Champions on top in free practice
As the second practice session came to a close today in preparation for Sunday’s 6 Hours of Silverstone, the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, it was Audi on top of the time sheets, starting the new season in fine style.
Although both sessions were declared wet, and brief showers were experienced during both, this afternoon’s 90-minute practice was run in better conditions than earlier in the day. Lap times fell accordingly. André Lotterer set the fastest time of the day in the No.1 R18 Audi e-tron quattro which he shares with Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler, 1:43.217, but was only five hundredths of a second ahead of the No.2 Audi, Loîc Duval setting that car’s best time of 1:43.263. The Frenchman is driving this weekend with the very experienced duo of Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish.
Toyota Racing’s Nicolas Lapierre was third in the LMP1 category in the No.7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid he will race with Alex Wurz, ahead of the fastest of the LMP1 Privateer teams, Strakka Racing. The Silverstone-based team, which proudly flies the Union flag on the engine cover of the No.21 HPD ARX 03c-Honda and boasts the only all-British driver line up in the race (Nick Leventis-Danny Watts-Jonny Kane), headed the No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota of Neel Jani, Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld by one tenth of a second.
In the 10-strong LMP2 category, the No.26 G-Drive Racing ORECA 03 Nissan of Roman Rusinov, John Martin and Mike Conway set the quickest time of the class with a best lap of 1:50.166 – former Indycar driver Conway proving that he has adapted quickly well to endurance racing.
Another Briton, Tom Kimber-Smith, driving the No.41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek Z11N Nissan with the American pairing of Chris Dyson and Michael Marsal, was next up with a time of 1:50.647. Very close behind – signifying how competitive the category is – was the No.24 OAK Racing ORECA 03 Nissan of Olivier Pla, David Heinemeier Hansson and Alex Brundle. Pla recorded a best lap of 1:50.699 – just four hundredths of a second behind Greaves.
In the LMGTE Pro category it was AF Corse’s Ferrari 458 Italias which dominated these two free practice sessions with, on each occasion, the No.71 of Kobayashi and Vilander on top. The best time of the day in this category was set this afternoon, 2:01.503. This morning, on a wet track, the No.71 headed its sister car, the No.51, as well as the two Porsche 911RSRs of Porsche AG Team Manthey. As for Aston Martin, although midfield this morning, they set the second quickest time of the afternoon – the No.99 of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Frederic Makowiecki achieving this.
The trio at the head of LMGTE Am has been the same all day. This morning, it was the No.50 Corvette of Larbre Competition which set the fastest time ahead of the two Aston Martin Vantages (No.95 in front of No.96). This afternoon the order was reversed with the two Astons – the No.96 of Roald Goethe, Stuart Hall and Jamie Campbell-Walter on top – ahead of the American car.
A third and final practice session will take place tomorrow morning from 9-10 am during which teams will make their final preparations before qualifying later in the day.