Ed Fahey, Le Mans Correspondent
The first competitive session of the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours saw 21 GTE-class cars take to the track. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 of Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander didn’t run due to an accident in free practice and the car’s entry is still not confirmed for the race.
Good dry conditions lasted for the entire session, an average of 15 degrees with 75 percent humidity. All drivers were obliged to complete five night laps each: three hot laps with a warmup and slowdown lap.
Straight out of the GTE-Pro blocks at the start, Oliver Gavin in the #74 Corvette Racing Corvette set a blistering lap of 3.55.9 and this time remained at the top of the timesheets for the entire session. Jaime Melo was the only driver to get close to Gavin’s time in the #59 Luxury Racing Ferrari F458 with a low 3.56. Not long after this, Jan Magnussen in the #73 Corvette set the third-fastest time in Pro with 3:57.1, almost a second behind.
In GTE-Am it was Patrick Pilet who was at the top, his 3:57.5 time in the #79 Flying Lizards Porsche 997 was sixth-quickest overall. This was to be expected, as Pilet is the pro driver in that car: team owner Seth Neiman’s time was almost 10 seconds slower.
Alan Simonson was third overall in GTE-Pro in the #99 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8. The team seemed to be holding back: not yet showing the blistering pace it demonstrated in Sebring and Spa. The #97 GTE-Pro class Aston Martin of Mucke/Turner/Fernandez ended the session fourth with a 3:57.4,
Third in GTE-Am was Sean Edwards in the #75 Prospeed Porsche 997 with a low 3:58. All of the Porsche teams were watchful of tyre wear during the session, and so didn’t show as strongly as the other GT marques. Fastest pro Porsche was Marc Lieb in the #77 Felbermayr car with 3.57.6 for sixth in class.
Given that this was only the first of three qualifying sessions, many teams were still using it to fine-tune both their cars and drivers – the quickest lap times are yet to come.