On Friday, European Le Mans Series teams got only one chance to take their equipment onto the 3.598-mile Circuit Paul Ricard for practice. The conditions were treacherous as teams dealt with a wet track. However, as the track was drying late in the session, DragonSpeed’s Nicolas Lapierre blew the field away with a lap of 108.580 seconds (119.293 mph).
Lapierre’s lap was more than two full seconds faster than TDS Racing’s Matthieu Vaxivière. GRAFF Racing’s Tristan Gommendy was third quickest, followed by Duqueine Engineering’s Nicolas Jamin. The top four drivers were all in ORECA 07 chassis. United Autosports’ Bruno Senna was fifth overall, quickest of those in Ligier JS P217-Gibsons.
Despite Lapierre being substantially quicker than the rest of the LMP2 field, his fastest lap was 7.5 seconds off of the best times during a pre-season test earlier this week. That time was set by the No. 30 AVF by Adrián Vallés Dallara driven by Henrique Chaves. The best Chaves could do in the wet Friday was ninth overall, 3.628 seconds off of Lapierre
Speed-wise, the times in the slower classes were rather interesting on Friday. The two fastest GTE cars were faster than any of the 18 LMP3 entries.
In GTE, Proton Competition’s Matteo Cairoli was fastest in his Porsche 911 GT3 R. Cairoli’s lap of 121.282 seconds (106.799 mph) was good enough for 19th overall. It was two-sevenths of a second faster than Gulf Racing UK’s Ben Barker in another Porsche. Marvin Dienst, a late addition to Proton Competition’s No. 77 Porsche after former Champ Car racer Joel Camathias was released following a testing crash Monday, was third quickest. Spirit of Race’s Thomas Flohr was the fastest of the Ferrari drivers in fourth, followed by teammate Aaron Scott in the No. 55 Ferrari.
In LMP3, it was Ultimate’s Matthieu Lahaye that was fastest with a lap of 121.612 seconds (106.509 mph), good enough for 21st overall in his Norma M30. Lahaye’s lap was three-quarters of a second faster than Oregon Team’s Riccardo Ponzio. EuroInternational’s Giorgio Mondini was the fastest of those in a Ligier JS P3 in third, 1.3 seconds off of Lahaye. M. Racing-YMR’s Lucas Légeret was fourth, followed by 360 Racing’s Terrance Woodward. Defending class champion Sean Rayhall was seventh fastest in the No. 2 United Autosports Ligier.
Despite the conditions, there was only one red flag during the 90-minute session due to a crash in the final turn for Inter Europol Competition’s Luca Demarchi. The crash was caused by contact from United Autosports’ Garret Grist. As a result, Grist was penalized by having his times deleted from prior to that point in the session. In addition, the team has a suspended five-place grid penalty that will only be assessed if a similar incident occurs on Saturday.
ELMS teams have only one more practice session this weekend. It is scheduled to begin at 3:15 a.m. EDT Saturday morning and last for 90 minutes. Qualifying is scheduled for 7:40 a.m. Saturday and can be streamed live on YouTube. The forecast is for dry weather and a high temperature of 67 degrees on Saturday.