Practice sessions for round two of the LMS season commenced at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit today. Despite the slightly out of character weather, all teams were out and about taking advantage of the testing opportunity presented. Practice session one opened in damp conditions, with the LMP1 teams all taking to the track early.
Both teams opted for a slightly conservative approach in the opening session, the difference between start and finishing times being around 15 seconds. The Oreca Peugeot of Panis taking the fastest time of the session with a lap 2:14.068, closely followed by the two factory Peugeots and a petrol interloper in the form of the #12 Rebellion Lola. Audi opted for an even more conservative FP1 than their French rivals, deciding to keep Kristensen in the #7 for the majority of the session. The Dane would set a time of 2:18.715 before handing the reigns to Capello in the final laps of the session.
The second practice session saw a factory Peugeot 1-2-3, with Pagenaud first to penetrate the 2:00 barrier. The Frenchman setting a lap of 1:59.826, taking the #3 to the top of the timesheet. Audi once more maintained a consistent pace throughout, using the opportunity to test differing tyre compounds. Treluyer would set the fastest lap for the Audi camp, with a 2:02.894, marginally besting the Oreca-Peugeot of Duval. Rebellion continued to maintain pace with the diesel powerhouse for most of the session. The Swiss teams’ #12/13 Lolas settling in positions 8/9 overall.
The LMP2 category saw much movement in the two sessions, the class lead changing hands on several occasions. The teams of Quifel, Bruichladdich, RML, and Strakka all shared time at the top end of the timesheets. RML’s Tommy Erdos setting the fastest time of FP2 with a lap of 2:06.858.
GT1 was a somewhat confusing affair. The field now running to FIAGT1 specifications often had difficult maintaining pace with GT2 entrants. YoungDriver AMR consistently improving pace over the two sessions, Stefan Mücke setting fastest lap of the class in the form of a 2:20.044 during the FP2 session, closely pursued Matech’s Ford GT of Beche with a 2:20.806.
Looking set to provide another epic battle, the jostling for position continued in GT2. The lead being exchanged between Hankook, Felbermayr, and JMW throughout sessions 1/2. After being instructed to ‘push the car’ JMW’s Rob Bell managed a time of 2:21.318 to take the lead in class, marginally besting the Felbermayr Porsche of Lietz, who would settle for a 2:21.561. While the names of AF-Corse, BMW-Schnitzer, and IMSA were all absent from the top end of the timesheet, GT2 continues to feel very much like the calm before a storm.
Images courtesy of Geoffroy Barre / http://endurance-magazine.fr/