The No.9 Audi headed the times in the 45-minute morning warm up for the Le Mans 24 Hours later today. The session was held in dry and sunny conditions and the forecast for the majority of the race is for much the same.
Filipe Albuquerque, on his 30th birthday, set the time of 3m19.423s to sound a warning to Porsche that they can produce a mighty race pace from the defending Le Mans champions.
Audi finished 1-2-3 with the No.8 Audi driven by Oliver Jarvis and the No.7 with Marcel Fassler setting the second and third fastest time.
Timo Bernhard’s No.17 Porsche had headed the times before Albuquerque set his lap, and the Porsche 919 Hybrid was eventually bumped down to fifth place just behind the No.18 which had Romain Dumas in the cockpit for the majority of the session.
Nico Hulkenberg was on schedule to possibly top the Audi time in the final minutes but elected to pit, perhaps keeping Porsches true pace hidden for tactical purposes.
The race is thus set up to be a fascinating battle between the two German manufacturers.
Toyota Gazoo Racing bettered its qualifying pace in the session with Sebastien Buemi maxing out on a 3m23.361s in the No.1 Toyota TS 040 HYBRID.
Close battle in LMP2, LMGTE Pro, LMGTE Am class
Mitch Evans claimed the top time for JOTA Sport in LMP2 with a 3m39.559. It was a Gibson 1-2 as Jon Lancaster stopped the clocks at 3m39.960 in the Greaves Motorsport example.
Remarkably, Matt Howson equalled Lancaster’s time to the thousandth of a second in the pole sitting KCMG ORECA 05-Nissan.
Stefan Mucke was fastest in the LMGTE Pro class in the No.97 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. The German set a 3m57.311s lap in the final moments of the session to deny the No.51 AF Corse Ferrari.
LMGTE Am finally saw something other than an Aston atop the timing screens. The No.88 Proton Porsche driven by Klaus Bachler was quickest on a 3m59.456s.
This car was earlier penalised for a track limit violation and received a stop/go penalty.
Incidents ahead of the race
Incredibly for a warm-up session there was plenty of incidents. The most serious of which befell the Larbre Competition Corvette which crashed heavily at the Porsche Curves, ironically at the very same spot as Jan Magnussen’s Le Mans ending shunt on Thursday.
Gianluca Roda smote the wall, damaging the front right of the car, ensuring the team will have a race against time to ready the car for the 15.00 CET start time.
Other less serious excursions included Jeff Segal spinning the Scuderia Corse Ferrari 458 Italia, a trip down the escape road for Alex Wurz in the No.2 Toyota TS 040 HYBRID and the Ibanez ORECA-Nissan stopping on the track with a mechanical problem.
The 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours begins at 15.00 local time.