Nakajima tops Le Mans warm up for Toyota, Ford GTs to the fore in GT-E

Autosport

Kazuki Nakajima put Toyota on top in Saturday morning’s 45-minute warm-up session for the Le Mans 24 Hours, three tenths clear of the sister car of Kamui Kobayashi.

Nakajima logged a best time of 3m18.308s at the very end of the session in the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, enough to beat team-mate Kobayashi’s 3m18.661s effort by 0.363s.

Those two late improvements knocked Nick Tandy and Porsche off the top spot, the Briton having logged a 3m20.120s in the #1 919 Hybrid to hold the advantage heading into the closing stages.

The 2015 Le Mans winner’s time ended up 1.812s off the pace, and just two tenths up on the time set by Le Mans debutant Yuji Kunimoto in the #9 Toyota at the end of the session.

Porsche’s second car, the #2, was fifth in the hands of Brendon Hartley, another tenth back on Kunimoto’s time.

The #4 ByKolles ENSO CLM failed to log a representative time, with Marco Bonanomi’s 4m09.884s putting the Austrian team some 51 seconds off the pace and down in 49th overall.

LYNN CONTINUES TO SET LMP2 PACE

Alex Lynn, who took LMP2 pole position on Thursday, set the pace in the TDS-run #26 G-Drive ORECA.

Lynn deposed early pacesetter Matthieu Vaxiviere’s #28 TDS ORECA with 20 minutes remaining with a lap of 3m29.097s, improving to a 3m27.096s on his next attempt before handing over to Pierre Thiriet.

Julien Canal put the #31 Rebellion ORECA second fastest with a lap 2.329s off the pace right at the end of the session.

This bumped the #13 Rebellion ORECA of Nicolas Prost down to third.

Mikhail Aleshin produced the highest classification for anything other than an ORECA in LMP2 at Le Mans by going fourth fastest in the #27 SMP Dallara.

Ben Hanley was fifth fastest in the #21 DragonSpeed ORECA, with the #28 TDS ORECA ending up sixth after Vaxiviere’s attempt to improve was frustrated by a slow zone before he handed over to Francois Perrodo.

The best-placed Ligier was again the #32 United Autosports entry of Filipe Albuquerque, 4.244s off the pace.

The two Signatech ORECAs went eighth and ninth with late laps, with Nelson Panciatici the faster of the two in the #35 car ahead of Romain Dumas in #36.

The sole Riley in the field, the #43 Keating car, was slowest of the cars that set a time, although eight cars ran but not not complete any flying laps.

The #39 Graff ORECA of Enzo Guibbert briefly stopped on its outlap before getting going again and eventually reaching the pits after 15 minutes. It did not re-appear.

There was also a crash for the #17 IDEC Sport Ligier, with Paul Lafargue losing the rear in the second left-hander in the Porsche Curves.

He nosed into the barrier and ended up in the gravel trap at the final part of the Porsche Curves, with the car suffering only cosmetic damage and able to return to the track later.

FORD SWEEPS GTE PRO

The Chip Ganassi-run Ford GTs set four of the five fastest times in the warm-up session, with Ryan Briscoe fastest of all in the #69 car he shares with Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon.

Most significantly, in a session during which most teams would logically focus on race setups, Briscoe’s lap of 3m51.789s, set 20 minutes before the chequered flag, was just half a second off the time that put the #69 Ford fifth on the GTE Pro grid last night.

Kevin Estre was second fastest with a 3m52.526s in the #92 Porsche 911, which like its sister entry has been granted an 8kg weight reduction in an overnight Balance of Performance adjustment.

Ford GTs were third (3m52.668s, Dirk Muller), fourth (3m53.362 Luis Derani) and fifth (3m53.475s, Johnson).

Very little separated the Ferrari 488s in this race-pace rehearsal. Pierre Kaffer led the Ferrari contingent with a 3m53.633s in the #82 Risi Competizione car, fractionally ahead of Davide Rigon (3m53.688s) and Michele Rugolo (3m53.693s) in the AF Corse entries.

The polesitting #97 Aston Martin set a 3m54.524s in the hands of Jonny Adam over the course of a handful of laps at the beginning of the session, and the sister #95 entry did not set a lap time.

Ben Barker topped the warm-up with a 3m56.532s set in the closing minutes in the #86 Gulf Porsche that has been playing catch-up since suffering an oil leak on Wednesday. Klaus Bachler was second on 3m56.608s in the #88 Proton Porsche.

The cars at the sharp end of the grid did not figure highly in the warm-up times: Romain Brandela spun the polesitting #50 Corvette at the Ford chicane on his way to setting a 4m00.447s, and the #98 Aston Martin that qualified second in class did not set a timed lap.

Nakajima tops Le Mans warm up for Toyota, Ford GTs to the fore in GT-E

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