The sun was shining when the third and final free practice session began this morning at 10am, but the capricious Spa-Francorchamps climate lived up to its reputation and clouds gradually obscured the blue sky and the session was officially “wet” after 25 minutes. The sudden downpour surprised many drivers, but fortunately without adverse consequences.
The session was once again dominated by the Audi #1 diesel hybrid of the winning crew of 24 Hours of Le Mans. After Benoit Treluyer and Andre Lotterer, it was Marcel Fässler who set the fastest time, and from the first time below 2’02 (2’01” 998). The rookie Marco Bonanomi and Marc Gene (who replaces the injured Timo Bernhard) very quickly adapted to the new Audi R18 Ultra setting the second and third fastest time. The two Lola-Toyotas of Rebellion Racing also continued their progress in terms of performance, Neel Jani and Andrea Belicchi improving on their fastest laps of the first two free practice sessions.
Soheil Ayari is definitely in high spirits: he improved by more than a second on the best time in the LMP2 class with a lap of 2’09” 170 with Oreca-Nissan #49 of Pecom Racing, after being the fastest during the first session. The Frenchman Olivier Pla was the only other driver to dip under the 2’10 mark with the Morgan-Judd #24 of OAK Racing, while the Lola-Lotus of James Rossiter appeared for the first time in the leading positions.
Porsche did not repeat the Pro and Am LMGTE double as in the second free practice session, thanks to the time set by the Aston Martin Vantage in the hands of Stefan Mücke in LMGTE Pro. The German certainly did not beat the time set yesterday afternoon by his compatriot Marc Lieb in the Porsche, but he was the second driver to complete a lap in under 2’20” (2’19”785). Two Ferraris, those of Frederic Makowiecki (Luxury Racing) and Giancarlo Fisichella (AF Corse) complete the top three in class.
In LMGTE Am, Porsche was displaced from first place by the Larbre Competition Corvette, although Jean-Philippe Belloc did not beat the fastest time set yesterday by Nicolas Armindo. With a lap of 2’22” 073, the Corvette #70 was ahead of the #67 Porsche of IMSA Performance Matmut and #58 Ferrari of Luxury Racing.
All competitors now have an appointment for qualifying this afternoon at 15:10 for LMGTE Pro and Am and 15:40 for LMP1 and LMP2, but a thunderstorm could easily intrude on the proceedings.
(Image: Gerlach Delissen)