With Free Practices One and Two already complete on Thursday, we take a look at the LMP1 performances to-date, their focus on Le Mans preparations and some of the details picked up yesterday.

Porsche Team #1 & #2
On an initial look we have first sight of their LeMans-spec with the steeper nose section we have become used to seeing this time of year. They also appear to be embroiled in some ‘frippery’ with a new headlight system which incorporates RGB LEDs enabling the #1 to run with a magenta light, and the #2 a light blue, improves identification. But as ever with Porsche everything has a purpose and beyond identification the new system saves 30% weight (1.1kgs) over its predecessor whilst improving lit performance.

On Track the cars look fast, running 302kmh consistently through the speed trap, they are quickest in Sectors1&3 (low D/F sectors), setting sub-2min laps for each car (fractions behind the TS050s) and running class topping 29 & 24 laps respectively in Free Practice 2.

ByKolles Racing Team #4
A continually improving team, now with a consistent driver line-up of Trummer/Webb/Rossiter. Recovering from the suspension issues that blunted their race performance at Silverstone, but now getting more running which can only be positive. On straight-line the CLM is considered to be less capable than the similarly powered Rebellions, but still was faster through the trap than both Toyotas. This is possibly more an indication that Toyota are not maxing out their LM-spec yet… Based upon Sector times the ByKolles needs to look at its handling in Sector2 where it is swamped by the front running LMP2s but then so are the Rebellions, so indicative of a Le Mans focus once again.

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Toyota Gazoo Racing #5 & #6
The TS050s for looks are certainly becoming a fan favourite.  Anthony Davidson is keen to drive this car at Spa, the ‘circuit suits its hybrid system more than Silverstone, but we will only find out how close we are to the competition once the action starts.’  This alludes to the larger braking events from high speed which aids the braking energy recovery system that is paramount to the TS050s Hybrid delivery system.

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Davidson adds ‘This race should also give us a clearer picture of which areas to focus on prior to the biggest race of the season at Le Mans in June.’  Perhaps this indicates that Toyota Gazoo Racing have not gone all out for an LM-spec yet..  Free Practice 2 was led by Toyota #6 with 1:58.566 which indeed bodes well. Ideal laps (best sectors strung together in FP2) indicates that both cars are capable of 58.3s with the #5 being marginally faster.  FP2 was held at a similar time of day to today’s qualifying, so the potential is clearly there for a Toyota pole time…  unless others are sandbagging?!

Audi Sport Team Joest #7 & #8
Despite the result that was not a result at Silverstone (after the accepted ride height infraction/plank wear) new car troubles still seem to be a thorn in the latest R18s side. The #8 did not complete a lap in FP2, due to a non-hybrid mechanical issue on the front axle that took an estimated 7-hours to resolve.

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Clearly there is much learning going on at Audi Sport right now, but everyone is agreed that while the latest R18 is not the prettiest car to fall from the nest it does carry huge potential. The #7 ran for 23laps in FP2 consistent but returning a best time of 5th behind both Toyotas and Porsches. The speed trap shows its potential topping the Hybrid runners with 307.9kmh only bettered by the unfettered Rebellions. Notably the #7 is 3rd in Sector 3 a smidge behind the two Porsche 919s.  If this is a build-up to the ‘Grand Prix’ of Le Mans, then the formerly dominant Audi Sport Team Joest hold the keys to perhaps their most surprising victory. There is testing time still to achieve their desired outcome!

Rebellion Racing #12 & #13
During Free Practice 2 it was a surprise to bump into Nick Heidfeld studying line & form through Eau Rouge / Raidillon.  It is always a pleasure to see the Red Rebellions on track, and on this occasion running many laps without the some time early meeting PU installation issues that seem to challenge the team all  too often.

The slippery R-One was fastest of all runners through the speed trap returning 314.1 & 309.9kmh for the #13 & #12 respectively.  The drop-off in performance in Sector 2 to 14th (#12) and 18th (#13) overall is a fair indication of efforts going into a solid Le Mans set-up, that perhaps will be dialled out by the time we reach Qualifying today.

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Clearly Free Practice 3 will reveal more, and we will try to tweet out on @SportsCarGlobal some further thoughts on how things are shaping up across the categories before we reach Qualifying commencing at 1605CET.  This one could be worth a fiver for the WEC App coverage shareable through Chromecast to your TV, with Hindhaugh & Goodwin uninterrupted and on full throttle!!

Hopefully the above gives you our view on the LMP1 category and their preparations for tomorrow’s 6-hour Race (starting at 1430CET)