The Gulf Racing Porsche – entered for this round only as an additional test prior to the season opening WEC race at Spa – was also faster than the Ultimate Norma after Ben Barker clocked in a 2:01.566.
The session had a single red flag caused by the #14 Inter Europol Ligier of Luca Demarchi hitting the barriers at Turn 13 after being hit by the #3 United Ligier.
Words: John Stevens