The 2017 European Le Mans Series cars took to the track this morning for the first official test of the season. Lapping around the Italian circuit Autodromo Nazionale Monza, it was DragonSpeed that set the fastest time of the first two-and-a-half-hour session, with a time of 1:37.834.
Fastest of the LMP3 field was AT Racing setting a fastest lap of 1:45.813, while Aston Martin took the fastest time of the LMGTE class with #90 TF Sport. Their fastest time was a 1:48.720.
Ben Hanley set the fastest lap in the #21 DragonSpeed LMP2 Oreca 07, Gibson-engined car, but it wasn’t a time that was unreachable from the rest of the field. Second-placed Algarve Pro Racing were less than two-tenths of the pace of the DragonSpeed car. The results of the second session today will show if the field is predicting a close battle for the front of the grid or if a few teams are ahead of the rest of the grid.
The slowest LMP2 car this morning was #39 GRAFF. The GRAFF team are running the same chassis as DragonSpeed but found themselves the slowest of the class, 8.530 seconds off the leading pace. The second car of the team, however, showed a much more promising pace: fifth fastest and only 0.690 seconds off the time set by DragonSpeed.
Of the three chassis in the LMP2 field, the Dallara appears to be the worst of the three from this morning’s final order. The fastest Dallara-running car sat eighth fastest (#49 HIGH CLASS RACING) and was 1.237 seconds slower than Hanley’s time. This was the first time to be over a second slower than the fastest lap.
Alexander Talkanitsa, Alexander Talkanitsa JR, and Mikkel Jensen put the #9 AT Racing Nissan-powered Ligier JS P3 fastest of the LMP3 class, narrowly going fastest than second-placed EUROINTERNATIONAL. The gap between the two cars was 0.002 seconds at chequered flag. The top four of the LMP3 class were very close, with the gap from first to fourth being 0.330 seconds. The top for of the LMP3 class finished faster than the slowest LMP2 car.
On the other end of the scale, it was the #19 M.RACING YMR Nissan-powered Norma M 30 that set the slowest lap of the session: a 1:55.422, 17.588 seconds off the pace. The M.RACING YMR car set only six laps during the 180-minute session, so it is believed they may have had issues that prevented them from getting a lot of track time. Hopefully, in the second session of the day, they can be faster and show a more competitive pace.
All but one car managed to get out and set a lap time in the first official test session. LMGTE #88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR did not make any appearance on the track during the morning session, failing to put any laps on the board. The issues that prevented the Porsche team from participating have, with luck, been resolved so that the lose no more track time to the rest of the field in this afternoon’s session.
Aston Martin dominated the seven-car LMGTE field, locking their two cars, raced under the banners of TF Sport and Beechdean AMR, in first and second place in class. The second-placed #99 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin V8 Vantage set a fastest lap of 1:49.237. Third-placed #51 SPIRIT OF RACE Ferrari F488 GTE was 1.735 seconds slower, with the top two of the LMGTE grid split from the rest of the class by three LMP3 cars. The afternoon session will show if Aston Martin will be the manufacturer to beat in this category or if their morning pace can be caught by any other teams.