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Toyota Sets Pace at Le Mans Test Day

Toyota sets pace, sweeps Le Mans Test Day…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

Toyota Gazoo Racing has set the pace in Sunday’s Le Mans Test Day, with the Japanese manufacturer ending the official test in a 1-2-3 sweep, as two-time and defending race winners Porsche struggled.

The No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Kamui Kobayashi was quickest, thanks to his 3:18.132 lap time set early in the four-hour afternoon session, on a likely qualifying simulation run.

It was some 3.380 seconds quicker than the best-placed Porsche 919 Hybrid, the No. 2 car in fourth, which fought a myriad of issues over the course of the day.

The No. 2 Porsche had a nose and floor change after Brendon Hartley hit a cone in the morning, followed by an engine change during the lunch break due to an oil leak.

As a result, Hartley and co-drivers Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber completed only 74 laps, the least of the five LMP1 hybrids.

The German manufacturer’s No. 1 entry of defending race winner and FIA World Endurance Champion Neel Jani, along with Andre Lotterer and Nick Tandy was a further half-second behind with a best lap of 3:22.100.

Part of the large gap could be attributed to Porsche likely not attempting a qualifying sim run.

Kobayashi’s pace-setting lap in the No. 7 Toyota he shares with Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin was 1.158 seconds quicker than the sister No. 8 car of Sebastien Buemi, with the No. 9 Toyota third on the time sheets.

Both Jose Maria Lopez and Yuji Kunimoto completed their minimum rookie laps, with Lopez setting the car’s pace-setting time.

The No. 35 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 Gibson led the way in LMP2, which was dominated by Oreca 07 machinery.

Remarkably, the top 13 cars in class were Oreca-chassied cars.

Nelson Panciatici’s 3:28.146 in the Alpine-badged entry edged out the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca by nearly seven-tenths, with the No. 26 G-Drive Racing car ending the day third in class.

The quickest non-Oreca was the No. 32 United Autosports Ligier JS P217 Gibson, which was some 3.7 seconds slower.

A late flyer by Oliver Gavin, with a fresh engine, put the No. 64 Corvette C7.R atop the time charts in GTE-Pro, a class that also saw a big disparity between manufacturers.

Gavin’s 3:54.701 edged out the pair of mid-engined Porsche 911 RSRs in second and third, with the sister Corvette fourth in class.

The Pratt & Miller squad underwent an engine change in less than 90 minutes, getting Gavin back on track with less than 40 minutes remaining in the afternoon session.

The Ferrari 488 GTEs from AF Corse and Risi Competitizone and four Ford GTs brought up the rear of the field in class, recording best lap times considerably slower than last year’s race.

GTE-Am, meanwhile, was led by the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, thanks to a 3:58.250 lap time by Pedro Lamy, which was only less than one-second slower than the quickest GTE-Pro class Ford.

Four different manufacturers were represented in the top-four in class, with the No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R in second, followed by the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR and No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE.

The afternoon session saw two red flags, the first for the No. 33 Eurasia Motorsport Ligier of Erik Maris, who had an off.

Oil laid down by the No. 25 CEFC Manor TRS Racing Oreca brought the session to an early end, with less than 15 minutes remaining on the clock.

A number of other cars had incidents over the course of the day, including the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE of Nicki Thiim, who clouted the tire barriers to cause a safety car.

RESULTS: Test Day

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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