It was thankfully an easy start to the FIA World Endurance Championship race weekend at Spa Francorchamps.
After two very dramatic test days, Thursday was the first official day, with a single Free Practice session to be run for the 34 WEC cars.
The events from the Prologue repeated themselves, with the defending LMP2 champions United Autosports USA #22 with Filipe Albuquerque, Phil Hanson, and Fabio Scherer being fastest of everybody, while Alpine Elf Matmut #36 with Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao, and Matthieu Vaxiviere were second fastest – and fastest in the Hypercar category.
Realteam Racing #70 with Norman Nato, Esteban Garcia, and Loic Duval were the second fastest, and fastest LMP2 Pro-Am team, even though the LMP2 team only managed 8 laps, before the car completely shut down by itself, and wasn’t even able to roll into the pit entry and towards its mechanics. Their practice was over since they were not allowed to be towed back to the garage. The stopped car resulted in a single Slow Zone, but other than that, things went smoothly.
JOTA #28 with local hero Stoffel Vandoorne, Sean Gelael, and Tom Blomqvist were fourth fastest overall, and third fastest LMP2 car.
We had to go all the way down to 7th fastest time, to find Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with the defending Champions Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi, and Mike Conway, while their sister car #8 with Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Brendon Hartley were 10th fastest overall. If you look closer at the sector times, there was a chance for Toyota to be second and fourth fastest overall, if they had put all their fastest sectors together on the same lap. We are probably just likely to see their real pace in tomorrow’s qualifying session.
It was a Porsche 1-2 in GTE Pro, with #92 driven by Kevin Estre and Neel Jani fastest, ahead of #91 with Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz. They were followed by the two AF Corse Ferrari #51 with James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, and #52 with Daniel Serra and Miguel Molina, while Corvette Racing #63 took P5 with Antonio Garcia and Oliver Gavin.
GTE Am was a Porsche 1-2-3, headed by Team Project 1 Porsche #56 with Matteo Cairoli, Riccardo Pera, and Egidio Perfetti being fastest, ahead of Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 with Christian Ried, Jaxon Evans, and Matt Campbell, while their sister car #88 with Andrew Haryanto, Marco Seefried and Alessio Picariello were third fastest.
There will be another 150 minutes of practice tomorrow, Friday before the qualifying will start at 18.20 CET. As always, it’s possible to watch the qualifying live on Fiawec.com, if you buy access to the stand-alone weekend or the full season.