Stephen Errity, Le Mans Correspondent
Audi Sport Team Joest topped the first practice for the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the fastest lap of 3:25.163 for the #1 R18 e-tron Quattro. The time was set by Andre Lotterer, who shares the car with his 2011 winning team-mates Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer. With 60 percent humidity and air temperatures around 17.6 degrees Celsius (63.7 Fahrenheit), the four Audi cars were the class of the field as expected.
Second fastest was the #2 e-tron with a best lap of 3:26.494 set by Tom Kristensen. With a best time of 3:27.494, the Spa-winning #3 R18 Ultra was the fastest of the conventional diesel Audis, with Marc Gene setting the quick time. The #4 Ultra recorded a 3:27.885 with Oliver Jarvis at the wheel.
Toyota's formal return to the June classic was marked by promise and one major problem. The TS030 petrol hybrids clocked fifth and sixth place in the LMP1 category. But the #8 had to change engines during practice – leaving that car with no spare for the race. Before the problem, Anthony Davidson had recorded the car's quickest time of 3:30.162. The #7 car went faster with Kazuki Nakahjima at the wheel: 3:28.421.
The fastest 'pure petrol' LMP1 was the #21 Strakka Racing HPD ARX 03a. Its time of 3:31.651 was good enough for seventh overall in the class. A HPD car topped the LMP2 times, too, with Starworks Motorsport's Tom Kimber-Smith setting a 3:39.669 benchmark in the #44.
Although it's running as an unclassified entry, the #0 Nissan DeltaWing showed some impressive speed, ending 28th overall with a lap time of 3:43.576 – already almost two seconds faster than the ACO's target time for the car of 3:45.
The first qualifying session is about to get underway at the circuit, with the temperature expected to drop but humidity to rise and a 20 percent chance of rain