The first practice session of the 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans has been concluded with Brendon Hartley fastest for Toyota Gazoo Racing. The 3:29.411 saw him clear of second place by almost half a second, but for most of the session the advantage seemed to be with Glickenhaus Racing.
For the majority of the three hours, Glickenhaus had a one-two at the top of the timing screen. Franck Mailleux‘s early 3:29.917 was unmatched until the closing moments of the session, with his time only 0.021s off the fastest time set by Jose Maria Lopez in the official test last weekend. Pipo Derani made it look like a dream start for the privateer team, going 0.185s slower than Mailleux and holding onto a team one-two for most of the session.
Hartley’s time came with 20 minutes left of the session. Before setting his 3m29s lap time, the Toyotas had been about half a second off the Glickenhaus; the #7 in the hands of Kamui Kobayashi ending that far off the top three in fourth. It was a session of struggles for the sole LMP1 car as the Alpine Elf Team entry finished 1.6s off the time of Kobayashi. Andre Negrao‘s 3:32.075 had him 2.2s off the benchmark set by Hartley.
Alex Lynn was unbeatable in LMP2, setting his 3:31.563 early on in the session. It was enough to put him fourth on the overall timing board, ahead of the struggling Alpine and #7 Toyota. The top three in class outpaced the Alpine also, Antonio Felix da Costa and Robert Kubica in the #38 JOTA and #9 Prema Orlen Team second and third in LMP2 respectively.
FIA World Endurance Championship class leaders and class winners from last year WRT were fourth, behind the Alpine but only six tenths off of Lynn’s pace. They placed highest of the three WRT cars entered in this weekend’s race, with the sister WEC entry car fifth – Norman Nato 0.025 off Robin Frijns – and the third sole Le Mans entry 13th in class.
LMP2 was the most incident filled class, with three of the cars bringing out caution periods during the practice period. Ryan Cullen suffered a suspect electrical failure at the Dunlop Curves bringing out a full course yellow at the end of the second hour and cutting Vector Sport‘s session short, while Steven Thomas had a big impact with the tyre barriers at the Ford Chicane, taking the #45 Algarve Pro out of the last half an hour. Mathieu Lahaye had an incident early in the session damaging the rear of the #35 Ultimate but he managed to get back to the pits for repairs. The car finished the session 19th in class.
The only Pro manufacturer not to be given a BoP change before the session took a one-two in class, with Tommy Milner leading Antonio Garcia in the pair of Corvette Racing Chevrolets. Milner’s 3:53.360 was in a league of its own, a full second up on the sister car, leaving the rest of the GTE Pro entries scratching their heads.
Michael Christensen took third in class, two tenths off of Garcia at the chequered flag. But the grid came across the line two-by-two, showing the changes to Ferrari‘s BoP may have been more costly than effective in balancing the field. The Automobile Club de l’Ouest usually change the GTE BoP once again on the Friday of Le Mans after data has been collected from the field, so do not be surprised to see some of the teams sandbagging and suddenly find pace in the race because of this. Qualifying position is certainly not an important factor in a 24 hour race.
Antonio Fuoco was fastest of the Ferrari Pro entries, with the two works/WEC cars split by Sam Bird in the #74 Riley Motorsports in the class standings. The Spa-winning #51 spent most of the three hours in the pits due to a technical issue. It wasn’t seen out on track until James Calado brought it out with fifteen minutes to go, but the 4:01.511 saw the team at the very bottom of the overall timing screen.
Where Corvette had the advantage of no BoP change in Pro, it was Aston Martin who had the luxury in Am, but this didn’t stop Julien Andlauer from putting a Porsche on top. His 3:55.082 in the #79 WeatherTech Racing RSR was nine tenths up on fellow Porsche-running GR Racing. Ben Barker‘s 3:55.941 just kept Marco Sorensen at bay in the #33 TF Sport, staying ahead by 0.056s to secure a Porsche one-two.
Aston Martins completed the top five, with Nicki Thiim in the #98 Northwest Aston Martin Racing fourth and Tomonobu Fuji fifth with the D’Station Racing. Ferrari runners once again struggled, but the Iron Dames – looking for a much stronger performance this weekend than they had in Spa – were the quickest team for the Italian manufacturer. Rachel Frey was seven tenths off the class pace setter with her 3:56.663.
The cars return to the track at 18:00 BST for the first qualifying session of the week.