2019 Le Mans Test Weekend Session 1 Catch Up

It was a record breaking 62 cars which took to the track for the 2019 official Le Mans test day at Circuit de la Sarthe at the weekend with 8 LMP1s, 20 LMP2, 17 GTE Pros and 17 GTE Ams entered into the race this year.

Normally a 60 car grid, limited by the amount of garages at Le Mans, would run but the ACO and FIA announced they would be extending the entry list to 62 cars, allowing the second United Autosport entry and High Class racing into the LMP2 category.

A proportion of GTE cars were running one off custom livery designs for the 24 Hours with both Ford and Porsche running in one of colours for the final round of the 2018/2019 World Endurance Championship. Ford opted for a retro livery on each car with the four liveries representing wins in 1966, 1967, 2016 along with the 2019 colours.

In GTE Am, the Keating Motorsport Ford GT will be running in the stunning purple colour of Wynn’s racing whilst Project 1 features a specifically designed art car layout to showcase Porsche’s Second Skin technology.

With 186 drivers set to take part in the 2019 race, the majority of them were on site already on Saturday morning with a number of reserve drivers also lined up to take part in the test. Aston Martin rising star Ross Gunn had some valuable seat time lined up for Sunday’s test in both GTE Pro Aston Martin’s. Of those 186 drivers however, there were 20 drivers taking part in the Paul Ricard 1000KM race as part of the 2019 Blancpain Endurance Cup. There were also 11 drivers taking part in the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle as part of the 2019 IMSA championship in the United States. Project 1 driver Patrick Lindsey was on call as pilot for the chartered flight back to Europe.

Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais were given special dispensation not to run in the test weekend as they were both on Indy Car duty on Sunday in Detroit.

With the first session of the day kicking off at 9AM Sunday morning, it wasn’t long before Toyota were topping the time sheets, Sebastien Buemi putting the #8 Toyota on top of the times in the first of the two four hour sessions with a time of 3:21.875, a second faster than the previous best set by Fernando Alonso. The #7 Toyota was second fastest with Jose Maria Lopez posting a time of 3:22.027. The #3 Rebellion led the way for the P1 privateer cars, Gustavo Menezes setting a marker of 3:23.978.

Pastor Maldonado led the way in the #31 DragonSpeed Oreca in LMP2 for most of the session, posting a lap time of 3:32.244 early on however, Felipe Albuquerque pushed the Columbian off the top spot by just 2 thousandths of a second in the dying moments of the session.

Ford were leading the way for most of the session in GTEPro, Billy Johnson’s best time in the #66 car was beaten on the final lap of the session by Antonio Garcia in the #63 Corvette by just 0.024 of a second, Garcia setting a time of 3:55.704 on his final run. Gimmi Bruni rounded out the top three, putting the #91 Porsche in front of the two AF Corse Ferrari’s. The top 7 in the 17 car class were split by just 1 second.

Francesco Castellacci led the way in GTEAM for most of the session, posting a time of 3:58.478 in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari, not only did this put Castellacci at the front in GTEAM, it was also faster than the two factory Aston Martins and the #82 BMW Team MTEK M8 GTE.

By the end of the first session, it was a Ferrari top 4 with the #61 Clearwater, #84 JMW and #57 Car Guy Ferraris finishing ahead of Pat Long in the #99 Krohn Racing Proton Competition 911 RSR.