24 Hours of Le MansFIA WEC

24 Hours of Le Mans: Lopez Fastest in Final Practice

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#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing tyre change at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

The ten hours of practice ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans have now been complete, with Jose Maria Lopez taking the final fastest lap in the darkness. He led Sebastien Buemi in a Toyota Gazoo Racing one-two to cap of the week.

It was a steady session with most teams focusing on getting final set up tweaks and checks complete, so the lap times reflected more of the pace we will see in Saturday/Sunday’s race. The 3:28.322 from Lopez was a far cry from the 3m24s we were seeing in Hyperpole but much closer to the times we expect to see over the weekend.

Glickenhaus Racing spent the first half an hour of the two hour session in the garage, leaving the Alpine Elf Team third in class, but once they came out the French car dropped down the order. None of the other Hypercars were on Toyota’s pace, with #709 Glickenhaus third in the standings, 2.5s off the pace. The #708 and #36 were an additional tenth and two tenths off the #709 respectively.

Alex Lynn led the way in LMP2 with a 3:32.226 set at the start of the session. Most cars did a flying lap at the beginning of the two hours before settling into long runs for the remainder of the time, or disappearing into the garage. The #65 Panis Racing was second, just under two tenths off Lynn’s time, with #28 JOTA closing out the top three in class.

The most interesting news of the session comes from the cars that had incidents in Free Practice Three. All bar the #13 TDS Racing x Vaillante managed to return to the track after the #30 Duqueine Team and #39 Graff Racing had extensive rebuilds to do. The Graff came out about an hour into the session, going straight into the run off at Tertre Rogue during its out-lap. Luckily it wasn’t a second excursion into the barrier, but it did return to the pits for a few extra checks before setting out on a slightly longer stint.

The TDS Racing car may be the first loss from the 90th 24 Hours of Le Mans as, deemed to be entirely at fault in the Sean Gelal incident, Philippe Cimadomo has been banned from taking place in the race. This was his second major incident of the weekend after also causing a collision in first practice. Even if the team can rebuild the car, they will be a driver down and – unless they find a replacement tomorrow – it may be too much for the team to comprehend doing all the work of a rebuild to not be able to race anyway. Nothing has been confirmed yet but watch this space for the withdrawal of the car.

Motion blur of the #46 Team Project 1 GTE Am car at Le Mans
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Corvette Racing led another two-by-two for the final practice session. The 3:52.710 set by the pole-sitting #63 was 0.021s up on the sister car, four tenths clear of the #91 Porsche GT Team that finished the session third.

A Balance of Performance (BoP) shift for Ferrari is expected to be announced ahead of the race to assist the Italian manufacturer in closing the gap to the rest of the field. With two Ferraris in the top three of Am in qualifying, it may be that the Pro cars get a bigger advantage than the Ams when the change is officially announced.

It was a Dempsey-Proton Racing one-two in GTE Am, with the #77 Harry Tincknell, Sebastian Priaulx and Christian Ried car ahead of the #88 Fred Poordad, Maxwell Root and Jan Heylen entry. The top three in class, completed by the class pole-sitting #61 AF Corse, was covered by three tenths at the chequered flag, even though the #61’s session came to a slightly early end when it came to a halt on the main straight. At the time of publishing the cause of the failure is unknown.

There is no track action on the Friday of Le Mans, meaning the next time the cars take the the circuit being the 15 minute warm up session Saturday morning ahead of the race starting at 15:00 BST.

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The Checkered Flag’s correspondent for the FIA World Endurance Championship. Working in motorsport as a hobby and as a professional, Alice is a freelance digital communications manager, video editor and graphic designer at OrbitSphere. She also runs and manages her own YouTube channel - Circuit The World - with videos on gaming, travel, motorsports and reviews.
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