New Zealand’s Brendon Hartley set the fastest time as drivers went through testing for the Le Mans 24-hour race in France.
Hartley, driving a Porsche 919 Hybrid, lapped the circuit in 3:21.061 minutes during a dry period in the afternoon of a busy day on the 13.629-kilometre Circuit de la Sarthe.
That ended up being the quickest of the 67 cars taking part in the pre-test for the race that is held on June 13-14.
“It feels fantastic to be back in Le Mans and out on track with our red number 17 for the first time.
“It was a productive start in the morning with testing in the dry, and then it was also good to gather experience in the wet. For the afternoon session we made a big step forward and the pace on the dry track was really good,” Hartley said.
Porsche will run three 919s in the famous race with fellow Kiwi Earl Bamber in another of them.
Bamber was thrilled to get his first taste of what lies ahead.
“It was incredible to drive the Porsche 919 Hybrid for the first time in Le Mans. It is a beautiful track – one of the best in the world,” Bamber said.
“The speed of the car is incredible and the hybrid system is amazing. With the four-wheel drive system it is a pleasure to drive in the rain – it is like driving in the dry. It was magical to take the Porsche curves for the first time with around 230 kmh. We completed a good mileage and are up to speed.”
German marques Porsche and Audi locked out the top six positions in first practice, with Toyota’s cars finishing down in seventh and eighth.
Knowing they have the speed, Porsche will be hoping for reliability in this toughest of endurance races.
New Zealand’s Mitch Evans was on the pace in the LMP2 division while fellow Kiwi Richie Stanaway was among the best of the GTE Pro division.