Le Mans Warmup: Audi leads as LMP2s hit trouble


Audi led a shortened warm up session for this afternoon’s 24 Hours of Le Mans as two LMP2 entries suffered damage in separate incidents.

Andre Lotterer, driving the #7 Audi R18, set a 3:25.886s lap to go quickest in the final shakedown before the race which begins at 15:00 local time.

However, the main news concerned the Panis-Barthez Competition and Baxi DC Racing LMP2 entries which necessitated repairs after falling foul of the damp conditions.

French driver Paul-Loup Chatin was the first to bring out the red flags, after he lost control of the #23 Panis-Barthez Ligier-Nissan and spun off exiting the Porsche Curves, hitting the guardrail to his right. The car was recovered and towed back to the pits with apparent rear bodywork damage, forcing a halt after less than 10 minutes of running.

The Baxi DC Racing Alpine-Nissan fared slightly worse, after David Cheng hit a wet patch and struck the barriers at Indianapolis. Cheng extracted himself from the car but the damage caused to the rear right-hand side bodywork looked more severe than Chatin’s. That incident triggered a second red flag period which cut the session short with three minutes to go.

Despite sustaining damage, both cars are expected to make the start of the race.

In terms of the timesheets, Lotterer paced the morning run in his Audi, finishing 1.243 seconds ahead of the #6 Toyota TS050 driven by Mike Conway.

The pole-sitting #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Romain Dumas clocked in the third quickest time, a further two tenths of a second adrift.

In LMP2, pole man Rene Rast once again set the fastest lap with a 3:40.724s effort behind the wheel of the #26 G-Drive Racing ORECA-Nissan. The German driver was four tenths quicker than Laurens Vanthoor in the Michael Shank Racing Ligier-Honda, and almost three seconds ahead of Andrea Pizzitola in the third placed Algarve Pro Racing Ligier-Nissan.

Despite a series of last minute Balance of Performance adjustments enforced by the ACO, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing led the GTE-Pro category during warmup. Dirk Muller, driving the #68 Ford GT, backed up his pole position time with a 3:57.397s lap to go quickest.

Ford and Ferrari’s monopoly at the top of the class was broken during this session, as Aston Martin’s Richie Stanaway set the second best time. Porsche 911s then occupied the next two places.

GTE-Am was topped by Porsche, with Patrick Long turning in a 4:00.162s time to beat the idenical KCMG car of Wolf Henzler by just over a second.

There has been one driver change to note in GTE-Am, with veteran racer Gunnar Jeanette stepping into the #89 Proton Competition/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 RSR after Cooper MacNeil contracted a fever.

Almost half the teams played a conservative game during the warmup, carrying out installation laps but not committing to setting a competitive time.