Former Williams Formula 1 driver Sergey Sirotkin got SMP Racing off to a fast start to the second Spa weekend of the 2018/19 FIA WEC season, setting the best time in Free Practice 1.
The Russian’s time marked huge progress for the Russian team, a 1m56.264s tour of the circuit toward the end of the 90 minutes of running in the No. 17 BR1 AER. Not only did that put him two seconds clear of the field in the session, but two seconds faster than the team’s qualifying time last year, in what was the first weekend for the BR1 in competition.
Behind the No. 17 in the times was the team’s sister car, the No. 11 BR1 AER, which made it a 1-2 thanks to a 1m58.236s from WEC debutant Stoffel Vandoorne. The Belgian has got up to speed quickly in his new surroundings, racing in the seat previously filled by Jenson Button.
The two Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 HYBRIDs ended up third and fourth in the times, the No. 8 ahead of the No. 7, 1.4 and 2.6 seconds adrift respectively, from Sirotkin’s best tour. It must be noted, however, that the pole time from last year was considerably faster than the best time set in FP1 by the No. 17 BR1.
The No. 8 Toyota managed a 1m54.9s average, and with an identical car. There’s plenty of time still to be found by the Japanese-manufacturer here this weekend should it stay dry; the forecast for the rest of the weekend though, is bleak.
Swiss team Rebellion Racing, which this weekend is running its new 2019 low-downforce aero package on its R-13s, managed a best time of 1m59.106s from Gustavo Menezes in the No. 3 car.
In LMP2, Signatech Alpine led the way, Nicolas Lapierre setting a 2m03.441s in the team’s A470. G-Drive Racing’s ORECA 07 Gibson, now re-badged as an Aurus 01, ended up second with a 2m03.677s from Jean-Eric Vergne.
The Dunlop vs Michelin tire battle is already in full swing here, with Signatech running the French rubber and G-Drive competing with Dunlop. This weekend is the second for Dunlop with its new C-spec compound, after a dominant showing at Sebring.
Completing the top three in the class was the Racing Team Nederland Dallara, with a 2m04.349s.
GTE Pro couldn’t have been any closer in the session, with the top two in the class setting identical times. The No. 97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage AMR and No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK GT both set 2m15.290s, courtesy of Maxime Martin and Harry Tincknell respectively to go joint top.
BMW Team MTEK’s No. 82 M8 GTE ended up two tenths off, third in the classification, ahead of the No. 66 Ford and No. 95 Aston Martin that completed the top five.
GTE Am was also tight, with the top six in the class all lapping within a second. Fastest of the pack was the No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche courtesy of Ben Barker, who reeled off a 2m17.068s in the team’s 911 RSR.
UP NEXT: Free Practice 2 at Spa is set to start at 4:25 p.m. local time this afternoon.