Aston Martin carries GT1 class in practice

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Midway through the four-hour opening practice session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it appeared all the cars in the GT1 category might be pipped by a GT2 class ZR1 Corvette. Perhaps recalling the classic duels with the American factory Corvette ...

Midway through the four-hour opening practice session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it appeared all the cars in the GT1 category might be pipped by a GT2 class ZR1 Corvette. Perhaps recalling the classic duels with the American factory Corvette Racing team, in the latter part of the session Aston Martin driver Tomas Enge recorded a flying lap that gave the team a comfortable margin over the ZR1 driven by Olivier Beretta.

On board the Young Driver AMR team's DBR9, Enge clocked 3:56.839. The next quickest in the session was the GT1 class Corvette C6.R of Le Mans-based Luc Alphand Adventures shared by Jerome Policand, David Hart and Stephan Gregoire and then Beretta's GT2 entry.

In what may well be the final year of the GT1 class at Le Mans due to the category being comprised of older generation cars and the absence of new entries, the rules for the category are those initiated by the FIA GT1 World Championship. With aerodynamics dictated by the FIA, the GT1's suffer from a drag penalty at Le Mans that affects the gap to the GT2 entries -- despite the GT1's larger engines and air restrictors.

First among all GT2 entrants, Monegasque Beretta clocked 4:00.888 in the No. 64 Corvette ZR1 midway in the session.

Second in the GT2 category was the Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche. The 997 GT3 RSR driven by the trio of factory drivers Marc Lieb, Richard Lietz and Wolf Henzler recorded a best lap of 4:02.101 -- well off the pace of the leading Corvette.

The No. 63 Corvette shared by Johnny O'Connell, Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen was third in the GT2 class at 4:02.187, which edged the fastest Ferrari shared by Pierre Kaffer, Gianmaria Bruni and Jaime Melo. The Risi Competezione 430 GTC's best lap in the session was 4:03.007.

The brace of Matech Ford GT entries suffered crashes in the sesson. Romain Grosjean went off at the entrance to the Porsche Curves and Rahel Frey spun in the Porsche Curves aboard the car with an all-female driving crew. Both cars sustained damage but each was repaired in time to start the two-hour qualifying session.

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