Toyota #8 Clean Sweeps Practice


Credit: Craig Robertson

Toyota Gazoo Racing has dominated practice with the #8 car as the team set the fastest lap in every session. Sebastien BuemiKazuki Nakajima, and Anthony Davidson each took the fastest lap time for the team respectively. The #28 TDS Racing ORECA/Gibson ended up on top of LMP2 but it looks like the TDS sponsored cars could be the ones to watch. Second place in class was the #26 G-Drive Racing car with the leading pair having just under a second pace advantage on the third-placed ORECA.

Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK produced a surge in form to finish the session with a one-two in LM GTE Pro whilst Porsche and Aston Martin, yesterday’s pace setters, were bottom of the class. Ferrari‘s hopes are looking up this weekend as in both Pro and LM GTE Am their 488 GTEs looked strong. Aston Martin Racing #98 finished the class fastest but the Ferrari entrants were second and third in class.

The session was not very good for the #7 Toyota LMP1 entrant and the crew found themselves having an opposite morning to the sister car. Just before the halfway session, Mike Conway brought the car out on track to complete its first lap of the day. It set a competitive lap time but it was not able to go fastest that fourth, slowest of the LMP1-Hybrid cars.

In the closing stages of the session, José Maria Lopez made contact with the #98 Aston Martin Racing car as he tried to pass the traffic around the outside of Luffieds. Lopez misjudged the move and cut back onto the racing line too early catching the front of the Aston Martin with the back of his TS050. The incident immediately went under investigation as there was severe damage to the Aston and Lopez and team #7 were reported to the stewards for dangerous driving.

With qualification simulations occurring at the end of the 60-minute session the pace was close between the four LMP1 cars. Porsche had led the beginning of the session, but the outright pace of the Toyota seemed too much for them in the closing stages. Davidson was the only driver to break into the 1m39s, setting a lap time of 1:39.476. This was a comfortable seven-tenths faster than second-placed Neel Jani in the #1 Porsche. However, when qualification simulations started the entire grid’s lap times plummeted, so it should still be a close battle for pole.

The lap times were changing frequently through the final practice session. Nicolas Lapierre climbed into the cockpit of the #36 Signatech Alpine challenger and set a 1:45.981 as a benchmark to the LMP2 field. But as the track evolved the teams were getting faster. In the end, Lapierre’s fast time was only enough to set the fifth fastest lap time in class. Fastest lap was scrapped for between the #28 TDS Racing, #26 G-Drive Racing, and the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing cars.

As impressive as Oliver Jarvis’ time was it was not enough to keep him in the fight for fastest in LMP2. He settled for third and being just under a second off the leading pace in the class. Three-tenths split the #28 TDS Racing ORECA from the #26 G-Drive. Matthieu Vaxivère set the fastest lap in the #28 with a 1:44.105.

Ford Chip Ganassi Team – Credit: Craig Robertson

The session started as expected in LM GTE Pro; with Porsche and Aston Martin battling for the fastest lap in class and being within a few tenths of each other. However, as soon as the qualifying simulations started everything changed. Ford set the fastest lap on the class in the #67 Ford GT with a time of 1:56.233 with the sister car only four-tenths slower. The AF Corse duo followed with their fastest car, #51, a second off the pace of the leading Ford.

The most surprising aspect of the qualifying simulations was how off the pace Porsche and Aston seemed to be. None of the other four cars managed to finish fastest than the fastest two Am cars, and only the Porsche GT Team #91 was able to finish faster than the third-placed Am. The four cars were over three seconds off the pace of the cars ahead of them. This complete shift in class leaders could see an unpredictable pole sitter in GTE Pro this afternoon.

LM GTE Am reiterated the improvement Ferrari had found overnight. The #61 Clearwater Racing led the beginning of the session before qualifying simulations began, and then only dropped to second in class before the chequered flag. It was just as good of a session for #54 Spirit of Race who ended up third fastest by the end of the session. The #54 was just under a second off the pace set by Aston Martin, but the Clearwater entrant was much more in contention, only four-tenths off the pace.

The two Porsches had to settle for the last two places on the timing board as the pace they showed yesterday appears to have not converted to today. Yesterday’s fastest #86 Gulf Racing was slowest overall, 2.7 seconds off the pace of the class leader. Porsche definitely has something to work on on their GT cars before qualifying later on today.