Setting a new unofficial FIA World Endurance Championship track record and beating the fastest lap in qualifying from last year, Kamui Kobayashi topped the final practice session for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps with his #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing.
The dry track conditions of today’s running (that are expected to remain for qualifying this afternoon) brought the edge back to Toyota, locking out the top two spots on the timing screen. Although Kobayashi put the #7 2.7 seconds ahead of the field, things were a little closer for the #8, with the trio of Sebastien Buemi, Fernando Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima only half a second ahead of the leading SMP Racing.
SMP Racing continued to establish themselves as the Privateer to beat, with both of their cars lining up behind the Toyotas. The #1 Rebellion Racing looked keen for the competition, finishing only four tenths off the slower #11 SMP’s time, but the sister Rebellion was a further two seconds down. If SMP can keep up this pace, the final spot on the podium looks set to be theirs.
It went from bad to worse for the returning Bykolles Racing Team, who found themselves 11 seconds off the pace as the chequered flag dropped. The team have a lot of work to do if they want to get into a competitive position, or even find themselves battling in the LMP1 pack. At their current pace, they have found themselves at the back of the LMP2s with their new Gibson V8 engine.
Jackie Chan DC Racing were the full-time WEC team to control the pace in the final practice session, but it was the G-Drive Racing entry in the hands of Jean-Eric Vergne who took the fastest LMP2 time of the session. His 2:01.143 saw him seven tenths up on the rest of the grid and looking strong to claim class pole position.
For the WEC championship, it is key that the Jackie Chan cars qualify higher than the #36 Signatech Alpine. The Signatech team were seventh in class at the end of the final hour of practice, a second off the pace of their championship rivals.
Porsche GT Team made their comeback in this morning’s practice session, taking first and third in class in a fight for the top with Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK. The second in championship #91 dictated the pace, but the top four were only split by seven tenths at the chequered flag.
Pace-setters from yesterday, Aston Martin Racing, seemed to struggle to find the optimum pace in the last hour of practice. Although they started the session controlling the pace, they ended seventh and ninth in class, with their faster car (#97 in the hands of Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin) just under a second off the leading Porsche‘s pace.
It was a Porsche 1-2-3 at the top of GTE Am, with the Dempsey-Proton Racing duo ahead of the class championship leaders, Team Project 1. Matteo Cairoli laid down the Am marker with a 2:15.190, with the other two Porsches lapping within four tenths.