24 Hours Of Le Mans

Toyota /Kobayasi Quickest In Free Practice (12.06.19)

Photos: Roger Jenkins.

Kamui Kobayashi, at the wheel of the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid he shares with Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez, set the fastest time of the Free Practice session for the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans after he lapped the iconic Circuit de la Sarthe in 3:18.091 in the closing seconds of the four-hour session, ahead of the #11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 in which Stoffel Vandoorne set a 3:19.931.

Third quickest overall was the #3 Rebellion Racing Rebellion R13 in which Gustavo Menezes lapped in 3:19.960.

Quickest of the LMP2 field was the #48 IDEC Sport ORECA 07 driven by Memo Rojas who set a 3:28.363.

The pace in the 17-car LM GTE Pro class was set by Laurens Vanthoor in the #92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.

The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche was quickest of the LM GTE Am class with Matt Campbell setting a 3:55.309.

The session got underway after heavy showers had swept across the region and there was the suggestion that rain would return during the four-hour practice. As a result, the Race Director declared the session wet.

There was drama for the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR with Satoshi Hoshino at the wheel of the car he shares with Giorgio Roda and Matteo Cairoli when the Japanese Bronze-rated driver had an off-track excursion on the entry to the Porsche Curves after 62 minutes of the session. The practice session was neutralised under a Full Course Yellow for approximately five minutes.

Rain started falling down by Mulsanne Corner after 75 minutes of ther session and the firtst victim of the wet track was Kamui Kobayashi in the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 – Hybrid who went off into the gravel. The pilot with the quickest lap of the modern circuit lay-out managed to get the #7 car back on the circuit and returned to the garage.

Light rain returned to the pit lane as Andre Lotterer put in a 3:21.257 in the #1 Rebellion Racing Rebellion R13 but clearly rain was still affecting the southern-most tip of the circuit as the #57 Car Guy Racing Ferrari F488 GTE went off at almost exactly the same place as the #7 Toyota.

After 90 minutes of the four-hour session had elapsed, Fernando Alonso topped the time-sheets with a 3:20.941 in the #8 Totoya, ahead of the #1 Rebellion which had lapped in 3:21.257. Third quickest was the #8 Toyota which had put in a 3:22.165.

Quickest of the LMP2 field was the #31 DragonSpeed ORECA 07, ahead of the #26 G-Drive Aurus 01 which had lapped in 3:38.893.

The GTE Pro time-sheets were headed by the #92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR which lapped in 3:52.149 while the Am class was led by the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche with a 3:55.304.

The session was red-flagged after 98 minutes when Tracy Krohn in the #99 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR had a substantial accident at the entry to the second chicane. The session remained neutralised for 46  minutes to remove the stricken Porsche and clear up the debris. Krohn was unhurt and the damaged Porsche was returned to the garage.

Immediately prior to the #99 car incident, Gustavo Menezes put in the quickest time of the session with a 3:19.960 in the #3 Rebellion Racing Rebellion R13.

The #22 United Autosports entry saw very little running in the first two hours of the session, the Ligier suffering from an oil leak which risked an engine change. The issue was solved just in for heavy rain to fall and the session to be neutralised with the red flag.

The practice session resumed after 46 minutes with over 90 minutes remaining and the threat that the session might be extended removed. However the track had been doused with rain in the pause so time was required to get the circuit rubbered back in.

With 67 minutes left the track was sufficiently dry enough for the #8 Toyota, with Sébastien Buemi at the wheel, came into the pits to switch to slicks.

As the session drew to a close, Kobayashi put in a 3:18.091 to set the quickest time of the session in the #7 Toyota.

The first qualifying session gets underway at 22:00 local time.