The #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 of Mike Conway and Kazumi Kobayashi topped the timing sheet in today’s first free practice session. The duo, who are missing third driver José María López who is still sidelined due to damaging two vertebrae during in his accident at Silverstone two weeks ago, clocked in a time of 1:57.940, just three thousandths of a second ahead of Brendan Hartley in the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid. The sister 919 was a further 9 tenths of a second behind the Kiwi driver clocking in a 1:58.869 in the hands of Neel Jani.
In LMP2 this weekend’s race sees an interloper into the ‘Oreca Class’ with Tockwith Motorsports entering their Ligier JSP217 to gain vital setup and track-time data prior to their Le Mans debut next month. The team clocked in a somewhat pedestrian 2:06.607 to finish the session 2nd from bottom, but remember, it’s only FP1 so it’s a car to watch out for in qualifying.
The session was topped by the #36 Signatech Alpine A470 (Oreca) of Gustavo Menezes with the Mexican clocking in a time of 2:04.171. Hot on his heels was Alex Lynn in the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca, nine hundredths of a second adrift. Third in class was the #25 CEFC Manor TRS Racing car with Simon Trummer setting a 2:04.301 lap.
Andy Priaulx in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT topped the sheet in the LM GTE Pro class with a 2:16.802 lap. Second was the #91 factory Porsche 911 RSR of Frédéric Makowiecki with a 2:16.924 and third, the #67 sister Ford GT of Billy Johnson setting a 2:17.201 lap time. While the Fords are clearly quick, they have been hit by a fuel tank size restriction (BoP in any other name) for the race, so we will have to see if they can convert speed to overall track position over a six hour race.
Finally, in GT Am, the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR (991) of Matteo Cairoli set the session’s fastest time of 2:18.089, the Italian young-gun 0.641s faster than the similar #86 Gulf Racing UK of Ben Barker. Silverstone winners Clearwater Racing closed out the top three with Ireland’s Matt Griffin putting in a 2:18.876 in the team’s Ferrari 488 GTE. The #98 Aston Martin Vantage was leading the class at one point then had an unexpected stop at the bottom of Eau Rouge before re-starting and ultimately finished the session second from bottom.