Japanese driver Rao Hirakawa kicked off the 2017 European Le Mans Series season with an early 1:44.699 lap in the #22 G-Drive Racing by DragonSpeed Oreca 07 to top the time sheets in Free Practice 1 at Silverstone.
Hirakawa’s time is notable, as it’s almost five seconds quicker than the best time set during last year’s ELMS weekend at Silverstone by an LMP2 car. Last year TDS Racing’s Mathias Beche set a 1:49.320 in Free Practice 2, which would go unbeaten for the remainder of the meeting.
It was also almost a second quicker than the rest of the pack, with Ben Hanley in the #21 DragonSpeed O7 managing a 1:45.679 to go second quickest. Third in the session was the Algarve Pro Racing team, with Andrea Pizzitola’s 1:47.146 the fastest lap set from the the Ligier JS P217s on the entry.
Fourth on the screens was the #40 Graff Oreca with Richard Bradley setting a 1:47.464, ahead of the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara P217 a further two tenths back, meaning all three LMP2 manufacturers were represented in the top five.
LMP3 meanwhile, was topped by Sean Rayhall in the #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P3, with a 1:54.221 that put him almost nine tenths clear of the rest of the field.
Second on the screens was Alex Kapadia, who with an impressive 1:55.092 bumped RLR Sport to second in the huge class, eight tenths clear of the third place #11 Eurointernational Ligier.
The fastest of the two Norma M30s in the class was M.Racing’s down in 12th, with Yann Erlacher setting a 1:58.120 in the car, which is fresh from its post-Monza Prologue rebuild.
In the GTE class, it was an Aston Martin 1-2, with factory driver Nicki Thiim putting TF Sport’s Vantage top with a 1:58.771, 0.812 ahead of Darren Turner who put the Beechdean AMR team second.
The best of the rest was the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE thanks to Matt Griffin. The Irishman – who’s doing triple duty this week racing in the ELMS, WEC and British GT – reeling off a best time of 2:00.113.
In the session, all the cars went out and set laps. There were no major issues aside from a few cars stopping briefly on track and Anders Fjordbach in the High Class Racing Dallara causing a full-course yellow after an off at Turn 16.