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United’s Albuquerque Quickest in Spa Opening Practice

Filipe Albuquerque leads opening practice at Spa in United Autosports LMP2…

Photo: MPS Agency

United Autosports LMP2 driver Filipe Albuquerque set the pace in the opening practice session for this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener at Spa.

The reigning WEC and European Le Mans Series LMP2 champion posted a time of 2:04.083 around 15 minutes into the 90-minute session held on Thursday afternoon.

That effort was 0.085 quicker than Nyck de Vries’ fastest lap of the pre-season Prologue test that took place at Spa on Monday and Tuesday.

Second-quickest in Free Practice 1 was Matthieu Vaxiviere in the Hypercar-class Alpine A480 Gibson LMP1 car.

Vaxiviere led early on through his 2:04.335 marker, which cleared the best Hypercar Prologue time by three-tenths, before Albuquerque filed an improvement for United.

Norman Nato placed third overall for LMP2 Pro-Am outfit Realteam Racing.

Realteam’s Oreca, which is prepared by TDS Racing, came to a halt at Bus Stop shortly after Nato posted his 2:04.471 time and did not take any further part in the session.

Whilst Alpine managed to get its grandfathered LMP1 car into the top two, the new Toyota GR010 Hybrid Le Mans Hypercars from the factory Toyota Gazoo Racing team finished seventh and tenth outright.

The best Toyota time was a 2:04.574 set by Mike Conway, half a second off the overall pace, while the No. 8 machine ended up on a 2:04.947 courtesy of Kazuki Nakajima.

Five LMP2 cars ultimately finished above the best of the Toyotas with JOTA’s Stoffel Vandoorne, DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley and Racing Team Nederland’s Giedo van der Garde occupying fourth through sixth in the order.

Between the two Toyotas sat the Oreca from Inter Europol Competition and the Prologue-leading No. 26 Oreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson from G-Drive Racing.

Porsche claimed a one-two in the first Free Practice of the year for the five-car GTE-Pro class which has been bolstered this weekend by an entry from Corvette Racing.

Kevin Estre’s 2:13.466 aboard the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 led the way from a 2:13.500 set by Richard Lietz in the teammate No. 91 car.

Ferrari 488 GTE Evos from the factory AF Corse squad placed third and fourth, with Alessandro Pier Guidi running third on a 2;13.520.

The guesting Chevrolet Corvette C8.R ended up almost a second off the class pace on a 2:14.405.

Corvette ended up behind the top two cars in the GTE-Am category, which was led by Matteo Cairoli in the No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche.

The Italian’s 2:13.941 flyer marked the first instance of a GTE-Am driver breaking the 2m 14s barrier at Spa this week.

Privateer Porsches ran first, second and third as Dempsey-Proton Racing’s 911 RSR-19s assumed the next two positions from the No. 60 Iron Lynx Ferrari and the NorthWest AMR Aston Martin Vantage GTE.

Free Practice 1 included a brief red flag period due to a marshal being located in an unauthorized position.

RESULTS: Free Practice 1

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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