Toyota Gazoo Racing was fastest in the first on-track session of the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours, its TS050 HYBRIDs ending up 1-2 at the top of the times. Its headline pace came after a late flurry of fast laps from most of the LMP1 runners in the four-hour session.
Kamui Kobayashi was the fastest, the Japanese driver setting a 3m18.718s in the No. 7 car in the final 20 minutes of the session to put himself 0.557s clear.
Sebastien Buemi set a 3m19.275s in his final flyer in the No.8 sister car, pushing the No. 3 Rebellion R-13 to third, 0.708 off the ultimate pace, after spending the majority of the session in second.
The flurry of times at the end demoted Ben Hanley in the No. 10 DragonSpeed BR1 Gibson to fourth in the running order, but it was nevertheless a very productive session for the American outfit, which managed to complete 44 laps during the four hours. Hanley’s fastest time was 3m20.322s, putting DragonSpeed’s BR1 ahead of SMP’s pair of similar cars.
The best of the SMP BR1s ended the running fifth. However, 2009 F1 world champion and Le Mans rookie Jenson Button did find some pace behind the wheel of the No. 11 towards the end, his best time of 3m21.304 coming in the final 10 minutes, after he was asked to push by the team.
Further down the order, the two CEFC TRSM Racing Ginettas had a tough start to its the week, completing just 22 laps between them due to electrical gremlins affecting both cars.
However, Mike Simpson set a 3m25.203 to put the No.5 G60-LT-P1 ninth, ahead of the LMP2 runners, and beating the team’s best Test Day time in the process. RACER understands that the team did not run its Le Mans-optimized aero during the first session.
In GTE Pro, Porsche sat 1-2-3 at the head of the field. The best time of 3m50.121s came from Patrick Pilet in the No. 93 IMSA 911 RSR, and came after the team had to repair the car after the Frenchman hit the tires on the exit of the first Mulsanne chicane, destroying the front-right corner just before the halfway mark.
The WEC-entered 911 RSRs ended up second and third, the No. 92 ahead of the No. 91 with a 3m50.859s. The No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford was best of the rest, 1.3 seconds off the fastest Porsche.
As expected, there was little change in GTE Pro the hierarchy even after the BoP change, though the fastest AF Corse Ferrari did crack the top five with a 3m51.521s. The fastest Corvette ended up 2.9 seconds off the benchmark time, with the fastest BMW and Aston Martin even further back (though AMR’s fastest Vantage was closer than at the test day; 3.6s back rather than 4.9s)
LMP2 was led by the No. 26 G-Drive Racing ORECA with a 3m26.529 set by Jean-Eric Vergne, 0.5s clear of the No.48 IDEC Sport ORECA that sat atop the class rankings for most of the session after a 3m27.054s by Paul Loup Chatin. The No.28 TDS Racing ORECA was third-fastest.
The running order was dominated by ORECA 07 Gibsons, the fastest of the other chassis the No. 22 United Autosports Ligier JS P217, which could only manage to go sixth-fastest with a 3m28.284s.
Just behind in the running order was the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA, which was one of many cars that had an off-track moment in the session. The damage sustained was substantial: Nabil Jeffri and Matevos Issakyan came together at Indianapolis; both ending up in the tires on the right-hand site at the exit. Footage showed the No. 37 being delivered back to the pits with substantial front-end damage.
It was a quiet session for GTE Am, the fastest time coming from the No. 88 Dempsey Proton Porsche 911 RSR of Matteo Cairoli, who finished ahead of seven Pro runners with a 3m52.903s. That bettered the best time set by Ben Barker in the Gulf Racing Porsche, who led the class for much of the session with a 3m53.834s.