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Jani Tops Free Practice at Le Mans

Neel Jani tops Free Practice at Le Mans…

Photo: Brian Cleary/BC

Photo: Brian Cleary/BC

The No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Neel Jani was quickest in Free Practice Wednesday at Le Mans where the defending pole-winner turned a top lap time of 3:22.011 with just 10 minutes remaining in the session, which was brought to an early end due to an accident.

It was a Porsche 1-2, thanks to a 3:22.550 lap time by defending FIA World Endurance Champion Brendon Hartley set with 45 minutes remaining, as the track dried following intermittent rain showers throughout the early stages of the four-hour session.

Third quickest was the No. 8 Audi R18 of Loic Duval, Oliver Jarvis and Lucas di Grassi with a lap time of 3:22.985.

The No. 8 Audi was at the top of the time charts for the majority of the middle of the session and held third despite retiring to the garage 40 minutes from the finish with an undisclosed issue, suspected to be suspension-related.

The LMP2 class was topped by the No. 47 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan of Richard Bradley, Matt Howson and Tsugio Matsuda with a lap time of 3:39.721.

Second fastest in LMP2 was the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A460 Nissan of Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Stephane Richelmi at 3:39.721.

Rounding out the top three in LMP2 with a lap time of 3:40.308 was the No. 23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier JS P2 Nissan of Fabien Barthez, Paul Loup Chatin and Timothe Buret.

Ferraris topped the GT categories with the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of Gianmaria Bruni, James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi leading the GTE-Pro class with a lap at 3:53.833.

Second quickest in GTE-Pro was the No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella and Matteo Malucelli with a fastest lap of 3:54.180.

The highest placing Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT was third quickest in GTE-Pro, with the No. 68 entry of Dirk Mueller, Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdais posting a top time of 3:54.893. At one point in the opening hour of practice, three of the four Ford GTs filled the top three spots on the GTE-Pro class standings.

Top GTE-Am honors went to the No. 61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari F458 Italia of Rob Bell who grabbed the top spot just 12 minutes from the end with a lap of 3:57.543. Bell co-drives with Weng Sun Mok and Keita Sawa.

Second quickest in GTE-Am was the No. 62 Scuderia Corse Ferrari F458 Italia of Townsend Bell, who co-drives with Bill Sweedler and Jeff Segal, the third-place class finishers last year at Le Mans. Bell turned the top lap time of 3:59.103.

Completing a top-three GTE-Am Ferrari sweep, third fastest in GTE-Am was the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia of Emmanuel Collard, Rui Aguas and Francois Perrodo at 3:59.294.

There were a total of three red flags, including a session-ending accident No. 28 Pegasus Racing Morgan Nissan of Ines Taittinger, who went into the barriers at Indianapolis.

The No. 6 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Stephane Sarrazin was also stopped at the scene and was driven back to the pits with substantial nose damage.

The first red flag occurred just short of the halfway point when Pierre Kaffer pulled the No. 4 Team ByKolles Racing CLM P1/01 AER to a stop after the LMP1 Privateer entry caught fire exiting the first Mulsanne Chicane.

Unscathed, Kaffer quickly exited the car and just as swiftly removed the rear engine cover to help the attending marshals extinguish the blaze.

The second stoppage came 35 minutes from the end of the session for the No. 43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier JS P2 Nissan, with Bruno Senna at the wheel, went into the tire barrier at Indianapolis.

A late yellow flag was also shown for debuting American driver Billy Johnson who spun into the tire wall at Indianapolis in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT he co-drives with Olivier Pla and Stefan Muecke. Johnson continued and drove the Ford GT back to the pits

The first qualifying session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans closes out today’s schedule and will take place from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. local time (4 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET).

RESULTS: Free Practice

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