24h Le Mans
24 Hours of Le Mans – three Hypercars within the same tenth of a second in Free Practice
The first 24 Hours of Le Mans free practice session took place from 14:00 to 17:00 today. The 62 teams used the session to tweak their cars’ settings ahead of the race. In every class, the competitors are now racing for the best slots on the starting grid!
The afternoon got off to a bad start for the High Class Racing #20 Oreca 07-Gibson when Danish driver Marco Sørensen went off at the Dunlop Chicane, causing damage to the rear of his car in an incident likely caused by cold tyres providing less grip.
Kazuki Nakajima, driver of the #8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid for Toyota Gazoo Racing, set the bar high from the outset, recording a lap time of 3:30.215 which he subsequently brought down to 3:29.396. With 1 hour and 7 minutes to go to the chequered flag, André Négrão placed the Alpine Elf Matmut #36 Alpine A470-Gibson at the top of the time sheets with 3:29.395. Ultimately, José Marìa Lopez in the #7 Toyota claimed leadership with 3:29.309.
The Glickenhaus hypercars finished sixth and seventh, the #709 in front of the #708. The latter car recorded the fastest time on Test Day with 3:29.115. “That time was very satisfying, but we still have a few things to fine-tune to continue the car’s development,” explained James Glickenhaus.
There were a number of incidents during the session, which was neutralised twice. First, two cars – the Racing Team Nederland #29 Oreca 07-Gibson and the Racing Team India Eurasia #74 Ligier JS P217-Gibson – went off at the Dunlop Chicane. Frits Van Eerd was caught out by John Corbett’s move in the #74 and inevitably crashed off track too. The Inception Racing #71 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo driven by Brendan Iribe also span off in a minor incident before Tertre Rouge. Then both the Cetilar Racing #47Ferrari 488 GTE Evo and the JOTA #38 Oreca 07-Gibson crashed off in the same sector. Both cars suffered damage and the teams’ mechanics will have their work cut out in the next few hours.
In the LMP2 class, the United Autosports #22 Oreca 07-Gibson showed impressive pace. Steered by Phil Hanson, the car recorded 3:29.441 and moved into fourth place, behind three Hypercars. In the G-Drive Racing #26 Aurus 01-Gibson, Nyck de Vries took second place in the class (3:30.094) ahead of the Team WRT #41 Oreca 07-Gibson (3:30.724). In Pro/Am, there was something of an emotional roller coaster when the DragonSpeed USA #21 Oreca 07-Gibson, which recorded the fast time in its class, came to a halt on the way out of the Dunlop Chicane.
A new record in LMGTE Am
In the first hour of the practice session, Matteo Cairoli excelled in the Team Project 1 #56 Porsche 911 RSR-19, clocking a time of 3:50.193 – a new LMGTE Am class record and breaking the record of 3:50.728 set in 2018 by... Cairoli!
In LMGTE Pro, the AF Corse #52 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo scored the fastest lap with 3:50.123.
Also worthy of note – a time of 3:34.510 for the Association SRT41 #84 Oreca 07-Gibson. competing in the Innovative Car and driven by two drivers with disabilities, Takuma Aoki and Nigel Bailly. Matthieu Lahaye completes their trio.
The cars will be back on track between 19:00-20:00 for the qualifying session when the drivers will be aiming to record the fastest time possible The six quickest from each class will then compete in the Hyperpole session tomorrow evening.