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FIA WEC: Nürburgring, Free Practice 3, Porsche Hits Back

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Following Audi domination on Friday, Porsche secured the top two spots in Saturday morning’s third free practice session for the WEC Nurburgring six-hour race. Romain Dumas in the #18 was the early pace-setter, going round in 1:36.959 initially, before knocking two-tenths off his own benchmark later in the session.

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His co-driver Lieb then went faster again, clocking a 1:36.036, which would remain unchallenged until the flag fell at 10:30am local time. Backing this up was Mark Webber’s effort of 1:36.647 in the sister #17 car, the second-fastest time of the session.

A brief off for Marcel Fassler in the #7 Audi at T3 showed how hard the Ingolstadt crew was pushing to keep up, although the #8 would wind up fastest of the Audis in the end, ahead of the two Toyotas.

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There was also an incident for the #18 Porsche, which hit the left-rear of Francois Perrodo’s Ferrari at T2, leaving the latter car with a puncture.

In LMP2, G-Drive set the pace initially, Pipo Derani getting the bar down to 1:46.161 in the eary stages in the #28 Ligier. But Strakka Racing are rapidly getting to grips with their new Gibson chassis and a 1:45.270 from Jonny Kane would be the fastest time in the class by the end of session, with the KCMG Oreca sneaking into second ahead of the #28.

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Fastest time in GTE Pro oscillated between Aston Martin and Porsche for much of the session, but in the last 10 minutes or so the two works Ferraris asserted themselves, Toni Vilander’s 1:54.331 and James Calado’s 1:54.481 putting the #51 and #71 car first and second ahead of the #99 Aston Martin in third.

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In GTE Am, Le Mans winner Earl Bamber’s early benchmark of 1:55.288 in the #88 Proton Porsche would not be bettered throughout the session. There was drama for the #98 car when Paul Dalla Lana hada big lock-up and subsequent tyre blow-out, which happened to coinicde with a pre-planned full-course yellow test by race control.

The car was recovered to the pitlane and repaired, however, giving co-driver Pedro Lamy enough time to go out and set the class’ second-fastest time of 1:55.733. Behind him was Rui Aguas in the #83 Ferrari shared with Perrodo and Emanuel Collard.

Some quotes from the garages:

Roman Rusinov (#26 G-Drive Ligier): “Were definitely going to fight for the lead tomorrow, yet we don’t know how strong competition is. Several teams have been testing full-tank setups. On our side, we’ve often suffered from dense traffic. We’ll probably have a much better idea as to where everybody stands after the qualification session.”

Mathias Beche (#12 Rebellion): “It’s my first time here at the Nurburgring. I’ve had to discover the track. I really enjoy it. I’ve found a good rhythm at the wheel of the car. We’ve not run it since Le Mans so we’re working primarily at getting the best setup for the race. I don’t think we’ll be able to close the gap with the hybrid LMP1 cars over the weekend. There are no other test sessions planned with the Rebellion by the end of the season. Hence, we’ll develop the car during race weekends essentially.”

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Paolo Ruberti (#50 Larbre Corvette): “We have been working on tyre set-ups essentially. Since yesterday, we tested medium compounds and got good results, even with used tires. We are expecting hotter conditions tomorrow. Preparing the race is our primary focus”.

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Emmanuel Collard (#83 AF Corse Ferrari): “There was an unfortunate contact between Francois Perrodo and a Porsche LMP1 this morning. Not a big deal, we’re quite happy with the work we did during our free practice sessions. We were here a few weeks ago, so that has helped us in setting up the car right obviously. Yesterday, we did some very good laps on a drying track. I guess we put the right tyres on at the right time. In the afternoon, the car was oversteering a lot, it was not as pleasant. It’s hard to assess where the competition stands right now. What we do know is that we’ll have a real fight with the sister car #72. Basov has shown real pace over the weekend.”

Pierre Kaffer (#4 ByKolles CLM): “We’ve had an excellent weekend so far. The car’s been running without any issues. We have set a pace which is very close to the Rebellions. It’s a real encouragement for us and not a surprise. We’re essentially capitalizing on the improvements we implemented in Le Mans and on a new set of aero upgrades which we received over the weekend. The development of the car is due to continue over the coming months. We’re expecting another significant upgrade for Fuji, possibly for Austin.”

Simon Trummer (#4 ByKolles CLM): “The car’s very promising for qualifying and for the race. I essentially ran on old tyres this morning and it reacted very well. I was not able to set fast laps this morning on a fresh set because of heavy traffic. Yet we are very close to the Rebellions.”

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