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Toyota Tops Delayed Shanghai FP1

Muller on the pace early in LMP2 debut

Mike Conway got Toyota Gazoo Racing off to a flying start in the opening practice session of the WEC weekend at Shanghai International Circuit, the Britain setting a 1:47.182 early in the running to put the #7 atop the times.

Behind, just two tenths off was the first of the Porsche 919s, the #1 going second with a 1:47.414 from Nick Tandy. A late improvement by Earl Bamber in the final 20 minutes put the #2 third.

Toyota’s second TS050 HYBRID ended up fourth, with a 1:47.929, meaning all four factory P1 hybrids finished within 8 tenths of each other.

In the LMP2 division, Vaillante Rebellion topped the times with its #13 ORECA 07 Gibson, Mathias Beche reeling off a 1:52.533 to put the Swiss team five tenths faster than the other runners.

Completing the top three in the class were the G-Drive Racing and #25 CEFC Manor TRS Racing ORECAs respectively. Nico Muller shone in the former on his debut in the Russian-flagged 07 Gibson, the Audi DTM racer putting up a 1:53.154 in his debut WEC LMP2 session.

Just outside the leading trip was the TDS Racing ORECA, with the championship-leading #38 Jackie Chan DC ORECA in fifth.

Topping GTE Pro was the #66 Chip Ganassi Ford, which went to the top of the class with 24 minutes remaining in the session, Stefan Mucke setting the time, a 2:02.693. It came after the car was spotted out on track running slowly midway through the running.

The German’s lap put the Ford ahead of the leading Aston Martin Vantage – the #97 – which managed a 2:03.181 with Darren Turner at the wheel. It was a better session for both of AMR’s cars, the #95 ending up fourth; an encouraging sign early in the event for the British manufacturer, which has struggled for pace since Le Mans.

Third, ahead of the #95 Aston Martin was the #91 Porsche 911 RSR, Fred Makowiecki putting it in the top three with a 2:03.191.

For AF Corse’s Ferraris, it was a tougher session, the #51 and #71 ending up seventh and eighth, 1 and 1.4 seconds off the ultimate pace respectively.

GTE Am was better for the ‘Prancing Horse’ however, the Spirit of Race 488 GTE going top with a 2:04.789 by Miguel Molina, the Fuji-winning crew finishing up four tenths faster than the other runners.

The top three was eventually made up of the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche and #98 Aston Martin Vantage.

The session, which was due to start at 11:00am local time, ran smoothly, but its start was delayed to 12:30am due to an issue with radio communications between radio control, the marshals and medical team on-site.

Free Practice 2 is set to begin on time at 15:30 local time.