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Le Mans 24 Hours: Race Morning Warm Up Report

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After a spattering of rain during the night, the morning was met with grey skies a dry circuit and the occasional beam of sunlight. The fans were already making their way to their chosen vantage points round the track to watch the build up for what looks to be another thrilling 24 Hours at La Sarthe.

Many teams lined up at the pit exit eager to get out on track at the start. The warm up this year more than most was a chance to get some important clear laps in, after the multiple red flags which plagued the practice and qualifying sessions. Unfortunately, this would be no different, meaning every session during race week was stopped by an incident, and all bar one session were ended early by a red flag.

Every car would also be present during this session, with no teams suffering from significant issues from qualifying which would prevent them from running. The Thiriet by TDS Oreca was fully repaired by the early hours of the morning after the incident which damaged the team’s original chassis beyond immediate repair in the first qualifying session.

After the initial batch of cars started their out laps, the #26 G-Drive Oreca stalled on leaving its stall and was wheeled back down the pit-lane.

The LMP1 pace was initially set by Audi. The #2 car led almost the entire session, with Allan McNish posting a 3:26.730. By sessions end though, it would be Toyota who would have the top spot for the first time since the second qualifying session, with Nicolas Lapierre setting a decent lap of 3:26.227 – 4 seconds shy off the pole time from Audi, but faster than the best time set by the team. McNish was on pace to beat Lapierre, but the session ended early with a red flag before he could complete that flying lap.

The #2 Audi would also though find trouble during the session, especially with Tom Kristensen in the car. The Dane would disrupt the session after colliding with the #76 IMSA Porsche at Indianapolis while navigating round him. It brought out yellow flag due to the Porsche becoming stranded on the inside of the corner on the grass.

LMP2 was close up the front as expected. The #48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca had the quickest time early on, with G-Drive’s #25 entry just behind. By sessions end though, the sister #26 G-Drive Oreca would top the charts after John Martin set a 3:42.168.

The times in GTE were also pretty close to qualifying too. The #91 Porsche of Romain Dumas looked to be far ahead in Pro during the first three quarters of the short 45 minute session, but Toni Vilander pipped him to the line in the #71 and set a 3:58.291.

Patrick Long would be the fastest of the GTE Am runners for Dempsey Racing, giving the team their first experience at the top of their class, with a solid 3:58.358.

Like all the other sessions, it was incident galore throughout. Aside from multiple spinners during the 40 minutes the session ran, there were some significant incidents.

The #70 Larbre Corvette of Phillipe Dumas went into the barriers at the Dunlop chicane front end first, ending the session for them at around the half way mark. There would be another big incident though for the Delta-ADR camp.

The session had to be stopped after Tor Graves suffered a right rear puncture entering the Porsche Curves, throwing the #25 Oreca into the barriers on drivers’ left backwards and throwing debris across the track. The crew went to work rapidly to repair significant, but not race threatening, damage to the rear of the car, Graves was unharmed but reported the tyre pressure sensor had indicated a problem moments before the off..

Stephen Kilbey