Audi quickest with just four thousandths after first free practices
The light is fading towards the end of this cloudy afternoon at Fuji Speedway. The air temperature has cooled distinctly but the track remained dry throughout the uninterrupted second free practice session.
There were only two incidents of note, albeit relatively minor: firstly contact half way through the session between the No.1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro and the No.70 LMGTE Am Corvette of Larbre Competition which necessitated attention to the Audi’s rear suspension. Then, in the final minutes, there was a collision between the No.7 Toyota and the No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola although both cars were able to continue.
If, this morning, it was the No.7 Toyota Racing TS030 Hybrid which demonstrated its pace, this afternoon it was Audi who took the upper hand, but only by four thousands of a second! Knowing the track like the back of his hand, Benoît Tréluyer’s lap of 1:28.462 in the No.1 Audi was nearly four tenths of a second quicker than this morning and wasn’t bettered for the whole session, although Nicolas Lapierre’s Toyota got close, very close – the contest promises to be spectacular throughout the six hours of racing to come on Sunday. The No.2 Audi e-tron quattro of Tom Kristensen ended up in third place, as in the first session, more than six tenths from the leader.
Like this morning, the No.21 Strakka Racing HPD-Honda ARX 03a set the quickest time among the LMP1 Privateer teams, this time thanks to Jonny Kane. With his lap of 1:30.936 he demoted Neel Jani’s No.12 Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota to fifth overall, by more than three tenths of a second, and next up, the No.22 JRM HPD-Honda of Karun Chandhok by nearly four tenths.
Just as in LMP1, times set by the LMP2 competitors improved in this second free practice session. After Signatech-Nissan’s spell at the top this morning, class Championship leader Starworks Motorsports – three-time winners this season – took control. In the American team’s No.44 HPD ARX 03b-Honda, Stéphane Sarrazin posted a lap of 1:32.712, a full eight tenths faster than Nelson Panciatici’s time this morning, but John Martin’s No.25 ADR-Delta Oreca Nissan was hot on his heels. The Australian driver once again set the second best time, while Pierre Kaffer took the No.49 Pecom Racing Oreca-Nissan into third place.
LMGTE Pro was once more dominated by the No.77 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 911, Marc Lieb setting a time of 1:40.877 in front of the No.97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 by more than four tenths of a second. Stefan Mücke couldn’t improve upon a 1:41.285. Gianmaria Bruni, following this morning’s example, was the fastest of the drivers from the newly-crowned AF Corse team in the No.51 Ferrari 458 Italia.
Finally, in LMGTE Am, Larbre Compétition was steadfast in the top two spots. A time of 1:42.096 allowed Jean-Philippe Belloc in the No.70 Corvette to leap frog his team mate Julien Canal in the No.50 car by less than two tenths while the No.57 Krohn Racing Ferrari completed the top three thanks to Nic Jönsson.
The riders, as well as their mounts, now have a chance to rest until 0925 hours tomorrow morning when the third and final free practice session starts. This will be followed by the two qualifying sessions at the start of the afternoon.
(image: FIA WEC)