The 2019/2020 FIA World Endurance Championship has begun in earnest with the first two free practice sessions for the 4 Hours of Silverstone.
All eyes were on the leading LMP1 class after a swathe of adjustments aimed at reducing the gap between the factory-entered Toyotas and the two privateer teams. However, it was one of the latter pair, Rebellion Racing, who drew first blood in Silverstone free practice.
New signing Norman Nato’s 1:38.860 gave the Swiss team the honours in the first competitive timed session of the new season, as teams put their new-for-2019 cars to the test for the first time. The Frenchman was just under half a second faster than the fastest works driver, Sébastien Buemi, in the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid.
All but two drivers in LMP1 improved their times in FP2, and a flyer from Kamui Kobayashi in the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid gave the Cologne-based squad the spoils. The Japanese driver’s time of 1:36.847 came within just one tenth of the pole position lap here last season. The remainder of the Rebellion and Toyota drivers were covered by less than a second.
Ginetta returned to the FIA WEC fray after their enforced hiatus, with the Team LNT squad recording a total of 56 times laps over the course of the two sessions. The #6 machine was forced to sit out the first session with electrical but overall it was a promising day for the British team.
United Autosports show strong pace in LMP2
The #22 United Autosports Oreca of di Resta/Albuquerque/Hanson was quite clearly the class of the field at Silverstone, topping the time sheets in both sessions.
Di Resta and Albuquerque’s fastest times were just 0.07 seconds apart, at 1:43.059 and 1:43.066 respectively. The only driver to come within a tenth was Kenta Yamashita in the #33 High Class Racing Oreca, making its WEC debut in the UK this weekend.
One second separates GTE Pro runners
The somewhat reduced GTE Pro field for 2019/2020 appears to be just as competitive as ever, with less than a second separating the twelve drivers in the six-car class over the two sessions.
James Calado went fastest for the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO over the course of the day with a 1:55.501 posted in FP2. The second- and third-fastest drivers over the two sessions were Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni in the brand-new #91 Porsche 911 RSR-19.
Fastest for Aston Martin was Nicky Thiim in the #95 machine, just under half a second slower than Calada’s fastest lap time.
Aston Martin fastest in GTE Am
It was a better day for the British marque in the largest class of the 2019/2020 FIA WEC. Ross Gunn and Charlie Eastwood were the two fastest drivers during Friday’s practice for the #98 Aston Martin Racing and the #90 TF Sport efforts respectively.
Danish youngster Nicklas Nielsen made a solid start to his maiden FIA WEC season, going third fastest overall in FP1 and FP2 for the #83 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO.
Images © WEC-Magazin (Walter Schruff / Ton Kerdijk)