FIA WEC

LMH Back on Top as Alpine Go Fastest in second WEC practice

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Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 and Alpine Elf Matmut #36 Racing on track in FP2 for the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, 2021
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

In the second practice session ahead of the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, advantage swung to the LMH class as the Alpine Elf Matmut LMP1 and #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing Hypercar battled it out for the fastest lap.

For the first time since arriving at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps this week, the LMH class seemed to have a, albeit small, advantage over the charging LMP2 cars. The Alpine led the way in the hands of Andre Negrao, but Brendon Hartley kept the LMP1 car pushing until the end of the session as the two traded fastest laps. At the chequered flag, the New Zealander’s fastest time was only 0.035s off the 2:03.396 set by Negrao. This showed some incredible speed gains for the Toyota, whose fastest lap yesterday was around 1.5s slower.

Unfortunately woes troubled the sister #7 Toyota who sat in the midst of the LMP2 cars once again with an overall finish of seventh place. Jose Maria Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi could not get closer that 1.3s off the pace of the front runners, beaten out by four LMP2 cars.

The LMP2s are still a threat for the overall victory of tomorrow’s race, but Alpine and Toyota started to pull a bit of an advantage. Fastest LMP2 (finishing thrid overall) was the fastest man from yesterday: Filipe Alberquerque in the #22 Untied Autosports. His time was faster than yesterday, going a third of a second quicker, but the 2:03.733 was just under half a second off the LMHs ahead. Whether a turning point of a fluke is unknown, but it is certain the race between the LMH and LMP2 cars for the overall victory tomorrow is going to be an exciting one.

The top five overall and top three in LMP2 was rounded off by Nyck de Vries in the not full season #26 G-Drive Racing entry and Alex Brundle who set a lap time of 2:04.230 for the Inter Europol Competition entry. De Vries was the only other driver to go sub 2m04s this session, putting just four cars in the 2m03s bracket.

The balance swung in LM GTE Pro as, for the first time all week, Ferrari took the fastest lap of the group. James Calado pulled a 2:13.552 from the AF Corse Ferrari 488 Evo, going two tenths of a second clear of second fastest Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni in the #91 Porsche GT Team. The battle in class still looks as it could go either way as the session finished Ferrari-Porsche-Ferrari-Porsche, with Miguel Molina and Daniel Serra taking an two-tenth advantage on the #92 Porsche entry. All four of the full-season Pro cars were covered by six tenths of a second at the chequered flag.

Unfortunately for the sole Corvette Racing entry, it suffered issues throughout the 90-minute session, meaning they had reduced running only completing 22 laps, compared to the average 30. Oliver Gavin and Antonio Garcia finished over 1.5s off the pace of the fellow GTE Pro cars, adding to what has been a fairly difficult race weekend so far for the American team.

Porsche may have lost the advantage in GTE Pro, but it was a Porsche on top of Am as Jaxon Evans took the team to the front of the class with a 2:14.170, just 0.019 off the pace of fourth place in Pro. But the Ferrari charge also came in the Am class, with second and third in class being held by Ferrari-runners: #54 AF Corse second and #60 Iron Lynx third.
  
With only one practice session yesterday, Friday is a jam-packed day of WEC action, with another practice session and qualifying occurring this afternoon. The cars will return to the track at 13:00 BST / 14:00 CEST for their final 90 minutes of practice.

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