Audi took back control of the charts in the Friday practice session.
Loïc Duval in the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro set the fastest time in a fully dry 60-minute practice session, the final running before the critical qualifying session later on this evening, which will set the grid for the 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas. The conditions in today’s session were slightly cooler than yesterday’s sticky conditions, with track temperatures peaking at 28.3°C
The Frenchman, who is making his FIA WEC return after his Le Mans practice accident in June, stopped the clocks at 1m49.480s - the fastest lap of the Lone Star Le Mans weekend so far. This time, which was set in the first twenty minutes of the session, beat the sister No.2 Audi of Marcel Fässler, Benoît Tréluyerand André Lotterer by 0.680s.
Porsche Team claimed third position with the No.14 entry of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb, while the highest placed Toyota TS 040 Hybrid was in fourth place, with the No.8 car of Nicolas Lapierre, Anthony Davidson and SébastienBuemi just a tenth of a second behind the Porsche 919 Hybrid.
With teams electing to concentrate on longer fuel runs in the second half of the session, most of the action came in the first half of it this morning.
This evening’s qualifying session will begin at 18h00 local time with a 25-minute LMGTE-PRO and LMGTE-AM session, followed by the LMP1, LMP1-L and LMP2 cars, scheduled to hit the track at 18h35 local.
In the LMP1 –L category, Rebellion Racing continued a comfortable 1-2 with the No.12 Rebellion Racing R-One-Toyota of Nicolas Prost, Nick Heidfeld and Mathias Beche clear of their team mates - Andrea Belicchi, Fabio Leimer and Dominik Kraihamer - in the No.13 Toyota-powered racer by 1.7s.
Rebellion’s opposition for the rest of the season – Lotus – only completed three laps in the session as the team were confined to the pit garage for most of it. Christophe Bouchut, Lucas Auer and James Rossiter were left frustrated by losing valuable track time in the new CLM P1/01-AER.
Aston Martin leads both GTE classes
Aston Martin Racing had a clean sweep of the top spots in both the LMGTE Pro and Am classes, with the No.99 Aston Martin Vantage V8 heading the time sheets in the factory-led Pro class – a position it held for almost all the hour-long session.
Brazilian Fernando Rees’ best lap of 2:05.382 put him just 0.04 seconds ahead of his team mate in the No.97, Stefan Mücke, and only 0.098s ahead of the third-placed No.51 AF Ferrari 458 Italia of Gianmaria Bruni. The tiny gaps between the competitors indicate how close and exciting qualifying is likely to be.
Aston Martin Racing’s iconic blue and gold livery lead the way in the LMGTE Am class, with Pedro Lamy setting the benchmark with a time of 2:06.198, only 0.032s ahead of the No.90 Ferrari 458 of US team 8Star Motorsports. Italian Paolo Ruberti set the time in the orange Prancing Horse, three tenths of a second ahead of the second Am Aston Martin Racing entry of Richie Stanaway.
The first of two 25-minute qualifying sessions will kick off at 18h00 this afternoon with the LMGTE Pro and Am entries being the first to take to the track, followed immediately by the LMP1 and LMP2s.