The first official practice for the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours took place this Wednesday 19th June. There were two sessions, the first one untimed and the second one counting for the grid positions. The favourites topped the time sheets for the third round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship as Loïc Duval set the fastest time of the day.
At 16h00 this afternoon the first car to go out was the no. 1 Audi of Tréluyer, Fässler and Lotterer, sending a symbolic message to its rivals. The car driven by the 2011 and 2012 winners and 2012 World Champions laid down a marker when the first official practice session for the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours began.
There were two sessions on today’s programme. The first between 16h00 and 20h00 was an untimed one in which Audi dominated with the no. 2 R18 e-tron quattro of Kristensen, McNish, Duval getting round in 3m 25.415s from nos 1 and 3. The quickest Toyota (no. 8) was over four seconds slower.
The no. 35 Morgan-Nissan of Baguette, Gonsalez, Plowman topped the time sheets in the LM P2 category ahead of two Oreca-Nissans: no. 46 (Thiriet, Badey, Martin) and no. 26 (Rusinov, Martin, Conway).
In LM GTE Pro, the Aston Martin domination was broken provisionally by the two works Porsches (Lieb, Lietz, Dumas in no. 92 were fastest in 3m 58.347s) with the no. 71 Ferrari 458 Italia splitting the German cars.
In GTE Am, three different manufacturers filled the first three places led by the no. 95 Aston Martin of Nygaard, Poulsen, Simonsen in front of the no. 61 Ferrari and the no. 88 Porsche entered by Proton Compétition.
The first session was interrupted twice. The first time was when the no. 41 Zytek-Nissan driven by Eric Lux went off on the entry to the Michelin chicane on Les Hunaudières and then a second time when Tracy Krohn crashed his no. 57 Ferrari just after the Dunlop Footbridge. While both drivers were unhurt the latter accident led to a long intervention on the guardrail and Race Control decided to abort the session. During the break the Ferraris entered in the curtain-raiser Ferrari Challenge race had their practice run on the Le Mans 24-Hours circuit.
As night gradually closed in on the Le Mans circuit and the first concert (Sharon and Tracy in the first part before Puggy), was in full swing the cars went back out. Immediately Loïc Duval banged in a stunning lap in the no. 2 Audi in 3m22.349s, quicker than the 2012 pole position (3m 23.787s).
It was not beaten as the qualifying session was cut short when the no. 46 Oreca-Nissan went off without injury to the driver but with serious damage to the safety installations as the workers had to replace seven metres of guardrail.
The three Audis locked out the first three places with 2 in front of 3 and 1with the fastest Toyota over four seconds behind! In LM P2, the no. 26 Oreca O3-Nissan entered by G-Drive Racing was quickest in 3m 39.535s in front of the no. 43 Morand Racing Morgan-Judd.
In LM GTE Pro Aston Martin was back in front with no. 99 in (3m 55.658s) Bell/Makowiecki/Senna) in front of the 2012 winners Fisichella, Bruni and Malucelli in their no. 51 Ferrari F458 Italia. In LM GTE Am, in which the Krohn Racing Ferrari did not take part Aston Martin again topped the time sheets with no. 95 in 3m 58.661s.
This shortened session should lead to some no-holds-barred battles in tomorrow’s practice.
On Thursday 20th June there will four hours qualifying divided up into two sessions : 19h00 to 21h00 and 22h00 to midnight. The concerts are: Asaf Avidan preceded by Jack Lumber starting at 20 h00.