At 15h00 this afternoon, the 33 cars entered in the ELMS came took to the track for the second free practice session of the day. The 90 minutes of testing gave all the drivers and their teams the chance to round out their knowledge of the track and to set up their cars ready for qualifying tomorrow morning (09h30).
In the NewBlood by Morand Racing camp, the team was delighted to have set the fastest time of the day with a lap of 1:24.145, just 0.008s better than that of Race Performance which put its No.34 ORECA03 in second place this afternoon with a lap of 1:24.153. Christian Klien, Gary Hirsch and Pierre Ragues were determined to make their mark on the Austrian event and set about doing so admirably this afternoon.
The new Ligier JS P2 of Thiriet by TDS Racing has begun to find its feet on its debut in the ELMS (the set-up of the car being very different compared to that used in the 24 Hours of Le Mans). Tristan Gommendy, Pierre Thiriet and Ludovic Badey put their new beauty in third spot this afternoon, albeit only 0.056s from the only ORECA 03 on track this weekend. At JOTA Sport (No.38 Zytek Z11SN Nissan), Filipe Albuquerque, Simon Dolan and Harry Tincknell took 4th place ahead of the No.36 Signatech Alpine A450b (Nelson Panciatici, Paul-Loup Chatin Oliver Webb).
The Nos.41 and 28 Zytek Nissan Z11SNs of Greaves Motorsport are respectively in 6th and 7th places overall at the end of the day with best laps of 1:25.281 and 1:25.294, both significantly improving their best times compared to this morning's first session. Several new drivers have joined the British squad, such as American Mark Patterson alongside Matt McMurry and Tom Kimber-Smith (No. 41) and the British-Russian pairing of Luciano Bacheta and Mark Shulzhitskiy (No.28). The No.29 Pegasus Racing Morgan Nissan has retained its Imola line up of Julien Schell, Nicki Leutwiler and Jonathan Coleman, setting their best lap of the day at 1:25.727.
Free practice was also a chance for the LMGTEs to work on their cars' set up. The Ferraris are in great form but Porsche and Aston Martin are not far off. SMP Racing set the overall best time of the category this afternoon with a lap of 1:29.746, 0.3s better than this morning. Viktor Shaitar, Andrea Bertolini and Sergey Zlobin headed the No.55 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia of Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Michele Rugolo by 0.49s.
The No. 56 Ferrari of AT Racing claimed the 3rd fastest time today, ahead of the No. 77 Proton Competition Porsche which is being driven by three Austrians: Horst Felbermayr Sr and Jr and Richard Lietz. They are in fact just 0.76s off the best time, and will be determined to shine at their home race. The Gulf Racing UK Aston Martin Vantage V8 was 5th in LMGTE with a lap which was just 0.85s from the fastest of the day. The free practice times certainly signal some great qualifying battles ahead.
Next up were the Ferrari Italias: No.58 of Sofrev-ASP, the AF Corse No.70 and the No.66 of JMW Motorsport and the No.54 AF Corse entry. IMSA Performance Matmut set the 10th and 12th best times of the session, while Kessel Racing and Gulf Racing's Porsche were 11th and 13th.
The GTC class has seen some new faces at the top of the time sheets today. While the No.71 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 remains the fastest overall with a time of 1:31.665, it was Team Russia by Barwell which clinched the class' second fastest time at the end of the day, 0.223 seconds from the leaders. Leo Machitski, Timur Sardarov and Jonathan Cocker put the only BMW Z4 GT3 on the grid in second place with a lap of 1:31.888. They headed the No.59 Ferrari 458 GT3 of Team Sofrev-ASP by nearly 0.2s in which the French trio of Christophe Bourret, Jean Luc Beaubelique and Jean Philippe Belloc posted a best lap of 1:32.082. The Porsche GT3 R of Prospeed Competition was 4th in this session, with a time of 1:32.114 (Max van Splunteren, Gilles Vannelet and Mike Parisy, who has just joined the team).
Ferraris occupy the four following places with the No.57 of SMP Racing in 5th position, No.60 of Formula Racing 6th, the No.73 of SMP Racing 7th and the No.95 of AF Corse in 8th position. ART Grand Prix placed its two McLaren MP4 12C GT3 in 9th and 11th places, with Pro GT by Almeras in 10th and AF Corse closing out the class with the No.63 F458.
Full Timing HERE
(European Le Mans Series PR)