Image credit: Nick Dungan – AdrenalMedia.com.
The Lone Star Le Mans meeting at COTA, the fifth round of the 2015 World Endurance Championship, got off to a meteoric start today in hot and humid conditions.
The first of three Free Practice sessions at the undulating 3.427 mile Texan racetrack saw the No.18 topping the time sheets. Romain Dumas set a scorching 1m47.231s in the Porsche 919 Hybrid, a time which was faster than the best ever LMP1 lap at COTA. Benoit Treluyer had set the previous fastest ever lap in 2013 with a 1m47.375s.
Dumas’ time beat Mark Webber’s early pace setting tour of 1m47.514s. The No.17 Porsche 919 Hybrid sat at the top of the times for the majority of the session but ultimately had to give second best to the No.18 car.
Audi Sport Team Joest placed third overall with the No.8 Audi R18 etron quattro driven by Oliver Jarvis setting a best of 1m49.027s early in the session.
The title leading No.7 Audi R18 etron quattro was forced to change the alternator after completing just four laps of the session and therefore ultimately placed sixth. The team attempted to get back out for the final moments of the session but were unable to re-emerge from the pits.
Toyota Racing placed fourth and fifth with the No.1 Toyota TS040 HYBRID driven by Kazuki Nakajima, peaking on a 1m51.279s. This was just under a second ahead of the sister TS040 HYBRID which was shown a black and white flag for track limits abuse by Stephane Sarrazin halfway through the session. Alex Wurz also suffered a quick spin at Turn 2 in the final moments.
The LMP1 privateer class went the way of Rebellion Racing, with the No.12 R-One-AER, driven by Mathias Beche, leading the ByKolles CLM P1/01-AER.
KCMG continued its fantastic form by laying down an initial marker to the opposition. Nicolas Lapierre set a 1m57.764s lap in the ORECA 05-Nissan to lead the LMP2 class by 0.6s second.
A fine second in the LMP2 class was the No.31 Extreme Speed Motorsport Ligier JS P2-HPD. Johannes van Overbeek set a great 1m58.342s lap to give cheer to the team which is racing on home soil this weekend. The sister Extreme Speed Motorsport Ligier JS P2-HPD placed third to underline a strong opening to the Lone Star Le Mans weekend for the Ed Brown and Scott Sharp-owned team.
In LMGTE Pro there was a sense of déjà vu from Nurburgring when the No.51 AF Corse Ferrari stopped out on the track early in the session. This time it was Toni Vilander rather than teammate Gianmaria Bruni at the wheel when the car ground to a halt at Turn 15.
This allowed the No.71 AF Corse Ferrari to claim the top position, as James Calado set a best of 2m06.753s. As usual, the young British driver will share the car with Davide Rigon this weekend. Vilander’s pre-stoppage time was still good enough for second place and indicates an early advantage for the Prancing Horse at COTA for this weekend.
It was also a fine start to the weekend for the Dempsey-Proton Racing team. Patrick Long lapped the track in 2m07.487s in the blue and black Porsche 911 RSR. Setting the time early in the session, the American was never headed.
Leading the chase of the Porsche was the No.50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7 of Ruberti, Roda and Poulsen, with a best lap of 2m08.648s.
There were two Full Course Yellow peiods during the 90-minutes this afternoon. The first was to retrieve Vilander’s Ferrari, while the second was for the Strakka Gibson 015S-Nissan which also stopped on track at Turn 2. Nick Leventis was eventually able to get the British designed and built LMP2 back to the pits.
Full results from FP1 HERE.