SMP Racing claimed a surprise 1-2 in the opening practice session for this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship round at Spa-Francorchamps.
Sergey Sirotkin led the 90-minute session with a time of 1:56.264 in the Russian team’s No. 17 BR Engineering BR1 AER while LMP1 debutant Stoffel Vandoorne came through in second on a 1:58.236 in the No. 11 sister car.
It marks only the third time that a non-hybrid LMP1 competitor has beaten Toyota Gazoo Racing to the top of the timing charts in an official WEC session this season.
The Japanese manufacturer ran third and fourth-quickest with Sebastien Buemi posting a best time of 1:58.742 early in the session behind the wheel of the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid to go third.
This put Toyota just under two and a half seconds off the overall pace around the 4.35-mile Belgian circuit.
The Toyotas were noticeably quicker than their non-hybrid competition in the first sector but repeatedly dropped two to three seconds in the second sector which impacted their overall lap times.
Rebellion Racing’s pair of Rebellion R13 Gibsons, which are sporting a new low-downforce aero package this weekend, placed fifth and sixth overall with Gustavo Menezes leading the team’s effort on a 1:59.106 in the No. 3 car.
Fastest in LMP2 was Nicolas Lapierre who recorded a time of 2:03.441 in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A470 Gibson.
Reigning European Le Mans Series champion team G-Drive Racing saw its Oreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson come through in second with Jean-Eric Vergne at the helm, while Giedo van der Garde placed Racing Team Nederland’s Dallara P217 Gibson in third.
In GTE-Pro, Aston Martin and Ford were tied at the top of the class after Harry Tincknell matched Maxime Martin’s time of 2:15.290 right at the end of the session.
BMW Team MTEK’s No. 82 M8 GTE lapped third with Antonio Felix da Costa driving, ahead of the No. 66 Ford GT and the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
Porsche and Ferrari propped up the GTE-Pro leaderboard with both manufacturers running more than a second off the pace.
Leading the way in GTE-Am was Ben Barker in the No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR on a time of 2:17.068.
Second practice is scheduled to get underway at 4:25 p.m. local time (10:25 a.m. eastern).
RESULTS: Free Practice 1