Toyota Gazoo Racing and Aston Martin Racing led the respective LMP and GTE fields in the first practice session for the 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans. The session was hindered by a Safety Car and red flag period during the three hours of track action.
Rebellion Racing was leading the pack through the beginning of the session, but as the track rubbered in and sped up, Toyota found their feet. Locking out the top two positions, Kazuki Nakajima beat his fellow countryman in the #8 setting a 3:21.656 to top the timing board. Kamui Kobayashi was only split from the sister car by three tenths of a second.
For the first time in the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship, the two Toytoas will not suffer any success ballast as Le Mans’ Equivalence of Technology is determined separately to WEC. Their closest competitors, the #1 Rebellion, had a fastest time of 3:23.155 set by Gustavo Menezes which was about 1.5s slower than the Toyota duo. The whole LMP1 field was covered by about 7 seconds as the #4 ByKolles Racing Team entry brought up the rear of the field with a 3:28.442.
Alex Lynn‘s lap time of 3:53.930 in the #97 Aston Martin Racing led the way to the second one-two lockout by a team. Lynn’s time gave him more than a second advantage on the sister car, but the splits between the #95 to the rest of the Pro field was a lot closer. Alessandro Pier Guidi only missed out on splitting the two Aston Martins by a couple of tenths.
The Pro teams ran two-by-two, with the #71 AF Corse taking fourth behind the sister car, running eight tenths slower. Ferraris beat Porsches as the two Privateer Ferraris of Risi Competition and WeatherTech Racing were fifth and sixth respectively, leaving the Porsche GT Team cars at the back of the field looking for more time on track.
In arguably the most competitive and unpredictable class of this year’s Le Mans, High Class Racing led the way in LMP2. 24 Hours of Le Mans debutant Kenta Yamashita led the 24-strong field with a 3:29.873 at the chequered flag. But it was tight at the front, with second-placed Racing Team Nederland only 0.045s off the leading pace in the hands of Nyck de Vries.
The #38 JOTA spent most of the three-hour session leading the LMP2 class, but late lap improvements saw them drop to third in class. They remained as the highest placed Goodyear-running team, with both High Class Racing and Racing Team Nederland using Michelin tyres.
Aston Martin kept up their good pace in GTE Am, with Ross Gunn placing the works Aston Martin Racing car fastest. His 3:55.484 gave the team an eight-tenth advantage on second-placed Hub Auto Racing Ferrari. The Aston Martins appear very strong after the first practice session, looking like they have had the best deal in the Balance of Performance distribution. With such a tight schedule, there will likely not be the time there usually is for BoP alterations prior to the race.
The 20-minute red flag in the middle of this session came from the #89 Team Project 1 Porsche coming to a halt out on track at Indianapolis. The car was recovered back to the pits and is expected to be seen in second practice.