Toyota on Top after Heavy Crash for Duval

A heavy crash from the #1 Audi of Loïc Duval marred the opening free practice session for the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours, with the four hour session seeing three red flags and the #8 Toyota finish on top of the times.

The session started relatively calm, but with an hour gone Duval spired off the road at Porsche Curves, with his Audi R18 e-tron Quattro then launching into the catch fencing and wall ripping it apart. Duval was then extracted from the car and taken to the medical centre before being taken to hospital for checks.

“At 17h05, today Wednesday 11 June, the No.1 Audi left the track at very high speed at the Porsche Curves, at Marshals Post No.131,” said a statement from the ACO. “The incident occurred during the free practice session for the 82nd edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“Conscious, the driver was taken into the care of the ACO’s Medical Services, extracted from the car to an ambulance and then immediately transported to the Le Mans’s Centre Hospitalier where he will undergo further examination. His condition is encouraging.”

The session resumed just under an hour later, with the #8 Toyota on top of the times where it would stay for the rest of the session on a 3:23.652, with Sebastien Buemi setting the fastest lap time of the day so far. In second was Duval on a 3:24.729, but that time soon got beaten by first the #7 Toyota of Alex Wurz and then by Andre Lotterer who jumped above the pair, with Duval’s early pace enough to keep him P4.

The top Porsche in the times was the #20 on a 3:26.602, more than two seconds off the pace, with the #14 behind the sister car on a 3:27.374. Rebellion Racing  were a further four seconds back in LMP1-L, with the #12 R-One in eighth place on a 3:31.212.

In LMP2 the new OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 of Alex Brundle, Jann Mardenborough and Mark Shulzhitskiy was on top on a 3:40.611, with the #48 Murhpy Prototypes Oreca-03R Nissan of Nathanael Berthon, Ricardo Gonzalez and Karun Chandhok second on a 3:40.737. In third was a second Oreca 03R-Nissan, the #37 SMP Racing of Nicolas Minassian, Maurizio Mediani and Kirill Ladygin, with the car managing a 3:41.073.

In the GTE classes it was the Am car of Nikki Thiim, David Heinemeier-Hanson and Kristian Poulsen setting the fastest time of 3:57.015, with the 2014-spec Aston Martin finishing a hundredth of a second ahead of the #51 Pro Ferrari, with the car of Gimi Bruni, Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella setting  3:57.028. In third was the #97 Pro Aston Martin of Darren Turner, Bruno Senna and Stefan Mucke, producing as best time of 3:57.086.

Apart from Duval’s crash there  two other red flags, both of which were caused down the Mulsanne straight, with Erik Maris in the IMSA Porsche going off at the first chicane with 30 minutes to go, with Frank Montecalvo soon going off in the #90 at the second chicane with 10 minutes to go, just five minutes after the restart.

Qualifying starts at 2100 BST tonight, with all drivers having to do five laps each as per ACO regulations.