24h Le Mans Test: Porsche double lead

The long racing week for the 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans began on Sunday, June 9th with the official test day. The 62 cars in the three classes Hypercar, LMGT3 and the returning LMP2 prototypes had six hours of track time spread over two sessions to get used to the famous circuit.

In the series of 23 hypercars – four more than in the regular WEC season – the Porsche factory team came out on top at the end of the day. Kevin Estre in the #6 Penske Porsche (Estre, Lotterer, Laurens Vanthoor) drove the best time in the afternoon with 3:26.907 minutes.

IMSA Porsche without Sebastian Vettel in second place

Second place also went to Porsche, in the form of the #4 963 (Jaminet, Nasr, Tandy), which actually competes in the US IMSA series. Former Formula 1 driver Felipe Nasr completed the 13.626-kilometer circuit with a personal best time of 3:27.142 minutes. He was 0.235 seconds behind the French Porsche works driver Estre.

The #4 Porsche was in the headlines a few weeks ago when there was speculation that Sebastian Vettel might be involved after his private Porsche test. However, no agreement was reached between the sports car manufacturer and the four-time Formula 1 world champion for Le Mans 2024. A future collaboration is considered a possible option. The American Dane Cameron is supporting Penske-Porsche in the 24-hour race as a reserve driver.

Porsche conclusion after Le Mans test: “Fast and reliable”

“We were fast and extremely reliable,” said Porsche’s LMDh manager Urs Kuratle. “We consistently ran through our program. Apart from a puncture on the number 5 car, there were no problems whatsoever – not even with the customer teams. That is remarkable. However, the lap times do not say much about the balance of power.”

What is striking, however, is that Estre’s best time was 2.6 seconds faster than the top time at the Le Mans test last year. “At the start of the second session, I had two free laps without lapping traffic and was able to drive really fast times. We are definitely in a better position than last year,” said Estre, who leads the WEC overall standings ahead of the fourth race of the season with his teammates Andre Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor.

Although the focus of the test day was on setup work and understanding the Michelin tire compounds, Porsche with its total of six cars (3x Penske, 2x Jota, 1x Proton) presented itself strongly in the timesheets: Behind the starting numbers #6 and #4, the sister car with starting number #5 (Campbell, Christensen, Makowiecki) took fourth place, the fastest lap was recorded by Michael Christensen.

WEC, 24h Le Mans, #6, Porsche-Penske, Estre, Lotterer, Laurens Vanthoor
Six Porsche 963s will start at the 24h Le Mans 2024, Photo: Porsche AG

Toyota prevents Porsche from taking a triple lead

Only Brendon Hartley, who drove the #8, prevented the Zuffenhausen team from taking a three-way lead. Toyota GR010 Hybrid (Buemi, Hartley, Hirakawa) finished third in the afternoon. His deficit to leader Estre was 0.708 seconds in the afternoon session, which was ended prematurely by Kamui Kobayashi’s crash five minutes before the end.

The Japanese driver shares the #7 Toyota with Nyck de Vries and Jose Maria Lopez, who is replacing Mike Conway at short notice after his bicycle accident. Returning driver Lopez, who was actually supposed to drive an Akkodis-Lexus in the LMGT3, led the #7 to ninth place in the combined time list with his best time set in the morning.

The best-placed of the three Ferrari 499 Ps came in fifth place in the form of the #50 (Fuoco, Molina, Nielsen) – the 2023 Le Mans pole setters. The #51 sister car with the reigning 24h winners Alessandro Pier Guidi, Antonio Giovinazzi and James Calado came in P12, with the #83 Ferrari (Kubica, Shwartzman, Ye) in yellow livery, privately entered by AF Corse, squeezing in eighth place.

BMW in P6 – Wittmann celebrates DTM victory after Le Mans test

Sixth place went to the #20 BMW M Hybrid V8 of Sheldon van der Linde, Rene Rast and Robin Frijns. The first two flew back to Zandvoort by private plane on Sunday afternoon after their compulsory laps, where they arrived in time for the start of the DTM race at 4:30 p.m. ‘Travel companion’ Marco Wittmann, who shares the #15 BMW with Raffaele Marciello and Dries Vanthoor in the WEC, even won the race in the Netherlands from 14th place on the grid. His two WEC teammates, meanwhile, lost track time due to an engine change.

Mirko Bortolotti was also one of the double starters, who finished seventh in the test with his Lamborghini teammates Edoardo Mortara and Daniil Kvyat. The Italians are using a second Lamborghini SC63 in the WEC for the first time in their LMDh debut: The IMSA car with the starting number #19 (Grosjean, Caldarelli, Cairoli) was transported to Europe for Le Mans.

This is what Mick Schumacher says after his first laps in Le Mans

Alpine, which like Lamborghini is about to take part in its first 24-hour race with the LMDh prototypes, finished in 17th and 20th place. Mick Schumacher, who shares the #36 Alpine A424 with Nicolas Lapierre and Matthieu Vaxiviere, completed his first laps on the Circuit de la Sarthe and completed at least ten compulsory laps.

“We now have to analyse the data we have collected after driving our car here for the first time,” said WEC debutant Schumacher after finishing 17th. “I am looking forward to what happens next, even though we have a tough week ahead of us.” In the sister car, Austrian Ferdinand Habsburg made his comeback after his back injury had healed.

LMP2 cars 1.7 seconds slower than private hypercar

The fastest of the 16 LMP2 cars, the #22 United Autosports (Jarvis, Garg), was only 1.7 seconds slower than the last-placed hypercar of Isotta Fraschini (Serravalle, Wattana Bennet, Vernay) during the test with a time of 3:34.704. Second and third places in the LMP2 category, which returns to the WEC only for Le Mans, went to the #25 Algarve Pro Racing (Kaiser, Caldwell, De Angelis) and the #30 Duqueine (Falb, Allen, Simmenauer).

The new LMGT3 class was led by the #82 Corvette Z06 GT3.R of TF Sport (Koizumi, Baud, Juncadella) with a 3:59.883. The #27 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Heart of Racing (James, Mancinelli, Riberas) and the #31 BMW M4 GT3 of WRT (Leung, Gelael, Farfus) finished second and third. The #46 BMW with superstar Valentino Rossi and his teammates Maxime Martin and Ahamd Al Harthy finished P9, while the two Manthey Porsches brought up the rear after their one-two victory in Spa.

On Monday and Tuesday, the teams will continue their preparations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans away from the race track. The next session will be on Wednesday, June 12th with the first free practice session (2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.), pre-qualifying (7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.) and a night practice session (10:00 p.m. – midnight).

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