Speed Chills - AF Corse

  • Le Mans Free Practice and Qualifying One

    Neel Jani put the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid at the top of the time sheets in FP1 in a session that ran without much incident. Kamui Kobayashi topped the time sheets with his first flying lap, going seven tenths quicker than anyone else with a time of 3:20.996 in the final hour of running. It looked like the time was going to stand but with 20 minutes to run, Jani went sixth tenths quicker with a time of 3:20.362.

    Qualifying One saw Toyota Gazoo Racing top the time sheets to take provisional pole but it was Timo Bernhard who initially went quickest in the #2 Porsche after the first few flying laps. Toyota reacted instantly, pitting the #7 and #8 cars and sending out Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima. Kobayashi responded, setting the fastest lap of the session, going six tenths quicker than anyone else with a time of 3:18.793. Nakajima took second in a Toyota One-Two whilst Bernhard’s time was good enough for third place. Having set the pace in FP1, Neel Jani could only manage to put the #1 Porsche 5th. ByKolles had another difficult session, lapping just half a second quicker than the leading LMP2.

    LMP2

    Alex Lynn knocked the #13 Vaillante Rebellion off the top of the time sheets in FP1, the ex-GP2 driver posted a time of 3:30.363 in the #26 G-Drive, 1.3 seconds quicker than anyone else.

    ORECA certainly appear to have a big advantage over the other competitors, the best non-ORECA car finished 10th. The SMP Racing Dallara in the hands of Victor Shaytar was over four seconds a lap slower. There was a close battle in qualifying between all the World Endurance Championship entrants. It looked as if Manor had the pace throughout the session as with just half an hour to run, Jean-Eric Vergne and Vitaly Petrov locked down the top two positions with the #25 and #24 cars. However, as time moved on and the temperature dropped, the rest of the field began fighting back. Bruno Senna broke in to the 3:29s before Vaxiviere went half a second quicker in the #28 TDS Oreca to take provisional pole with a time of 3:29.333. The Signatech Alpine entries sat sixth and seventh whilst the second Rebellion #13 finished eighth with Rusinov rounding out the top nine in the #26 G-Drive.

    The fastest non-ORECA running LMP2 finished 13th and was the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara in the hands of Rubens Barrichello, taking part in his first Le Mans qualifying session. The Brazilian set a lap time that was 4.463 seconds off the pace of provisional pole-sitter, Vaxiviere.

    GTE Pro

    There was a last minute driver change in GTE Pro, Lucas di Grassi has been ruled out of the event on medical grounds having broken his fibula in a charity football match. di Grassi failed to get himself out of the car without assistance within the seven second time limit on the driver extraction test. Michele Rugolo has been drafted in to fill his vacant seat patterning James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari.

    #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 jumped to the top of the time sheets towards the end of free practice one. Aston Martin traded lap times with Corvette for most of the session before Bird put the Ferrari on top in the closing laps by half a second. James Calado pushed hard in the closing stages of the session to try and and match the pace of Bird but he was unable to match the time of 3:55.504.

    Aston Martin jumped straight to the top in the first qualifying session, Marco Sorensen leading the way in the #95 with a time of 3:52.117, it was only a tenth quicker than Sam Bird but Birds team mates were unable to improve on his opening lap time leaving the #71 crew second at the end of the session. The #51 Ferrari came in 0.888 down on the pole sitting Aston but overall, just two seconds covered the top six.

    GTE AM

    The factory-entered Aston Martin led the time sheets early on, Mathias Lauda setting the early pace before the #50 Larbre Competition Corvette went quickest at the end of the first hour. The #50 Corvette had a moment through Porsche Curves early on in the second hour and slammed in to the tyre barrier on the outside of the track. The Safety Car was called out for minor repair work and the session restarted. The Clearwater Ferrari was leading the session, even after suffering a left-rear puncture at the end of the third hour. Just after the final hour had started, Pedro Lamy set a new fastest lap of 3:58.234 which allowed him to end the session on top of the class with the #98 Aston Martin.

    Aston Martin also held the advantage from the start of the session in LM GTE Am. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche took the lead of the class for the first few minutes of the session, but as soon as Pedro Lamy had set his fast time there was no challenge to his 3:55.232. Only his team-mate, Mathias Lauda, could better the time, improving the Aston Martin #98’s provisional pole time to a 3:55.134.

    Matteo Cairoli‘s original fastest time in the #77 was enough to hold on to a comfortable second place. He had a three-tenth advantage over third-placed #90 TF Sport Aston Martin when the chequered flag fell.

  • Porsche Bow Out of LMP1 with Pole

    The fairytale starts as Porsche want it: taking pole position in their final outing of the LMP1 919-Hybrid, but the story is far from over. Toyota are hot on their heels and seem to have the pace advantage in the race. The LMP2 championship battle is going to be one to not take your eyes off. The leading #31 Vaillante Rebellion starts down the grid whilst their rivals in the #38 are on the front row. With just four points splitting them, it will be a tense six-hours. AF Corse have pole for the last race, but not with the championship contending car. In the Am class, #98 Aston Martin Racing may very well be on their way to claiming their first title after claiming another pole position this season.

    Porsche led a one-two into the final practice session of the weekend, giving them an edge before the teams took on qualifying. It was a fairly calm 60-minutes for the LMP1 teams, with Timo Bernhard setting his time board-topping 1:42.438 within the first five minutes of the session. No one seemed to be able to close in on that time, with the closest being Neel Jani in the sister car, six tenths off the pace.

    But this was not the case in qualifying. Toyota used a strategy that saw them leaving the pits five minutes after everyone else in an attempt to get some clear track. It worked, and Mike Conway set the first sub 1m40s lap time of the weekend with a 1:39.517. It was clear after Porsche’s second drivers had climbed in the cars it was going to be a big ask to get them ahead of the Toyotas.

    But Jani was determined to give the Porsche one last pole position. Pushing the car to the limit, he produced a lap time that even his team mates were astounded by, putting the #1 in close contention with the proivional pole-sitting #7 Toyota. Nick Tandy climbed back into the Porsche cockpit, with pressure on his shoulders, with the mind set of not letting Jani’s lap time go to waste. A small personal improvement saw the #1 Porsche take its final pole position by just over two tenths of a second.

    The sweltering heat of Bahrain played its hand on the LMP2 field this morning, with both the #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing and the #36 Signatech Alpine bringing out a brief Full Course Yellows as they slowed and stopped on track. The Jackie Chan DC Racing cars seemed best equipped for the high morning track temperatures as they secured their first one-two of the weekend, also being the first time either of their cars have been fastest in a practice session this weekend. The 1:48.879 set by Ho Pin Tung in the #38 gave them half a second advantage on the rest of the field. After battling with the #37 for second place, G-Drive Racing #26 had to settle for third.

    The #36 got back on top of the pace after it’s earlier issue and put in an impressive lap average to take pole by four tenths. Gustavo Menezes declared that team mate Andre Negrao had “pulled the boat along” with his lap time, making Menezes job simple when he got in the car.

    Lining up beside them tomorrow will be the #38 Jackie Chan car. A bad qualifying for both Vaillante Rebellions sees the #38 crew on the front foot going into the race. Just four points separate the two and with the #31 Rebellion starting four sixth it is going to need to be the recovery drive of all drives from Bruno Senna, Nicolas Prost and Julien Canal if they are to secure the 2017 LMP2 Trophy.

    After a short red flag period brought out by the #86 Gulf Racing Am Porsche, which caught fire and stopped on track at Turn 9 – leaking fluid, the GTE classes were in qualifying simulation mode for the end of free practice three. The leaders of both classes changed every lap, with lap times tumbling as the end of the session drew closer. James Calado put the #51 AF Corse fastest with a 1:57.972, ahead of championship rival Andy Priaulx in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK car. The second AF Corse Ferrari, #71, rounded off the top three, half a second off the sister car.

    Qualifying quickly became a Ferrari affair with consistent laps from the #71 AF Corse pair too much for anyone else to contend with. The prediction had been that the two Astons would be fighting for pole position in the final qualifying session, but in the end there was no stopping Sam Bird and Davide Rigon who had struggled throughout the practice sessions.

    Andy Priaulx was set to place his championship contending #67 second on the row, but the weekend’s rapid Adam put an early end to that, dropping in a lap time that was quick enough to demote the team. Harry Tincknell said after the session that they were happy with the performance, but that it was all to play for tomorrow. As the underdogs for the championship now, they have the least to lose in the race, but starting ahead of the other championship contenders is definitely a positive.

    James Calado explained that they were focused on the race in the championship leading #51. He said that they were happy starting from fourth and were looking to have a nice, simple race to get them back home to the championship. If the race finished with the grid positions as they have qualified, there would not be enough of a points gain for the #67 to take the title. Porsche GT Team #91 starts further down the grid and has the most to do tomorrow if they want any chance of stealing the title.

    It had looked like the #98 Aston Martin Racing car was going to take its first fastest lap of the weekend, but it did not seem to be able to keep up when the fast laps started pouring out at the end of the session. Glory went to the #61 Clearwater Racing team that has recently confirmed it’s return to WEC for the 2018/19 ‘Super Season’. Championship contending #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing was second, with the #54 Spirit of Race taking third.

    After it’s earlier fire, the #86 car sat out of qualifying, using the time to repair the car so it will be ready for the race tomorrow. It was Paul Dalla Lana’s day as his second driver lap pulled the #98 ahead of the #61 Clearwater Ferrari that had looked to have pole position in the bag. In terms of championship battles it’s a positive for the Aston Martin as now they take an 11-point advantage into the final six-hour endurance of the season, making it harder for Dempsey-Proton to steal the title from under their nose. The trio have come close to taking the title in the past, but this would be the first time they had actually secured it if all goes their way in tomorrow’s race.

  • Porsche Dominate 6 Hours of Nurburgring

    Porsche took a dominant one-two around their home race at the Nurburgring. Toyota Gazoo Racing had no respose as, after leading for most of the first hour, the Porsches disappeared with nearly a lap lead. The #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing LMP2 car also had an easy race to victory. None of the other cars could close in the gap to challenge for the win, so the team converted their inherited pole position into the race victory. The GTE classes delivered the predicted Porsche/Ferrari battles. Ferrari came out on top in the Pro class with the #51 AF Corse whilst Dempsey-Proton Racing #77 did a splendid job for their first victory of the season.

    The action of the race started before the green flag dropped as disaster hit the #8 Toyota. On the formation lap, Sebastien Buemi had a fuel pump failure that saw the team bringing the car into the pits to replace the part. This instantly turned their race into one of damage limitation as they fought back from the back of the grid. They ended five laps down but managed to classify fourth overall, only losing 13 points to their championship rivals in the Porsche #2.

    The LMP1 race very quickly became a inter-team battle as Porsche clearly have a pace advantage with their high aerodynamic kit. Due to pick pick ups of rubber the two Porsche were suffering from aero degradation that created a “yo-yo” effect for which car was leading. Both of the cars were evenly matched pace wise and presented a fantastically close race to the chequered flag. Just 1.6 seconds separated Timo Bernhard and Andre Lotterer as the chequered flag fell.

    For the first time this season, both LMP1 teams were running the high-downforce aero packages on their cars. It became clear by the end of the 6 Hours of Nurburgring that Porsche had a pace advantage over Toyota Gazoo Racing with this aero kit. Toyota will need to spend some time over the summer trying to improve that if they wish to have any chance of catching Porsche or fighting them for the World Endurance Championships.

    The race behind the #38 was where the action was in the LMP2 class. Nicolas Lapierre once again showed his speed with some fantastic stints for the #36 Signatech Alpine that helped Gustavo Menezes, Tristian Gommendy and he get third place in class. Gommendy’s stints in the middle of the race were also a big contributing factor to help Lapierre pass and extend a lead from the #13 Vaillante Rebellion crew.

    Rebellion had shown they had a strong pace behind the #38 car. Bruno Senna, Julien Canal and Filipe Alburquerque drove to a competitive second place whilst the sister #13 battled valiantly with the #36 and the #37 that challenged for their then third place in class. The #13 finished just off the podium in fourth place.

    Although a difficult final race for the team, the #4 ByKolles Racing did see the chequered flag, classifying 14th overall. From their side of things, the race was fairly uneventful and they had an incident and garage time-free six hour race to the flag. Only one car retired from the race. The #35 Signatech Alpine suffered damage that would have taken too long to repair. They dropped out of the race just before the halfway point.

    The thrilling track battles came from the GTE classes. AF Corse and Porsche GT Team had a tough battle for the lead of class in the first hour. Frederic Makowiecki came out on top of that battle to see the Porsche get ahead. However, around the halfway mark James Calado pulled off a stunning move passed the then-leading #91 Porsche GT to claim the class victory. There looked like there would be another inter-team battle between Porsches as Kevin Estre was closing in on the sister car #92 with Richard Lietz on board. However there were not enough laps for Estre to demote Lietz and Makowiecki off the second step of the podium.

    At the back of the grid was the battle of BoP. Championship rivals #97 Aston Martin Racing and #67 Ford Chip Ganassi kept ending up nose to tail on track. However, it is assumed that the BoP advantage Aston had coming into this weekend gave them a pace advantage on the straights. Daniel Serra kept both the #66 and #67 at bay for a long duration of time by driving defensively and using the extra pace they had on the straights to get far enough ahead that Ford could not challenge them. Olivier Pla had to get very clever with his driving line, compromising his entrance into corner to get a much better exit to try and get closer to the Aston so their pace advantage did not matter.

    In the end, the #67 lead the trio over the line, taking up fifth, sixth and seventh in class. This gives Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx an extra four points in the championship battle with Darren Turner, Jonny Adam and Daniel Serra as we head into the summer break.

    The fight for the lead in Am was exhilarating from green flag to chequered. From pole, the #98 Aston Martin Racing car of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda lead the way, gaining just over a minute advantage on the field by the 90-minute mark. But Porsche and Ferrari had proven through the practice sessions that they has better pace this weekend, and the race was no exception. Matteo Cairoli was a man on a mission as he chased down the #98 in the second half of the race. With a better pace, he managed to pass the Aston Martin and extend a competitive lead to the end of the race.

    But Miguel Molina also saw his opportunity this weekend. Within the final hour of the race, Molina in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari was in hot pursuit of at least a podium, if not the class win. He deposited the Clearwater Racing #61 with ease before chasing down Dalla Lana for the second step of the podium. The Aston Martin had no power in which to stop the rapid pace of the Spanish driver and he cut down an 18 second lead to a 4.6 second lead in 30 minutes. Had there have been an extra five minutes of the race the Dempsey-Proton Porsche and the Spirit of Race Ferrari would at least crossed the line nose to tail.