R18 fastest in first of­fi­cial test day

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - Photos: Jakob Ebrey By Rob Lad­brook

Audi Sport struck the first blow at Le Mans this year by top­ping the first of­fi­cial day of run­ning on the Cir­cuit de la Sarthe.

The In­gol­stadt firm’s new R18 set the quick­est time dur­ing last week­end’s test day, with Lu­cas di Grassi go­ing fastest two hours into the af­ter­noon ses­sion. Di Grassi’s time beat the pre­vi­ous bench­mark set by Mark Web­ber in the lead Porsche 919 Hy­brid by al­most a full sec­ond.

The twin Audis com­pleted a to­tal of 138 laps, equat­ing to 1,168 miles worth of run­ning. The sis­ter car of Mar­cel Fassler, Benoit Tre­luyer and An­dre Lot­terer lost two hours of track time in the af­ter­noon when it had to have a damper change on the front axle. That car fin­ished fourth fastest.

Audi head Dr Wolf­gang Ull­rich said: “It’s im­por­tant to use the test day time pro­duc­tively and we had de­tailed pro­grammes to run through. We achieved some im­por­tant tar­gets and worked well on the set-up.

“It was the first time at Le Mans for the new car so we had to col­lect as much data as pos­si­ble. Our six driv­ers gave plenty of pos­i­tive feed­back.”

Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing wound up fifth and sixth fastest with its new TS050 HY­BRID ma­chines. The new car low­ered its pre­de­ces­sor’s best times by over two sec­onds at the first at­tempt with its new tur­bocharged 2.4-litre engine and bat­tery con­fig­u­ra­tion. Toy­ota com­pleted a com­bined 177 laps.

Bri­ton An­thony David­son said: “We can feel it is a big step for­ward on last year’s car. It feels like it has a bet­ter bal­ance and the 8MJ hy­brid boost is great around this track, where straight­line speed is so im­por­tant. But it’s also im­por­tant to keep sta­bil­ity and mo­men­tum through the fast cor­ners so we have worked hard on the bal­ance. We still have work to do of course, but I am pleased with the amount we have been able to cram into this one day of test­ing.”

Porsche’s two 919 Hy­brids com­pleted 173 laps in their new spec­i­fi­ca­tion fol­low­ing the Stuttgart firm’s de­ci­sion to re­vert back to the same bat­tery sys­tems and con­trol elec­tron­ics it used to win Le Mans last sea­son. Porsche has ex­pe­ri­enced dif­fi­cul­ties with hy­brid power over the early FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship rounds and has de­cided to re­vert back to the proven 2015 sys­tem. As well as the Le Mans test day, Porsche also com­pleted a two-day en­durance test at Mo­tor­land Aragon in Spain last week.

Porsche Team head An­dreas Seidl said: “It was a suc­cess­ful start for us, which makes us con­fi­dent for the race. Both cars ran smoothly and we com­pleted our en­tire test pro­gramme in dry con­di­tions. In the morn­ing ses­sion the fo­cus was on set-up work, in the af­ter­noon we worked mainly on long runs for the tyres. It was also im­por­tant to prac­tice all the Le Mansspe­cific pro­ce­dures with race con­trol, such as safety car de­ploy­ment and slow zones. As a team, we feel well pre­pared for the race week.”

Eura­sia Mo­tor­sport topped the LMP2 times with Pu Jun Jin, Tris­tan Gom­mendy and Nick de Bruijn in its ORECA-NIS­SAN. Le Mans rookie Will Stevens was part of the G-drive crew that fin­ished third fastest, along­side Rene Rast, Ro­man Rusi­nov and Alex Brun­dle.

An­to­nio Gar­cia put the fac­tory Corvette team top in the GTE Pro times, just clear of last year’s out­right Le Mans win­ner Nick Tandy in the 911 RSR he shares with Pa­trick Pilet and Kevin Estre.

Corvette also topped the GTE Am stand­ings, with Yu­taka Ya­m­ag­ishi, Pierre Ragues, Jean-philippe Bel­loc and Nick Cats­burg fastest ahead of the Bri­tish-ir­ish crew of Dun­can Cameron, Matt Grif­fin and Aaron Scott in the AF Corse Fer­rari.

Audi, Porsche and Toy­ota are at the head of the field

Porsche, Audi out front Cameron/grif­fin/scott Jin/gom­mendy/bruijn

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