Teams take to the Castellet to try out their machines before the season opener at Silverstone next month.
The first day of official pre-season testing for the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship season has drawn to a close at the Paul Ricard track in southern France. There are 20 cars present across the four classes and three sessions were available to all – a morning (four hours), afternoon (three hours) and night (two hours) – and for many this was the first opportunity to compare themselves with their competitors ahead of the 6 Hours of Silverstone in two weeks’ time.
After overnight rain, the morning started damp, cool and overcast and it took some time for lap times to fall. By the time the chequered flag was shown Neel Jani had recorded a fastest lap in his No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola Coupé-Toyota of 1:44.882. The differing track conditions and teams’ different individual testing programmes meant that this was 2.5 seconds quicker than the other LMP1 present today, the HPD ARX-03c-Honda of Strakka Racing.
By this afternoon, the quickest session of the day for most cars, the gap between the two cars had reduced to 0.5 seconds with Rebellion, featuring a revised aerodynamic package, posting 1:44.419 and Strakka turning a best lap of 1:44.954.
In LMP2 the No.26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-03 Nissan had a mixed day, Mike Conway lapping the track in a time of 1:48.064 to place them fastest in class. However, his team mate Roman Rusinov had an excursion off track in the afternoon which damaged the car and prevented it from any further running today. The No.25 Delta-ADR Oreca-03 Nissan entry topped the time sheets in the afternoon with a time of 1:48.557, three tenths of a second ahead of the No.24 OAK Racing Morgan Nissan of Olivier Pla and Alex Brundle.
There was little to choose between leading LMGTE Pro and Am entrants in both the morning and afternoon sessions, although the fastest time of the day – set by an impressive Matt Griffin in the afternoon – was in the LMGTE Am entry, No.61 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia. His best time of 1:59.442 was 0.081 seconds faster than the newly launched Porsche AG Team Manthey No.91 entry and 0.29 seconds faster than the AF Corse’s No.71 (LMGTE Pro) Ferrari of Toni Vilander and new FIA WEC competitor, Kamui Kobayashi.
The final two-hour session of the day, run in darkness and an ideal preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, was hampered by low mist and fog on parts of the track. Fourteen of the 20 cars ran, and it was again Jani who set the fastest time in the Rebellion Lola-Toyota, his time of 1:46.397 being just under half a second faster than Strakka Racing. OAK Racing’s No.24 entry was the quickest of the LMP2 cars by only two hundredths of a second, while the greater night experience of the Porsche LMGTE Pro drivers in the No.91 911 RSR put them four tenths of a second ahead of the No.71 AF Corse Ferrari, Kamui Kobayashi completing his first laps in darkness. The No.96 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 headed LMGTE Am with a lap of 2:00.319, in front of the No.50 Larbre Corvette and No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari.
A second day of testing will take place tomorrow with four hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon.