6H COTA: Audi leads third practice as Duval shines again

by Daniel Lloyd

Audi Sport Team Joest will head into today’s World Endurance Championship qualifying session at Austin full of confidence after the German manufacturer topped all three of the free practice sessions.

During Friday morning’s hourlong run, Loic Duval set a 1:45.719s time in the #8 R18 to continue Audi’s march at the head of the field. The Frenchman will share the car in Saturday’s six hour race with Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis.

Duval’s effort was 0.332 seconds quicker than Brendon Hartley’s second placed Porsche 919 Hybrid, which is also co-driven by Mark Webber an Timo Bernhard.

Third fastest on Friday was the sister Porsche driven by Romain Dumas, who posted a best time of 1:46.080.

Half a second adrift of the pace was the other Audi, driven by Marcel Fassler, while the fastest Toyota finished 1.6 seconds off the pace.

In LMP2, Manor’s ORECA-Nissan led the way with Roberto Merhi turning in a 1:55.696s best.

That was enough to edge out the RGR Sport by Morand Ligier-Nissan, driven by Bruno Senna, by 0.045 seconds.

The usual suspects were present at the top of the LMP2 order, with G-Drive Racing’s Alex Brundle lapping third quickest ahead of the Signatech Alpine A460 driven by Gustavo Menezes.

Aston Martin dominated the times in GTE-Pro, despite a balance of performance ruling threatening to reduce the team’s pace shown in Mexico.

Marco Sorensen’s 2:03.368s marker was enough to put the #95 Vantage in front, with the sister #97 car of Fernando Rees a further eight tenths of a second back.

The nearest non-Aston entry was the AF Corse Ferrari 488 driven by Gianmaria Bruni, which settled with a time of 2:04.374.

GTE-Am was topped by the 6 Hours of Mexico-winning Abu Dhabi Proton squad, with Porsche factory driver Kevin Estre registering a 2:06.038 to go marginally ahead of Pedro Lamy in the works Aston Martin.

Qualifying for the sixth round of the World Endurance Championship takes place later today (Friday) at 17:45 local time.

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