Audi quickest at test day for 24 Hours of Le Mans

Audi Sport Team Joest has topped the timesheets on the official test day ahead of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans (June 18-19, LIVE on FS1 and FS2).

Lucas di Grassi, driving the No. 8 Audi R18, recorded the fastest time of the day, knocking Porsche off the top spot it had held onto throughout the morning. Di Grassi’s fastest lap around La Sarthe was a 3:21.375.

Loic Duval and Oliver Jarvis share the No. 8 Audi with di Grassi, and the trio came to the test day as winners of the previous FIA World Endurance Championship round, at Spa-Francorchamps last month.

Neel Jani led the field during the first of two four-hour sessions, with a 3:22.334 in his No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, but this was bettered at first by Mark Webber in the No. 1 Porsche, and then later by di Grassi.

André Lotterer was the fastest of the No. 7 Audi crew, but was over a second down on the sister Audi. The car only completed six laps in the second session after suffering from a jammed shock absorber.

Toyota Gazoo Racing finished the test slightly further behind, and it was Anthony Davidson fastest amongst the Toyota TS050 Hybrid drivers, with a 3:23.197 in his No. 5 entry.

The No. 13 Rebellion R-One AER of Rebellion Racing drivers Matheo Tuscher, Alexandre Imperatori and Dominik Kraihamer was the class of the non-hybrid LMP1 runners, topping both sessions.

A 3:27.062 in the morning, courtesy of Imperatori, was enough to place the team ahead of the second Rebellion car, and the ByKolles Racing Team-run CLM P1/01 AER.

Tristan Gommendy and Eurasia Motorsport were on top in LMP2, with a 3:36.690 in the No. 33 Oreca 05 Nissan that he shares with Pu Junjin and Nico Pieter de Bruijn.

Signatech Alpine and the two G-Drive Racing cars were both challenging for the top spot, with the Jota Sport-run squad running a pair of Alpine A460 Nissans and the latter with an Oreca 05 Nissan and Gibson 015S Nissan.

Nicolas Lapierre had led the way in the morning, in the No. 36 Alpine, but Gommendy took the class lead midway through the afternoon session.

With the AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTEs having mechanical problems during the morning, the GTE-Pro battle came down to the Corvette Racing C7.Rs and factory Porsche 911 RSR.

Antonio Garcia put in a 3:55.122 in the No. 63 Corvette, while Nick Tandy was just 0.280 seconds behind in the No. 91 Porsche.

Garcia shares the No. 63 car with Jan Magnussen and Ricky Taylor who, along with a dozen other drivers, flew from yesterday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race in Detroit.

Fred Makowiecki followed in the No. 92 Porsche, while Oliver Gavin was fourth in the No. 64 Corvette, aiming to defend his class win.

Nicky Catsburg set the pace in GTE-Am for Larbre Competition, after being drafted in to test with the team as a potential race replacement for the injured Paolo Ruberti.

A 3:57.999 from the Dutchman put the No. 50 Corvette ahead of Matt Griffin’s AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia by 0.870 seconds.

With Ruberti absent, there were four drivers testing for Larbre: Catsburg, Jean-Philippe Belloc, Yutaka Yamagashi and Pierre Ragues. A decision on who will join Yamagashi and Ragues in the race proper has not yet been made.

Behind Griffin’s No. 55 Ferrari was a similar car with Townsend Bell behind the wheel. This was the No. 62 entry of Scuderia Corsa.

The day’s running was cut short when an accident for Ozz Negri brought out the red flag during the last hour.

The Michael Shank Racing driver reported to the team that he was OK, but the full extent of the damage to the No. 49 Ligier JS P2 Honda is not yet known.

This meant that the second session was 28 minutes shorter than planned, as it was not restarted.

It was the only major accident of the day, though a handful of other cars stopped on course to bring out yellows. 

All 60 cars will return to Circuit de la Sarthe on June 15 for the start of official practice and qualifying for the 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is set for June 18-19 and with live coverage on FS1 and FS2.