Just like the FIA WEC teams had a test last week, the European Le Mans Series teams had two test days this week at Paul Ricard.
The difference was that instead of it being a 30-hour test, this consisted of five sessions of 4, 4, 2, 4 and 3 hours each.
While you had no real clue about who was doing long runs and who was going for fast times during the FIA WEC test, it was even harder to keep track of the 44 ELMS cars regarding them posting the times on whatever kind of tires, at any given time of the practice.
The weather was very changeable, and it was only the Monday afternoon and the night session which was run on completely dry track. The three other sessions would either start being wet and/or during the session. Some even went wet-almost dry-wet.
The weather went all bonkers during the Tuesday morning session, when a hail storm arrived at the track, with lightning and thunder accompanying it. Naturally enough, it didn’t last very long before all the teams had pushed their cars back into the garages.
Two teams who got the worst of the raining conditions on Monday morning was Ebimotors Porsche #80 and Proton Competition Porsche #77. Both cars went off the track within a short time of each other, with very heavy damage to both cars. The #80 returned to the track after about 24 hours of repair work, while #77 never made it back out of the garage. There might even be a chance of #77 having to the swapped for the weekend, since the parts and the tools needed for the repair job, might not be present at the current time. So it was a very disappointing test for #88, which only managed to do 9 laps on the track, before it went all wrong for them.
Luckily the rest of the field didn’t have anything major crash damage. There was a bit of worn out planks or splinters, after going a bit too hard over curbs, but that was it.
But there was quite a lot of technical gremlins. There was an unusually high number of cars with engines or gearboxes removed, with the mechanics doing work or replacing those. AT Racing #9 was one of those teams, who only did 27 laps in the morning session, before having to skip the rest of that session plus the afternoon session, and not return until the night practice, where they managed 46 laps. Mikkel Jensen showed his pace once again, and even with the lack of laps, he still managed to post the second fastest time of all LMP3 cars during the test, only to be surpassed by Alexander Toril in the DKR Engineering #8.
The first impression in the LMP2 category is that Dallara and ORECA are very closely matched. AVF by Adrian Valles Dallara #30 ended up being fastest ahead of several ORECAs. They were followed up by both Cetilar Villorba Corsa #47, and High Class Racing #49 going very fast too with their Dallaras. Ligier wasn’t at the very top of the time sheets, but they might not have gone for the ultimate pace on the given time, where the track conditions were at the very best. Phil Hanson in United Autosports #22 was the fastest Ligier man, but lapping 1.2 seconds slower than Henrique Chaves in the fastest Dallara.
While it was all doom and gloom in one end of the Porsche camp, Proton Competition #88 ended up being fastest of all GTE cars ahead of JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66, Krohn Racing Ferrari #83 and Spirit of Race Ferrari #55. So we see the same tendency as in FIA WEC, with Porsche being currently the car to beat.
The cars have a few days of rest now, before the first race weekend starts this Friday just before midday, with the first practice session. The race will start on Sunday at 12.00 CET.