The weather gods smiled on the FIA World Endurance Championship competitors this afternoon as the 35 competitors begun their final practice session before this evening’s qualifying sessions. In glorious sunshine, the cars all took to the track for an uninterrupted 120 minutes of running on the Ardennes track which is consistently at the top of drivers’ list of ‘all-time favourites.’
The No.1 Audi R18 e-ton quattro of André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler was, once again, the fastest car at Spa-Francorchamps with a 2:01.276 lap of the 7km circuit, 0.7 seconds faster than this morning’s first session. It was once again an Audi 1-2-3, with the No.3 long-tail Audi of Lucas Di Grassi, Marc Gene and Oliver Jarvis edging out the Silverstone-winning car of Tom Kristensen, Loîc Duval and Allan McNish.
The surprise of the session was the No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota of Neel Jani, Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost which was 4th fastest, 1.029s behind the lead Audi but ahead of both works Toyotas led by the 2013 specification No.7 TS030 of Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima, 0.2s ahead of the No.8 Hybrid Toyota of Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Stephane Sarrazin.
The No.21 Strakka Racing HPD was 7th fastest overall, 3.033 seconds behind the No.1 Audi and 0.6seconds ahead of the No.13 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota.
In LMP2 the leading car was the No.38 Jota Zytek-Nissan of Simon Dolan, Oliver Turvey and former FIA GT1 World Champion Lucas Luhr with a lap of 2:09.026. This was 0.4 seconds ahead of their nearest rivals, the No.24 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan of Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and David Heinemeier-Hansson and the No.35 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan of Belgium’s Bertrand Baguette, Ricardo Gonzalez and Martin Plowman.
Echoing this morning’s session, AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italias claimed the top spots in both the LMGTE Pro and Am classes but this time it was the No.51 of Gianmaria Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella which set the fastest time in the manufacturer-led Pro category. His best lap of 2:20.159 was one tenth of a second faster than the No.97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Darren Turner-Stefan Mucke-Peter Dumbreck (2:20.267) in 2nd place and almost three tenths ahead of the No.91 Porsche AG Team Manthey 911 RSR of Jörg Bergmeister-Patrick Pilet-Timo Bernhard (2:20.420).
As this closely-competitive category prepares to fight it out on track this afternoon in qualifying for the best possible starting position on the grid, the fact that there is 0.75 seconds between the top six in class indicates just how tight this is.
In LMGTE Am, AF Corse’s Matt Griffin left it to the last lap of the session to set his fastest lap of 2:21.155, the lap edging the No.61 Ferrari 458 Italia ahead of the No.81 8Star Motorsports Ferrari by 0.034 seconds! In third place was the 2012 FIA WEC class-winning Corvette C6R-ZR1 of Larbre Competition, its time of 2:21.300 showing again just how exciting the LMGTE classes are shaping up to be.
The next rendez-vous on track for the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps competitors will be for qualifying. At 18:50 hours this evening the LMGTE Pro and Am classes will be on track for 30 minutes, followed by a further 30 minutes at 19:30 for the LMP1 and LMP2 cars.