Murphy Prototypes driver Nathanaël Berthon set the fastest time on the opening day of the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) test.
The Frenchman’s best of 1.48.155 was almost a second quicker than any other driver, and was set during the morning session at a chilly but dry Paul Ricard. He was joined by new team-mates Mark Patterson and Michael Lyons, both of whom will partner Berthon in a full-season entry for the Irish squad this season.
Greaves Motorsport had a satisfying day testing its new Gibson 015S Nissan, completing 158 laps. Jon Lancaster set the second fastest overall time at 1.48.955, while Gary Hirsch backed this up with the fourth quickest lap, setting a 1.49.062 in the afternoon session.
Fellow Gibson customer JOTA Sport also enjoyed an extensive day of testing, with Harry Tincknell returning to the team following Nick Yelloly’s unexpected departure at the weekend. Tincknell’s 1.48.967 lap time in the evening session was the third fastest of the day, further demonstrating the potential of the rebranded Zytek machine.
The early-morning session marked the beginning of a new era in endurance racing as Team LNT rolled out its new Ginetta-Nissan LMP3 race car. The smart-looking coupe ran 70 laps in total, with Sir Chris Hoy, Laurence Tomlinson, Mike Simpson, Konstatins Calko and Charlie Robertson all gaining valuable track time. Simpson was the quickest of the group, setting a 1.59.768 which placed him roughly in the middle of the LMGTE field.
In the GT classes, AT Racing led the way with Alessandro Perguidi setting a 1.56.980 lap time in the Swiss team’s Ferrari 458 Italia GTE. Gulf Racing UK’s Adam Carroll finished the afternoon session in second place with a 1.57.926. Other teams to complete a successful day’s running included Scuderia Villorba Corse, BMW Team Marc VDS and JMW Motorsport, among others.
Italian squad AF Corse put its stamp on the GTC field by locking out the three fastest times of the day. Francesco Castellacci (#62 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3) topped the list, recording a 1.58.148 that was not only the third quickest GT time of the day, but also just seven-tenths slower than the 2014 pole position time. Giorgio Roda (#63) and Mads Rasmussen (#64) slotted in around a tenth of a second behind.
An interesting story developing in the GTC paddock today concerned SMP Racing. The Russian team’s Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 was present at Paul Ricard, but sanctions placed by the United States on a number of Russian companies in light of the political crisis in Ukraine meant that SMP Racing could not be supplied the mandatory Dunlop tyres (Goodyear-Dunlop being an American-owned brand) for the test. Team owner Boris Rotenberg, who also owns SMP Bank, was not present at today’s prologue. While the Ferrari is permitted to run on its current set of tyres it has no replacements for the remainder of tomorrow’s sessions, a problem which is likely to spill over into the season itself.
Furthermore, the team’s BR01 LMP2 prototype was not present at today’s test, and doubts over its attendance at tomorrow’s sessions have cast a shadow of uncertainty over the team’s full-season ELMS entry. However, this didn’t prevent Mikhail Aleshin, Anton Ladygin and Kirill Ladygin from heading onto the track in the ORECA 03 chassis that the team used in the FIA World Endurance Championship last year.
The official ELMS test at Paul Ricard continues tomorrow morning at 9:00 local time.
ELMS Testing Day One: Fastest Laps
#48 Murphy Prototypes – ORECA 03R – Nathanaël Berthon – 1.48.155
#41 Greaves Motorsport – Gibson 015S Nissan – Jon Lancaster – 1.48.955
#38 JOTA Sport – Gibson 015S Nissan – Harry Tincknell – 1.48.967
#56 AT Racing – Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 – Alessandro Perguidi – 1.56.980
#86 Gulf Racing UK – Porsche 911 RSR – Adam Carroll – 1.57.926
#51 AF Corse – Ferrari 458 Italia GTE – Raffaele Gianmaria – 1.58.210
#62 AF Corse – Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 – Francesco Castellacci – 1.58.148
#63 AF Corse – Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 – Giorgio Roda – 1.58.212
#64 AF Corse – Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 – Mads Rasmussen – 1.58.213
#2 Team LNT – Ginetta-Nissan – Michael Simpson – 1.59.768