Sebastien Buemi put the #8 Toyota on top of the times in the first of two four-hour track sessions in the Test Day for the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours on the full Circuit de Le Sarthe.
The Swiss driver’s 3:21.875 in the final minutes of the session shaved a second from the best from Fernando Alonso in the same car, set earlier.
The second, #7, Toyota was second fastest, Jose Maria Lopez with a 3:22.027 that was the fastest time overall for much of the session before the Buemi lap shaded his efforts.
Best of the non-hybrid LMP1s was the #3 Rebellion, Gustavo Menezes posting a 3:23.978 to keep the faster of the R13 Gibsons clear of the SMP BR1 AERs, and the sister #1 car, the quartet split by 1.4 seconds.
In LMP2 Pastor Maldonado held sway in the #31 DragonSpeed ORECA until the dying moments of the session ahead of a string of ORECAs until his best time (3:32.244) was edged by just 2 thousandths of a second almost as the flag came out by Felipe Albuquerque in the #22 United Autosports Ligier.
It was one-sided in the tyre war during the session, as the five fastest cars were all on Michelin rubber.
Also spoiling the ORECA party in the latter part of the session was Nyck de Vries, the young Dutchman putting the Racing Team Netherland Dallara fourth fastest behind Tristan Gommendy’s Graff ORECA.
The lead Dunlop runner in LMP2 was the #28 TDS Racing ORECA back in sixth fastest.
GTE Pro’s running order also changed at the flag as Antonio Garcia hooked up a clean lap to leapfrog up the order with a 3:55.704 in the #63 Corvette C7.R.
That was just good enough to grab the midway headlines from Ford, Billy Johnson’s best time in the #66 WEC Ford GT just 0.024 short at the flag.
Behind came the #91 Porsche (Bruni) and the two AF Corse Ferraris with the top seven in the 17 car class within a single second.
GTE Am was topped for most of the session by an early effort from Francesco Castellacci in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3, a 3:58.478 more than enough to fend off the challenge (initially) from the Dempsey Proton Porsches.
But the gap to the Ferrari was over a second, Castellacci’s best putting him not only on top of GTE AM but also ahead of both factory Aston Martins and the #82 BMW Team MTEK M8 GTE too.
By the end of the session, other GTE Ams had improved with the #61 (Clearwater – Griffin), #84 (JMW, Segal) and #57 (Car Guy, Ledogar) 488s completing a Ferrari clean sweep of the top four times ahead of Pat Long in the fastest of the Porsches, the #99 Krohn Racing/ Proton Competition 911 RSR.
There were multiple incidents during the four hours of running.
The #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA stopped out on track with Jordan King at the wheel and lost a lot of running time, Paul-Loup Chatin had an off into the barriers at Indianapolis in the IDEC ORECA and the #95 Aston Martin brought out a red flag after it stopped on track at the Porsche Curves with an electrical issue.
Featured image courtesy of Toyota Gazoo Racing/James Moy