DragonSpeed’s ORECA 07 Gibson set the fastest lap in the opening Free Practice session of the 2018 European Le Mans Series season at Paul Ricard. The session-topping 1:48.580 lap by the American-flagged team was achieved late on by Nicolas Lapierre, on the drying track after the light rain stopped midway through the running.
The Frenchman’s time was two seconds clear of the rest of the pack, the #33 TRS Racing ORECA ending up second, with the #39 Graff ORECA third. The best of the other chassis in the field was the #22 United Autosports Ligier – three seconds off the ultimate pace – which ended up fifth overall behind the #29 Duquenine Engineering ORECA, which made it an all ORECA 07 top four.
Further down the LMP2 order, it was a tough run for SMP Racing, its #35 Dallara P217 Gibson stopping at Turn 7, bringing out yellow flags. As a result it only managed 20 laps in the session.
In the LMP3 class, Ultimate led the way, with its new-for-2018 Norma M30. The French team’s best time was a 2:01.612 by Matthieu Lahaye.
Due to the weather, Lahaye’s time wasn’t faster than the best of the GTE pack, Matteo Cairoli in the #88 Proton Porsche bettering the best LMP3 time by a few tenths with a time of 2:01.282.
The WEC-bound, guest-entered Gulf Racing Porsche was also faster than the Ultimate Norma, two tenths off Cairoli after Ben Barker’s 2:01.566.
FP1 gave Marvin Deinst a first run out in the #77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR. The German here on short notice this weekend, replacing Joel Camathias, who has parted ways with the team after his shunt in testing earlier this week. He set the car’s fastest time, a 2:01.953, good enough for third in the rankings.
The session didn’t run without any stoppages. The lone red flag in the session was caused by the #14 Inter Europol Ligier of Luca Demarchi hitting the barriers at Turn 13 after being hit by the #3 United Ligier.
The next Free Practice will be held at 09:15 tomorrow morning, after the Bronze test later today.