September 22, 2023

Toyota on top; Garage 56 Camaro fast in first practice session at Le Mans

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s No. 8 GR010 HYBRID set the pace in opening practice of the race week at Le Mans, Brendon Hartley finishing just over a tenth faster than the No. 7 sister car with a time of 3:27.742 seconds.

Unsurprisingly, the pace at the head of the field improved almost immediately from the test day. The best time on Sunday was a 3m29.504s by the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari. He was outpaced in the opening minutes by Jose Maria Lopez in the No. 7 Toyota, who set a time of 2m28.290s.

By the end of the session, 13 cars had set times under 3.30 seconds, although there’s almost certainly plenty of pace to come as the week progresses.

The fastest of the other teams in the Hypercar class was Cadillac Racing, which secured its No. 2 V-Series. R in the top three with a 3m27.939s. It was the only other car in the session to set a time under 3m28s – an encouraging start for the GM brand.


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The top five was completed by the No. 75 and No. 6 Porsche 963s, both within half a second of the pioneering Toyota’s time.

A pleasant surprise early on was the pace of the two Peugeot 9X8s, who placed second and third in the times for quite a bit of the three-hour session. However, both cars ran into problems and spent a long time in the garage. The No. 93 spent 45 minutes in its pit stall, while the No. 94 sat for 80 minutes to work on after a track off-out.

In the end, the two French-flagged cars finished sixth and seventh, ahead of both Ferrari 499Ps. But it wasn’t the start of the week the team had hoped for.

FP1 as a whole was full of incidents, with two red flags, one of them long, mid-session for a major incident at the exit of the Esses. Casper Stevenson in the D’Station Racing Aston Martin lost the rear of the Vantage and nose first swerved off the track in the Armco to the driver’s left, just ahead of Tetre Rouge. It came to a stop in the middle of the track. While several cars managed to avoid him, Steven Thomas (who was replacing the injured John Farano) had nowhere to go and hit the side of the Vantage at high speed in the Tower Motorsports ORECA.

Fortunately, both drivers were fine after the collision. Unfortunately both cars were badly damaged and RACER understands that both teams need a new chassis to continue in the event. The clean-up took a long time, the repair work on the barrier took more than half an hour.

The second red flag was for an off on Nico Varrone’s Tetre Rouge in the Corvette Racing C8.R. The Argentinian hit the kerb and lost control of the car, causing the tires to come off the back with a few minutes to go and bring the session to an early end.

In the other classes, JOTA’s No. 28 ORECA, who set the pace on Test Day, was again the fastest in LMP2. Pietro Fittipaldi set the fastest lap for the British team, with a lap time of 3m34.579s.

This was a tenth faster than the COOL Racing ORECA who finished second, and the fastest of the LMP2 Pro/Am runners.

The Hendrick Motorsports Garage 56 Camaro was allowed to stretch its legs. Nikolaz Godet/Motorsport Images

In GTE, Danish team GMB Motorsport found the real pace after a quiet day of testing. Marco Sorensen set 3:55.020, 0.3 seconds quicker than the newly liquidated GR Racing Porsche 911 RSR, which finished second after fast times in the closing stages. TF Sport’s No. 72 Aston Martin took two Vantages in the top three.

In addition to the D’Station Aston Martin and the Corvette Racing C8.R, two other cars in the class ran into problems. The JMW Motorsport Ferrari spent most of the session in the garage after Louis Prette nosed into the barriers at the Ford Chicane, and the Walkenhorst Ferrari reversed into the barriers at high speed leading up to the Dunlop Bridge .

For Hendrick Motorsports’ Garage 56 entry, the pace was stunning; a 3m49.475s put the Camaro ZL1 six seconds faster than the GTE Am cars. RACER understands that the Garage 56 team has been told by the ACO that it will be able to shoot throughout the week and will not be instructed to run to the target lap time of 3:54 as originally intended.

Next is qualifying, which will decide who goes through to Hyperpole at 19:00 local time.


Story originally appeared on Racer

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