GTE Pro produced plenty of storylines at the Le Mans Test Day, with the five factories all leaving Le Mans with plenty to build on for the race.
The running order was dominated for the most part, by the four Ganassi Fords. The cars ran 1-2-3-4 in the morning, and most of the afternoon’s running before Gianmaria Bruni and Patrick Pilet reeled off hot laps good enough to change the narrative and place Porsche 1-2 atop the times.
The Italian’s 3m52.642s time took three tenths out of the fastest Ford, to top the times in the No. 91 Rothmans-liveried tribute 911 RSR, until Pilet edged him in the final moments driving the No. 93 IMSA example with a 3m52.551s. The Fords finished up third through sixth, with the top three separated by less than a tenth from each other, to see off challenges from the other two Porsches and the No. 81 MTEK BMW M8 GTE.
Both Pratt and Miller Corvettes were in the mix at the head of the field through the morning, before quietly falling down the order to 10th and 11th in the class. It was a quiet outing for the AF Corse Ferraris too, though the No. 51 488 hit trouble and stopped out on track during the afternoon.
That issue though, was relatively minor compared to Aston Martin Racing’s struggles. The British team’s pair of brand-new Vantages were far off the pace (as they were at the Prologue and season opener at Spa), and didn’t meet the outfit’s mileage target after the No. 95 suffered a heavy accident which curtailed the morning session with just under an hour to run.
The car was done for the day after Marco Sorensen hit the barriers hard on the run to Indianapolis, the Dane’s off caused by contact with the No. 35 SMP Racing Dallara of Harrison Newey. Thankfully he was uninjured; the car though, was damaged beyond repair from the impact.
By the end of the day, the sister No. 97 had completed 67 laps, its best tour coming three laps before the end of the afternoon’s running, from Alex Lynn, a 3m57.488s, just under five seconds off the best time in the class. The team has a lot of work to do before race week…
“We came here with a very clear test plan and unfortunately through two track incidents, it’s cost us valuable time in our new car’s and our GTE Am entry’s test schedule. What we will do now is go away from here and prepare for the next stage of Le Mans,” team principal Paul Howard said.
“It’s clear from the size of the accident that we can’t use the No. 95 car. We now have to prepare a fresh chassis, which is not the ideal way to ready ourselves for Le Mans. We have every confidence in Aston Martin Racing that we will be back next week with a fresh focus, ready to race on.
“We have the full capability to prepare the No. 95 for the next race. Our approach and our planning allows us to react to an event such as this. We always plan for all eventualities. We will be ready to race at Le Mans.”
In GTE Am, the class was topped at various points by Clearwater Racing’s Ferrari, the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari and very late on by Porsche Junior driver Julien Andlauer. The Frenchman, who is the youngest driver in the GTE ranks this year, set a 3:55.970 in the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche, using his experience gained in his Porsche Carrera Cup start at La Sarthe to good effect.
There were troubles in store though, for many of the 13 cars. The main problems suffered by Project 1, its Porsche suffering accident damage in the morning session, the No. 98 Aston Martin, which sustained engine damage after an off and the Ebimotors Porsche, the team having to change both its engine and gearbox, costing the team valuable track time.