Friday 4 May 2018

FIA WEC: Toyota sets the pace in Spa-Francorchamps

Fernando Alonso set the fastest time in the first free practice session at Spa-Francorchamps this afternoon.  The Spaniard went round the Ardennes in 1.58.392, 0.099 seconds faster than his co-driver Sebastian Buemi.  The #7 Toyota of Mike Conway was the second fastest LMP1, 0.237 seconds behind Alonso. 

Behind the Toyota’s, Thomas Laurent in the #3 Rebellion Racing R13 set the quickest time in the non-hybrid LMP1’s, 0.457 seconds behind Alonso.  An encouraging result, as the gap between Toyota and the other LMP1’s was feared to be much bigger (although it’s still too early to know how hard everyone haas been pushing).

Ben Hanley in the Gibson powered #10 Dragonspeed was the fastest of the BR1’s, setting a 1.59.321 as fastest time, still within a second of Alonso.  Closing out the top 5 was Bruno Senna in the #1 Rebellion R13. Egor Orudhzev was the quickest SMP driver on seventh place. CEFC TRSM Racing had a disappointing first session at Spa, none of the cars completing a lap around the track, sitting out the whole session in their box.  

As in Le Castellet, Pastor Maldonado immediately showed his pace in the LMP2 class, setting the fastest time in his #31 Dragonspeed Oreca 07 with a 2.03.494.  Andre Negrao in the #36 Signatech Alpine was second quickest, 0.640 slower than Maldonado. Jean Eric Vergne in the #36 G-Drive was third fastest ahead of both Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca’s.  

Ford dominated the GTE Pro class in the first session, with And Priaulx on top of the timetable in the #67 Ford GT, his fastest laptime 2.15.014.  Oliver Place in the #66 sister car followed in second place, 0.259 seconds behind.  Both Porsches took third and fourth place, but were over half a second off the pace of the Fords.  In its first official practice session in the FIA WEC Superseason, the BMW’s ended up sixth (#82) and eight (#81), just over 1.5 seconds behind Priaulx.  The new Aston Martin Vantage AMR’s closed the standings in the Pro Class. 

As expected, the quickest of the LMGTE Am cars mingled themselves inbetween the Pro cars.   Matteo Cairoli especially in the #88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche was hitting one after another fastest lap, ultimately setting a 2.16.601 which would have put him on seventh place in the Pro class.  Second fastest Am driver was Benjamin Barker in the Gulf coloured #86 Porsche, just under a second behind Cairoli.  Another Porsche on third and fourth place with Matt Campbell in the #77 Dempsey-Proton 911 and Jörg Bergmeister in the #56 Team Project 1.  Best of the rest was Pedro Lamy in the “good old” Aston Vantage V8 who clocked the fifth fastest time.

The second practice session saw Toyota scoring a 1-2 again.  After 90 minutes of on track action, which was interrupted by a full course yellow and 2 red flags, it was the #7 Toyota of Mike Conway who went fastest in 1.56.172. Kazuki Nakajima set the quickest time in the #8 TS050 Hybrid, 0.643 seconds behind Conway. Pietro Fittipaldi - who replaces Renger van der Zande - in the #10 Dragonspeed BR1 was third fastest in 1.58.835, giving in 0.924 seconds to the #7 Toyota.  Both Rebellion R13’s completed the top 5, Thomas Laurent quickest again in the #3, ahead of Neel Jani in the #1.  Both CEFC Ginetta’s only completed an installation lap in the final session, with rumours going through the paddock about funding issues with their title sponsor. 

Pastor Maldonado went quickest again in the LMP2 class, improving his time from the first session with over half a second to 2.02.991. The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca of Nabil Jeffri moved up to second in 2.03.306.  Roman Rusinov in the #26 G-Drive set the third fastest time with Andrea Pizzitola behind him in fourth, and the quickest non-Oreca car in the #50 Larbre Competition Ligier.  Andre Negrao was quickest again in the #36 Alpina and set the fifth fastest time of the second session in 2.04.134. 

Ford stayed on top of the LMGTE Pro class, this time with the #66 of Stefan Mücke (2.13.733).  Gimmi Bruni in the #91 Porsche 911 squeezed himself inbetween both Ford GT’s, just under half a second behind Mücke and half a second faster than Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford.  Kevin Estre in the #92 Porsche was fourth fastest with the two AF Corse Ferrari’s behind him. 

The top 3 places in the LMGTE Am class were all Porsche again.  Ben Barker outpaced both Dempsey-Proton Porsches with a laptime of 2.16.113, leaving Matt Campbell (#77) and Matteo Cairoli (#88) behind. Pedro Lamy was fast again in the #98 Aston Martin in fourth place, closely followed by Giancarlo Fisichella in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari. 

The third free practice session is set to be run today at 11.00h .  Qualifying will take place this afternoon, starting at 15.00h for the GTE cars and 15.35h for the LMP’s.

Results Free Practice 1
Results Free Practice 2

Kristof Vermeulen
Pictures: © JellyBaby.Media