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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Kamui Kobayashi Fastest at Le Mans Test Day

On Sunday, the Automobile Club d’Ouest (ACO) hosted the annual Le Mans Test Day at the Circuit de la Sarthe.  Attendance for those intending on racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans is mandatory with only one exception.  That exception is a race conflict.  Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan, who will be racing for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing USA in the GTE-Pro class, both missed the test due to Sunday’s Race No. 2 of the Chevrolet Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park.

As compared to the rest of the season, not much has changed in the LMP1 class.  Toyota GAZOO Racing’s Kamui Kobayashi turned in the overall fastest lap of the test with a time of 198.132 seconds (153.879 mph).  The lap was 1.6 seconds faster than the quickest lap turned in during qualifying last year, but still 1.3 seconds off of the track record.

Kobayashi was 1.158 seconds quicker than teammate Sébastien Buemi in the No. 8 Toyota.  Jose Maria Lopez, who has moved to the part-time No. 9 Toyota after crashing at Silverstone and missing Spa, was third quickest.

Neel Jani was the fastest of the Porsche 919 Hybrid drivers, placing the No. 1 in fourth.  However, Jani was nearly four seconds slower than Kobayashi.  Timo Bernhard was fifth fastest, another second slower.

LMP2 was the place to go in order to find high speeds.  The No. 47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara LMP2-Gibson was the fastest in the speed trap at just over 212 mph.  Kazuki Nakajima in the No. 8 Toyota was the best of the LMP1 Hybrids at 330.8 kph (roughly 205.5 mph).

Lap time-wise, Signatech Alpine Matmut’s No. 35 Alpine A470-Gibson with Nelson Panciatici was fastest with a lap of 208.146 seconds (146.476 mph).  The lap was seven-tenths of a second faster than the No. 24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing ORECA 07-Gibson of former Formula One racer Jean-Eric Vergne.  Alex Brundle in the No. 37 ORECA 07-Gibson for Jackie Chan DC Racing was third fastest.

G-Drive Racing’s Alex Lynn was fourth fastest, while Ho-Pin Tung was fifth in the second Jackie Chan DC Racing entry.  It should be noted that the Alpine A470 is simply a rebadged ORECA 07.  As a result, ORECA 07 chassis had the first 13 spots in class.

Keating Motorsports, which is the only American-based team competing in LMP2 at Le Mans, struggled on Sunday.  All three of the listed drivers for Le Mans (Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating and Ricky Taylor) competed on Saturday at Belle Isle Park and had to fly overnight just to get to Le Mans.  They also have the only Riley Mk. 30 entered in the race, so there aren’t any other teams to bounce things off of.  Taylor was ultimately the fastest of the drivers entered, but he was only 23rd quickest in class, 10.5 seconds slower than Panciatici.

In GTE-Pro, the American-based teams put up a better show.  Corvette Racing’s No. 64 Corvette C7.R driven by Oliver Gavin was fastest in class with a lap of 234.701 seconds (129.903 mph).  Gavin’s lap was three-tenths of a second quicker than Porsche GT Team’s No. 91 for Frédéric Makowiecki.  The No. 92 Porsche for Kevin Estre was third fastest, followed by Antonio Garcia in the No. 63 Corvette.  The No. 95 Aston Martin for Nicki Thiim was fifth quickest.  The top five were separated by .55 of a second over nearly 8.5 miles.

Finally, GTE-Am was led by the No. 98 Aston Martin for former Formula One racer Pedro Lamy.  Lamy’s lap of 238.250 seconds (127.968 mph) was just half of a tenth faster than Larbre Competition’s Fernando Rees in a year-old Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.  Larbre Competition made news in their own right by unveiling their special paint scheme for Le Mans.

Porsche Junioren racer Matteo Cairoli was third quickest, two-tenths of a second slower than Lamy.  Defending class champion Townsend Bell was fourth fastest in Scuderia Corsa’s No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE, followed by Spirit of Race’s Marco Cioci.

24 Hours of Le Mans Test Day Results

Official practice for the 24 Hours of Le Mans gets underway on Wednesday, Jun. 14.  Qualifying sessions will be held on Jun. 14 and 15.  The race is scheduled to start on Saturday, Jun. 17 at 3 p.m. local time (9 a.m. EDT).  The race will air on a combination of FOX Sports 1, 2 and GO.