Fernando Alonso got his debut World Endurance Championship campaign off to the best possible start in the first free practice session of the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps weekend, by topping the times in the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 HYBRID with a 1m58.392s.
It was an impressive time by the Spaniard, who is still very much getting up to speed with the nuances of driving a hybrid-powered LMP1 car at speed.
Behind, was the No. 7, making it a Toyota 1-2, as expected, the car almost three tenths off after a 1m58.629s from Mike Conway.
It was encouraging that Rebellion’s leading No. 3 R-13 ended up only 0.427s off the top Toyota after a 1m58.849s courtesy of Thomas Laurent. That slim margin shouldn’t be read into too much, though, as Toyota managed to lap the circuit in the 1m54s, with an almost identical car.
Sitting fourth was the No. 10 DragonSpeed BR1 Gibson, with a 1m59.321s, Ben Hanley the fastest man in the American-flagged prototype, running in high-downforce trim here. ByKolles’ CLM slotted in sixth, behind the second Rebellion, which is being run for the first time ever this weekend, the team receiving the car from ORECA after the Prologue, and too late to test.
The two SMP Racing BR1s ended up seventh and ninth – the faster of the two 3.1 seconds off the lead Toyota – after only setting a handful of fast times toward the end of the session. The slower BR1 ended up behind the leading LMP2 runner in the overall times.
Two cars didn’t set times in the LMP1 class: the pair of CEFC TRSM Racing Ginetta G60-LT-P1s. Both cars headed out but, returned to the pits without setting a competitive time. No official reason has been given by the team yet for the cars inactivity.
To add to that, RACER understands that Leo Roussel has not made the trip to Spa, reducing the No. 5 car to a two-man team of Charlie Robertson and Dean Stoneman for the rest of the weekend.
In LMP2, DragonSpeed’s No. 31 set the pace, with WEC debutant Pastor Maldonado lapping the Belgian circuit in 2m03.494s. The time ended up six tenths faster than the Signatech Alpine A470, and six faster than the No. 26 guest-entered G-Drive ORECA which ended up third.
The fastest of the other chassis in the class was the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara P217, which was sixth fastest with a 2m04.693s from Giedo Van Der Garde.
GTE Pro, like at the Prologue, saw Ford and Porsche take up the top four spots, the leading car the No. 67 Ford GT of Andy Priaulx who reeled off a 2m15.014s, six tenths quicker than the No. 66 sister car, which set a 2m15.273s during Olivier Pla’s time behind the wheel.
The fastest Porsche therefore ended up third, WEC returnee Gianmaria Bruni getting the team’s weekend off to a fast start in the No. 91 911 RSR with a 2m15.631s. Best of the rest turned out to be the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, over a second and a half off the pace.
BMW’s two M8s ended up sixth and eighth, while Aston Martin’s two Vantages took up the last two spots, although the team explained to RACER that it used FP1 as a chance to complete some longer runs and run through a program. At this stage, a team spokesperson said, its pair of brand-new cars being three seconds off is “not a concern.”
The Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche ran fastest in Am, and sixth overall in the GTE ranks. The fastest time was a 2m16.601s set by Matteo Cairoli, a second faster than the Gulf Racing Porsche in second. Notably, the top four in the nine-car class was made up of the four new 911 RSRs in the field.
Free Practice 2 is set to begin at 4:25 p.m. local time at Spa-Francorchamps.