After two hours of track time, under blue skies and 30 degree temperatures, the all Swiss Race Performance team finished the opening day of the European Le Mans Series event at the Red Bull Ring in Austria at the top of the time sheets when Patric Niederhauser posted a 1m24.710 lap in the team’s LMP2 class Oreca-Judd right at the end of the second Free Practice session. Niederhausers lap was 0.188 seconds faster than the fastest car in the morning session, the No. 1 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca Nissan of Mathias Beche.
The times in all four classes were improved on in the second 60-minute Free Practice period.
First Free Practice
The first Free Practice session of the third weekend of the 2013 European Le Mans Series took place at the Red Bull Ring this morning under clear blue skies and an air temperature of nearly 25 degrees. Mathias Beche posted the fastest time of the 60-minute session as he took the checkered flag. The Swiss driver’s lap of 1m25.638 was 0.226 seconds quicker than the time set by Nelson Panciatici in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine and nearly 0.4 seconds ahead of Brendon Hartley in the No. 18 Murphy Prototypes Oreca.
The No. 46 Algarve Pro Racing Team Oreca was the fastest LMPC class car on the team’s ELMS debut with Nicky Catsburg setting a lap time of 1m29.080, 0.099 seconds faster than championship leader Gary Hirsch in the No. 49 Team Endurance Challenge Oreca.
The No. 55 AF Corse Ferrari was the fastest in LMGTE, with 2011 FIA GT3 European Champion Federico Leo posting a 1m30.993 lap, just 0.039 seconds faster than former FIA GT1 World Champion Andrea Bertolini in the No. 66 JMW Ferrari.
The No. 69 SMP Racing Ferrari was the quickest of the five GTC class entries, the 3 Hours of Imola race winner Viktor Shaitar posting the class best time of 1m32.188.
Second Free Practice
With the track temperature in the mid-30s and the air temperature hovering around the 30 degree mark, the scene was set the second free practice session that saw the times in all four classes tumble from the ones set in the earlier 60-minute morning session.
It looked like the Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca was going to end the day as the fastest car at the Red Bull Ring but Patric Niederhauser went a tenth of a second quicker (1m24.710)in the No. 34 Race Performance Oreca just before the checkered flag was shown to end the session. The No. 38 Jota Sport Zytek Nissan was just behind the leading pair thanks to a 1m25.152 lap set by the returning Oliver Turvey, who had arrived directly from the Formula One test at Silverstone.
In the LMPC class it was Nico Verdonck in the No. 47 Team Endurance Challenge Oreca who set the pace with a 1m28.988 lap, finishing the session just 0.024 seconds ahead of Nicky Catsburg in the No. 46 Algarve Pro Racing Team Oreca.
The two GT classes were headed by Ferrari with the No. 66 JMW Motorsport 458 of Andrea Bertolini (1m30.486) just edging out the No. 77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 GT3 of British driver Nick Tandy by 0.082 seconds with Johnny Mowlem, in the No. 52 RAM Racing Ferrari, third fastest, just three tenths behind Bertolini.
The No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 of Luca Persiani topped the GTC class, the Italian posting a 1m31.940 lap, 0.333 ahead of the No. 62 AF Corse Ferrari.
Qualifying for the 3 Hours of the Red Bull Ring takes place tomorrow morning at 10:20 (local) and the race itself getting underway at 16:30.