Keeping up the trend from the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps yesterday, it was an LMP2 on top of the timing board at the end of Free Practice 2, keeping the Hypercars at bay by 0.021s. Team Penske were the ones to beat, with Glickenhaus Racing once again leading the top category.
The session started with the seeming return of the status quo: Toyota Gazoo Racing on top and setting the pace ahead of the Alpine Elf Team and Glickenhaus entries, but it wasn’t long until the LMP2s were back on top. Felipe Nasr set the fastest lap of the session with a 2:04.443 clearing the then-leading Toyota #8 by two tenths of a second. This was the advantage Team Penske would hold onto over the Toyota with only the Glickenhaus in the hands of Olivier Pla splitting the pair with a lap two thousandths of a second slower than the LMP2.
United Autosports featured in the top of the timing screen again as Oliver Jarvis set a 2:04.821 to go fourth fastest overall, the fastest of the two United Autosports entries. Their competitors from yesterday, 2021 champions WRT, were down in 16th overall, 2.2 seconds off the pace set by Team Penske. The reason for this loss of pace is unknown, but if it continues into final practice the team will have a challenge on their hands for qualifying.
Prema ORLEN Team were fifth overall, as the second Toyota finished four tenths off the sister car in sixth. The second United Autosports followed them for seventh, with the JOTA pair and final Hypercar – Alpine – rounding off the top ten. Being the best placed Pro/Am LMP2 and showing strong pace again was the AF Corse LMP2 car, taking 11th overall, just over a second off Nasr’s pace.
Kevin Estre led the way in GTE Pro once again, but the Ferrari entries that had been assumed to struggle this weekend because of Balance of Performance weightings split the German manufacturer’s two entries. Estre’s 2:14.366 looked to be in a class of its own, six tenths up on the chasing Pro pack, but second through fourth were split by two tenths of a second. With both the AF Corse’s outpacing the Corvette Racing by at least half a second, the Italian outfit does look to be in a bit more contention that had previously been expected.
Porsche were back on top in Am, with the #46 Team Project 1 leading the class. All Am cars finished behind Pros, 1.2s off the pace set by Estre. Albeit having some issues in the opening stages of the session, the Dempsey Proton Racing #77 managed to set the second fastest time in class during the 26 laps set. The 2:16.240 set by Sebastian Priaulx came in the last few moments of the session, placing them above the third-placed Iron Danes entry.
Sandbagging is expected in the Hypercars, explaining why they’re so mixed in with the LMP2 runners, and it is assumed that they will climb to the top of the field in the final practice session. However, the LMP2s are looking incredibly strong, and if any of the top category cars are showing true pace they could be in trouble challenging for the overall podium in tomorrow’s race.