Audi Top First WEC Practice At Silverstone

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Kristensen's late lap put the #2 atop the first session of the new WEC season (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

On a track that was drying throughout much of the 90-minute opening practice session of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Six Hours of Silverstone weekend Audi Sport Team Joest claimed first and second with late laps from Tom Kristensen and Andre Lotterer.

While both Audis were able to improve late on still – reportedly still on wet tyres – neither Toyota was able to improve, the #7 leading the #8 in third and fourth though Alex Wurz’s best time was still 1.4 seconds slower than the best Audi. The flurry of late improvements inflated – perhaps artificially – the gap between the Audi and Toyota squad, with the quartet of works hybrid cars covered by a second until the final minutes of the session.

The timely nature of the overall fastest laps was reflected in the best laps in all four classes.

Having spent much of the session chasing benchmarks set by Porsche and Aston Martin teams Fernando Rees sprung into life for the Larbre Competition Corvette to take the fastest time for the defending champions in LMGTE Am. He eclipsed Christoffer Nygaard’s time in the better of the two Aston Martin Racing cars in the class then inched still further ahead in the final laps of the session to end with a best lap of 2:14.020 and a nearly nine-tenths of a second advantage over Nygaard.

To being in his endurance racing debut Kamui Kobayashi was the fastest driver in the all-works LMGTE Pro class. Kobayashi, sharing the #71 AF Corse Ferrari with Toni Vilander was, like their teammates in the #51 car playing catch-up for much of the session as the new shape, newly works run Porsche 911 RSR dominated the earlier, wetter part of session in conditions driver Marc Lieb described as ‘perfect’ for the rear engined machines.

However, as the track dried out the two Ferraris, with former F1 men Kobayashi and Giancarlo Fisichella aboard who swept to the top two spots.

Mike Conway was the fastest man in LMP2, another to improve late in the best conditions (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

Mike Conway was the fastest man in LMP2, another to improve late in the best conditions (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

Mike Conway topped LMP2 for G-Drive Racing, claiming the sixth best time overall – splitting the two Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyotas overall with a best lap of 1:58.866. The surprising performance, with another late lap in the driest of the conditions, capped a fine display by the LMP2 teams who took advantage of the tricky conditions – and lack of early laps from the LMP1 field – early on to lead the class.

Martin Plowman (OAK Racing), Alexandre Imperatori (KCMG) and Alex Brundle (in another of OAK’s three Morgan-Nissans) all led the class in the opening ten minutes before Nicolas Minassian put the Pecom Racing ORECA-Nissan to the of the class on a more permanent basis. The team, completed by drivers Luis PerezCompanc and Pierre Kaffer, held the top time in class through the first half of the session before Alex Brundle put the #24 OAK entry back to the to the top of the class.

In turn Brundle, who set the LMP2 pole at the Silverstone WEC meeting last August, held the top time until Indycar refugee Conway took the class lead with just six minutes to go.

It was Allan McNish who was the first man from the LMP1 ranks to take the top time before Alex Wurz knocked five seconds off his time to begin the relentless improvement that characterised the session.

The Austrian was the first man through the two-minute barrier and continued down to a best time of 1:56.549 before Loic Duval – making his race debut in the R18 e-tron quattro alongside McNish and Kristensen – put the #2 car fastest, a position he held until Lotterer moved up the order with just four minutes remaining.

The session was not entirely trouble free, with several drivers spinning on the greasy track, though all were able to continue.

The main issues were kept to the pits. The #97 Aston Martin, a brand new 2013 spec car for Darren Turner, Stefan Mucke and Bruno Senna was kept confined to the garage as the team made a precautionary engine change. The #32 Lotus was halted late in the session, brought into the pits with what appeared to be a minor fire at the rear of the car.

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James is our Diet-Coke fuelled writer and has been with TCF pretty much since day 1, he can be found frequenting twitter at @_JBroomhead
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