Michelin Le Mans Cup championship leader Colin Noble set the quickest time in Free Practice 1 for the Road to Le Mans on Wednesday evening as red flags brought the session to a premature end.
The No. 79 Nielsen Racing/Ecurie Ecosse Ligier JS P3 moved to the top of the timesheets with a 3:57.055, shortly before an accident involving Claudio Schdeanewtiz in the No. 55 Spirit of Race Ligier on approach to the Porsche Curves cut the session short with seven minutes remaining.
The accident caused Qualifying 1 for the 24 Hours of Le Mans to be delayed due to barrier damage.
Noble, who is making his first appearance at Le Mans, was 1.054 seconds faster than defending event winner Alexandre Cougnaud in the No. 18 M.Racing – YMR Ligier, with DKR Engineering driver Alex Toril third in the best of the Norma M30s, 1.363 seconds adrift.
Onroak Automotive, which produces the Ligier, has introduced an updated aero package for this weekend, with a 10mm reduction to the rear gurney flap designed to improve straight-line performance on the Mulsanne Straight after the Normas dominated the speed traps in the last round at Monza.
However, the times were still over a second slower than last year’s pole time, set by Martin Brundle.
Yann Ehrlacher made it two M.Racing – YMR entries in the top four in the team’s No. 19 Norma, ahead of Matt Bell in the No. 22 United Autosports Ligier and Richard Bradley’s No. 49 Win Motorsport Ligier.
Several cars hit trouble during the session, including the No. 2 United Autosports Ligier of John Falb, which suffered an engine failure after only two laps, and Mark Kvamme’s No. 85 Eurointernational Ligier, which was shown the black-and-orange flag to repair an open door.
Seven different manufacturers filled the top seven positions in GT3, as teams devoted the majority of the session to giving track-time to their Bronze drivers.
Christoph Ulrich was fastest in the No. 95 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3, 1.018 seconds quicker than the No. 20 Gulf Racing UK Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Andrew Baker.
Cedric Mezard set the third fastest time in the No. 8 SVC Sport Management Lamborghini Huracan GT3, ahead of Flick Haigh in the No. 75 Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS, Michael Benham’s No. 24 Garage 59 McLaren 650S GT3, Remon Vos in the No. 5 RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 and the No. 97 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Tom Jackson.
RESULTS: Free Practice 1