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Hartley Leads Tight Opening Test Day Session for Toyota

Hartley beats Lapierre to lead tight, red flag-affected morning test session at Le Mans…

Photo: MPS Agency

Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Brendon Hartley set the pace in the opening session of the official test day for next weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Hartley topped the four-hour session with a time of 3:31.263 set on board the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid that he is sharing with Kazuki Nakajima. Their fellow defending Le Mans winner Sebastien Buemi is absent from the test day due to a Formula E clash.

Hartley ended up a quarter of a second ahead of the second-placed Alpine A480 Gibson driven by Nicolas Lapierre, while Mike Conway ranked third in the No. 7 Toyota entry.

Olivier Pla put the No. 708 Glickenhaus 007 LMH in fourth with a time of 3:31.920, ensuring the best cars from the three Hypercar entrants fell within a 0.657s window.

The two Toyota hybrids ran first and second in the opening hour of the session, while Alpine and Glickenhaus took longer to bring their cars to the sharp end of the order.

United Autosports LMP2 driver Phil Hanson split the Toyotas after two and a half hours, shortly before Lapierre slotted the Alpine into third overall.

Just before the end of the second hour, Pla appeared in first place for Glickenhaus which put the non-hybrid LMH constructor above the No. 7 Toyota by less than a tenth.

The third hour saw Hartley produce the fastest lap of the morning, while Lapierre advanced to second with a 3:31.519 flyer, bumping Pla down to third.

Those times from Hartley and Lapierre were registered between two red flag periods, the first caused by an errant ‘floppy’ marker cone near the Dunlop bridge, and the second coming after an incident for Tom Gamble in the GR Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19.

The cause of Gamble’s off was not immediately clear, with the British driver’s GTE-Am car ending up stationery between Tertre Rouge and the first Mulsanne chicane.

Testing resumed after a 20-minute stoppage, but around half an hour later the red flags were out again following an accident for TF Sport Aston Martin driver John Hartshorne, who appeared to have lost control under braking into the first chicane.

The No. 95 Aston sustained significant front-end damage and was taken away on a flat-bed truck.

The green flags waved with 24 minutes remaining, after which Conway made a further improvement to go third-quickest for Toyota, demoting Pla’s Glickenhaus to fourth.

Glickenhaus’ No. 709 machine was classified down in 18th position overall, almost five seconds off the outright pace.

United Autosports Oreca 07 Gibsons finished first and second in LMP2, with defending Le Mans class winner Paul di Resta leading the way on a time of 3:33.038 set with 90 minutes remaining.

The Scottish driver beat Hanson’s early attempt by four-tenths, while Yifei Yi went third-fastest in the European Le Mans Series-leading No. 41 Team WRT Oreca.

Oliver Jarvis was fourth for Risi Competizione, ahead of JOTA driver Sean Gelael who improved after the final red flag, and Paul-Loup Chatin of IDEC Sport.

A one-two result was also notched up by Porsche GT Team in GTE-Pro, as Kevin Estre set the fastest lap in class ahead of Gianmaria Bruni.

Bruni set off on a flying lap with around 15 minutes to go and managed to improve on the second-place time set by his co-driver Frederic Makowiecki earlier on, however the Italian came up just 0.003 seconds short of Estre in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19.

The factory AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evos were third and fourth in Pro, led by the No. 51 car driven by James Calado.

Nick Tandy ran fifth in the No. 64 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, the British driver posting a 3:55.580 to edge ahead of Earl Bamber in the privateer WeatherTech Racing Porsche.

Marcos Gomes led GTE-Am for Aston Martin Racing, beating Alessio Picariello of Absolute Racing and Dempsey-Proton’s Julien Andlauer.

The first half of the session was led by Tomonobu Fujii in D’station Racing’s Aston Martin, which later spun into the Porsche Curves gravel early in the fourth hour with Satoshi Hoshino behind the wheel.

Another yellow-flag incident was an off for IDEC Sport LMP2 driver Dwight Merriman at the esses, after tangling with the No. 31 WRT car.

Sunday’s test day resumes at 2 p.m. CEST (8 a.m. EST) for a further five hours of running.

RESULTS: Test Day Morning Session

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

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