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Nakajima Leads Toyota 1-2 in Le Mans Opening Practice

Toyotas first and second in red flag-affected opening practice for 24 Hours of Le Mans…

Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Kazuki Nakajima set the pace for Toyota Gazoo Racing as the Japanese manufacturer launched its 24 Hours of Le Mans defense with a one-two result in Free Practice 1.

Nakajima’s leading time of 3:21.656 aboard the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid came with 11 minutes of the three-hour session remaining, and improved on the previous-best of his co-driver Brendon Hartley by three-tenths of a second.

Hartley moved the No. 8 Toyota to the top of the leaderboard with 35 minutes remaining after improving on the early benchmark set by Mike Conway in the sister TS050.

The No. 7 machine ended up on a time of 3:21.990 courtesy of Kamui Kobayashi who registered his car’s fastest lap in unison with Nakajima.

Third-quickest overall was the No. 1 Rebellion Racing R13 Gibson in which Gustavo Menezes produced a 3:23.155 during the early stages.

This put the best of the non-hybrid LMP1 cars one and a half seconds off the outright pace.

Rebellion’s No. 3 car, which is racing for the first time since the 4 Hours of Silverstone 12 months ago, slotted into fourth place with a time of 3:25.216 from Louis Deletraz.

The FIA Formula 2 driver clocked in shortly before a red flag was called with just over an hour and 10 minutes remaining, following an off for ‘Steve Brooks’ in the No. 89 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR at Indianapolis.

Brooks managed to return the car to the pits while the session resumed after approximately 20 minutes of interruption.

ByKolles Racing completed the overall top five as Oliver Webb turned in a time of 3:26.442 at the wheel of the team’s ENSO CLM P1/01 Gibson LMP1 challenger.

Quickest in LMP2 was Kenta Yamashita, who knocked Giedo van der Garde off the top spot with a 3:29.873 flyer behind the wheel of High Class Racing’s Oreca 07 Gibson.

Yamashita and van der Garde, who was in the Racing Team Nederland Oreca, were the only drivers to break the 3m 30s barrier in the second-tier prototype class.

Third-fastest in class was Antonio Felix da Costa who came through on a 3:31.206 in the No. 38 JOTA Oreca.

Alex Lynn and Nicki Thiim fronted an Aston Martin Racing one-two result in the GTE-Pro category while the British marque also led the way in GTE-Am.

Lynn ensured the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE set the Pro pace on a time of 3:53.930 that was consolidated by Thiim’s 3:54.992 effort in the sister car.

Third and fourth in the Pro division were the factory AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evos, ahead of the two privateer entries from Risi Competizione and WeatherTech Racing.

Both of the factory Porsche 911 RSR-19s were around three seconds off the pace in the first session.

Ross Gunn led proceedings in GTE-Am whilst also posting the fourth-quickest GTE time outright, putting the No. 98 Aston Martin driver ahead of five Pro entries.

The time of 3:55.484 set by Gunn established a gap of 0.8 seconds between the AMR factory driver and ex-BMW man Tom Blomqvist who was second in the Hub Auto Racing Ferrari.

FP2 is set to get underway at 2 p.m. CEST.

RESULTS: Free Practice 1

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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