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Toyota On Top in Le Mans Free Practice

Toyota TS040 Hybrid on top after four-hour free practice at Le Mans…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

The No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid has led the four-hour Free Practice session for the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans, driven by Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sebastien Buemi.

Davidson started and posted a 3:23.897, and then banged in a couple fliers during the middle portion of the session to end at 3:23.652. Lapierre ran in the middle before Buemi took over behind the wheel to end the session.

For Toyota, it’s just more than six tenths off the pace of its best time at Le Mans Test Day (3:23.014), but with more to come as track conditions and the weather improve.

The Toyota ended with a 0.324 of a second gap to the first of the three Audis, with the No. 2 of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer in at 3:23.976.

The second Toyota was third ahead of the two remaining Audis. The status of the No. 1 though, which incurred a heavy accident just past the one-hour mark with Loic Duval behind the wheel, is yet to be officially determined.

Porsche’s No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid was nearly three seconds in arrears in sixth place, with 3:26.602 the best mark for the Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley-driven machine.

OAK Racing’s trio of young guns in the new Ligier JS P2 Nissan, Alex Brundle, Jann Mardenborough and Mark Shulzhitskiy led LMP2 at 3:40.611.

Three Oreca 03 Nissans and the single branded Alpine A450 Nissan rounded out the remainder of the top five. Murphy Prototypes’ Oreca was second ahead of the No. 37 SMP Racing Oreca, No. 36 Signatech Alpine and No. 47 KCMG Oreca.

GTE saw some of the Am class cars interspersed with the Pros, and ultimately Nicki Thiim’s best time of 3:57.015 in the No. 95 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage made for a GTE-Am car best of the 28 total GTE cars. Thiim co-drives with David Heinemeier Hansson and Kristian Poulsen.

The No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia was best of the GTE-Pro cars, with the Gianmaria Bruni/Toni Vilander/Giancarlo Fisichella just adrift of the Aston at 3:57.028.

The No. 97 Aston Martin and No. 73 Corvette C7.R were second and third in GTE-Pro, while the No. 77 Dempsey Racing-Proton Porsche 911 RSR and No. 81 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia were second and third in GTE-Am.

Three red flags interrupted the session. Duval’s was the longest and most notable but there were two others within the last half hour.

The No. 67 Imsa Performance Matmut Porsche 911 GT3 RSR had was stopped at the first chicane on the Mulsanne; an apparent issue struck the No. 90 8Star Motorsports Ferrari F458 Italia at the second chicane within the last 10 minutes.

Porsche Team Manthey’s No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR pitted with apparent driveshaft issues within the first 15 minutes. Another GTE-Pro entry – the No. 74 Corvette C7.R – also had apparent driveshaft problems within the last hour, and Tommy Milner stopped the car off track just prior to Porsche Curves on driver’s right.

Other cars that incurred issues during the session were the Nissan ZEOD RC (reported loss of drive in the first 10 minutes, made it back to pits), the No. 50 Larbre Competition Morgan Judd (Ricky Taylor limped the LMP2 machine home on three wheels) and the No. 24 Sebastien Loeb Racing Oreca 03 Nissan (right rear damage en route back to pit lane at the end of the session).

First qualifying occurs from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. local time (4 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET).

RESULTS: Free Practice

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno) is Sportscar365's North American Editor, focusing on coverage of the IMSA-sanctioned championships as well as Pirelli World Challenge. DiZinno also contributes to and other motorsports outlets. Contact Tony


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