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Kobayashi Quickest in Red Flag-Affected Le Mans Practice

Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi turns late lap to head rain & incident-hit Free Practice session…

Photo: John Dagys

Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi set the fastest lap right at the end of a red flag-affected Free Practice session for this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kobayashi, driving the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, displaced SMP Racing’s Stoffel Vandoorne at the top of the timing chart two minutes from the end of the four-hour session.

The Japanese driver posted a time of 3:18.091 to go 1.840 seconds clear of Vandoorne in the No. 11 BR Engineering BR1 AER, who had himself shot to the lead position 15 minutes prior.

Rain showers around the Circuit de la Sarthe limited the teams to two narrow windows for posting fast lap times, at the start and end of the session.

Rebellion Racing’s Gustavo Menezes appeared at the top an hour and 40 minutes in, and stayed there through a period of rainfall and a 45-minute red flag caused by a crash for the Tracy Krohn-driven No. 99 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR.

Krohn appeared to hit the barriers along the middle stretch of the Mulsanne straight between the two chicanes, although the cause of the accident is presently unclear.

Menezes’ time of 3:19.960 held out as the provisional benchmark until Vandoorne and Kobayashi relegated the No. 3 Rebellion R13 Gibson to third in the latter stages.

The rain made for tough driving conditions in Free Practice, with Kobayashi one of several drivers to have off-track moments in the sporadic rain.

The Le Mans lap record holder ran wide and through the gravel after missing his approach to Mulsanne corner, which was also the site of a spin for the Car Guy Racing Ferrari 488 GTE.

The No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche and the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara P217 Gibson also had separate spins to bring out the yellow flags.

Toyota’s sister No. 8 car placed fourth overall with Fernando Alonso posting a time of 3:20.941, while Andre Lotterer completed the top five in Rebellion’s No. 1 car.

Porsche 1-2 in GTE-Pro

Multiple cars made late improvements in the GTE-Pro class, but none managed to beat Michael Christensen’s early 3:52.149 effort in the No. 92 factory Porsche.

The defending co-points leader ended the session three-tenths ahead of his teammate Mathieu Jaminet in the No. 94 Porsche and a further three tenths clear of Sam Bird in the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.

The best of the Ford GTs ran fourth on a 3:52.778 set by Stefan Muecke, in front of the No. 51 Ferrari and the No. 82 MTEK-run BMW M8 GTE.

In LMP2, last year’s class pole-sitter Paul-Loup Chatin led the way on a time of 3:28.363 set 11 minutes from the end.

Chatin, steering the No. 48 IDEC Sport Oreca 07 Gibson, eclipsed the time set in the first half of the session by DragonSpeed’s Pastor Maldonado.

Oreca machinery occupied the top four places, with Jonathan Hirschi placing the Graff-entered car ahead of the Racing Team Nederland Dallara P217 Gibson.

Fastest in GTE-Am was the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche with Matt Campbell at the wheel.

Next up is the first of three two-hour qualifying sessions taking place this evening at 10 p.m. local time (4 p.m. eastern).

RESULTS: Free Practice

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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