Toyota Gazoo Racing claimed top spot in the final moments of Free Practice 1 for the 90th 24 Hours of Le Mans, while Corvette Racing finished first and second in the GTE categories at the end of the three-hour session.
Fast lap times were quite low on the list of priorities for all teams in this session, as they focused on attempting race simulations. Someone had to set the fastest time of the day in each class, though, and for most of FP1, that honor fell to the No. 709 Glickenhaus SCG 007 LMH of Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, and Franck Mailleux.
Mailleux set his session-leading lap of 3m29.917s in the first hour, displacing the 3m30.102s lap time set earlier by Pipo Derani in the No. 708 Glickenhaus which he shares with Olivier Pla and Romain Dumas. After the withdrawal of a Slow Zone in the final minutes of the session, Brendon Hartley in the No. 8 Toyota GR010 HYBRID had time for one final push lap, and the two-time overall winner and two-time premier class WEC champion put himself at the top of the timesheets with a 3m29.441s lap in the car he shares with Sebastien Buemi and Ryo Hirakawa.
At the checkered flag, it was the No. 8 Toyota ahead of the two SCG 007s in second and third. The No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid of defending race winners Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez, and driver/manager Kamui Kobayashi finished fifth on the overall leaderboard and fourth in Hypercar. And the No. 36 Alpine Elf Team A480 Gibson was eighth overall, 2.6 seconds off the best time set by Hartley.
In LMP2, the pace-setter was the No. 23 United Autosport USA ORECA 07 Gibson of Alex Lynn, Oliver Jarvis, and Joshua Pierson. Lynn’s fastest time of 3m30.238s was good enough for fourth overall, 0.2s ahead of the No. 7 Toyota.
Second in LMP2 was the No. 38 JOTA ORECA of Roberto Gonzalez, Antonio Felix da Costa and Will Stevens, ahead of the No. 9 Prema Orlen Team ORECA of Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz,and Lorenzo Colombo in third, followed by a pair of WRT entries — the No. 31 WRT ORECA of Sean Gelael, Robin Frijns and Rene Rast in fourth, and the No. 41 RealTeam by WRT ORECA of Rui Andrade, Ferdinand Habsburg and Norman Nato in fifth. Sixth in LMP2 and fastest in LMP2 Pro/Am was the No. 13 TDS Racing x Vaillante ORECA fronted by Mathias Beche, with Philippe Cimadomo and Tijmen van der Helm.
There were a few incidents of note in LMP2, but none too serious. The No. 35 Ultimate ORECA suffered a collapsed rear wing after Matthieu Lahaye crashed in the first hour, but was able to resume and complete the session. In the third hour, the No. 32 Team WRT ORECA of Rolf Ineichen went off at the first Mulsanne chicane and was stuck in the gravel — this was after he’d picked up a five-minute penalty stop for exceeding track limits. The car was recovered and they were able to finish the session.
But just as Ineichen went off, the No. 10 Vector Sport ORECA of Nico Mueller, Ryan Cullen, and Sebastien Bourdais stopped at the Tertre Rouge esses, bringing out a full-course yellow. Their session was over.
In the final 10 minutes, Steven Thomas in the No. 45 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA went off at the first portion of the Ford Chicanes, crashing into the tire barriers and damaging the left-front quarter of the car. This effectively brought an end to competitive running in FP1. The No. 45 Algarve Pro mechanics now have the difficult task of repairing the car in time for qualifying at 7 p.m. local time.
GTE Pro proceedings were led by the No. 63 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R of Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg, ahead of the No. 64 Corvette C8.R of Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy and Alexander Sims. Garcia’s class-leading lap was a 3m53.250s set during the end of the second hour, which just surpassed Milner’s time of 3m53.360s.
They were followed by the two factory Porsche 911 RSRs; the No. 91 of Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz and Frederic Makowiecki ahead of the No.92 of Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor. The No. 52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo was fifth, ahead of the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ferrari 488 in sixth. The Ferrari 488 GTEs received a Balance of Performance adjustment reducing their rear wing angle, turbo boost pressure, and fuel capacity this morning, affecting all of their Pro and Am teams.
The No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of defending GTE Pro class winners Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Daniel Serra spent nearly all of the session in the garage changing engines, but with 20 minutes left the new engine was fired up, and Calado took the car out on track.
In GTE Am, the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR of Cooper MacNeil, Julien Andlauer and Thomas Merrill led the way courtesy of a 3m55.082 from their pro driver Andlauer. The No. 86 GR Racing Porsche of Michael Wainwright, Riccardo Pera and Benjamin Barker was second, ahead of the No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Ben Keating, Henrique Chaves and Marco Sorensen in third.
There was a Slow Zone brought on in the first hour when the No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche of Fred Poordad spun off at the entry to the Porsche Curves, but they were able to complete their practice programs after returning to the garage. At the end of the session, the No. 56 Inception Racing Porsche of Brendan Iribe had a similar incident when he went off at the same area on a push lap.