It was rain on the menu for breakfast at Le Mans for the first offical session of the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans. As always, the test day is taking place two weeks before the race. All of this years runners of the endurance classic have been completing, with some special entries for teams that are just testing and getting to know their cars. 64 endurance cars have already taken to the track today as Le Mans gets officially underway.
The Morning session was 4 hours long and it was Porsche that continued to top sessions, this time at Le Mans. LMP1 saw and all German top three, the runner up of the first two races, the #18 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Jani, Lieb and Dumas set the fastest lap of 3:21:945, already faster than the laps at this time last year and only two tenths away from last years pole lap. Audi’s #9 effort was second fastest under half a second off of the absolute pace of Porsche. Third was claimed by the championship leaders aboard the #7 Audi. The #17 Porsche was 2 seconds slower than their sister car and fourth over all. Audi’s #8 car rounded out the top five. The best of the Toyota’s were placed 7th, the #2 car of Conway, Wurz and Sarrizain. Rebellion managed 9th in class as their best with Nissan struggling with their best time only good enough for 16th overall in the #23 GTR-LM NISMO. 16 seconds off the pace was the ByKolles car in tenth position overall.
LMP2 saw Oak Racing’s Ligier JSP2 claim top spot. Three tenths back was the reigning ELMS champions’ Signatech Alpine. Third in class was the highest of the new Oreca 05 in their first visit to La Sarthe, KCMG. Defending Le Mans winners Jota set the fourth fastest time of the morning session ahead of the Strakka Dome in their first time running the car at Le Mans. This means that LMP2 saw five different models of car from five different teams in the top five of the class.
In GTE-PRO Corvette came in with a bang setting the fastest lap in class in their first PRO session of the WEC season. Next up was the undisputed WEC GTE-PRO champions joined by former Ferrari Formula One driver, and F1 race winner, Giancarlo Fisichella. Porsche made it three diferant manufactutres in the top three when Pilet, Makowiecki and Henzler set the third fastest time of the session.
Ferrari went one better in GTE-AM with the fastest time, two seconds off of the absolute GTE pace in the session. It was again a Ferrari in second position, but this time it was the SMP enterd car driven by Basov, Bertolini and Shaitar. a further two seconds back from the GTE-AM pace was the third placed Ferrari 458 of Perrodo, Collard and Aguas.
Other notable moments in the session where that it was the first time LMP3 cars have ran at Le Mans, as well as Shilzhitskiy becoming the first Russian driver to compete in a competitive session in an LMP1 car.
Drivers that have not raced since 2010 have until the end of the afternoon session to complete a minimum of a 10 lap stint around the circuit in order to personally qualify for the race its self. This includes test drivers. An example being that Sven Muller – Porsche’s GTE-PRO reserve driver, must complete the 10 laps to qualify in case he is called upon to complete the race. Like wise drivers such as Fred Makowiecki must complete the stint in the 919 Porsche as he is the reserve in case something is to happen of one of nine of the named drivers. Kamui Kobayashi is another notable driver, who is the reseve for fellow countryman Nakajima at Toyota, although Nakajima has been cleared for the Le Mans event.
Image 1 – FIAWEC
Image 2 – Walter Schruff (WEC-Magazin)