Well today marks the beginning of what I consider to be the crown jewel of sportscar racing.
Updated at 18:43 6/8/11
Early on the Oreca Matmut Peugeot leapt to the front with a 3:30. At this time, it is really hard to tell if the car was in qualifying trim or not. Though this is a far cry from what the #7 factory Peugeot did, 3:28.692. It is clear there is still time in the car, how much though depends on how much Peugeot will tip their hands. Audi set 3:27's in the R18, so there is proof the cars can go faster. Evidenced again by Mike Rockenfeller throwing down a 3:27.986 at the end of the session at 204 mph (329 kph) in the speed trap. Aston continues to be a bit a disappointment and I just see them finishing, not even being in contention with the other petrol (gas) powered cars... but it does sound good!
For P2, it is still a toss up. However, as we have seen time and time again, just getting these cars to finish the 24 hours is an achievement. I expect Strakka to take the pole, and maybe the race, with the Signatech Nissan to be close in tow. I don't see the P2's doing much better the 3:36's for qualifying.
In GTE Pro, the BMW Motorsport, Corvette Racing, and numerous other GT teams have been at the top of the time sheets. I can definitely see qualifying times to be under 4 minutes, maybe even 3:55. This will definitely be, without a doubt, the most exciting class to watch on track. Look for qualifying to be equally exciting.
GTE AM is anyone's guess. It really comes down to who has the deepest pockets for this class. I can see Labre lasting the race if they don't have problems. Though I do have to say I can see Krohn racing, driving the older F430 doing very well, possibly even winning the class. The car is sorted very well, it is unbelievably fast, and they have extensive experience with the car. The class battle will be between these two cars in my opinion.
All in all it was an interesting practice session. Early on the #76 Porsche had an off and the session was red flagged to reposition/fix the tire barrier. There were other spins by GTE-AM cars, and punctures seemed to be a problem. Though, it can be expected for the number of punctures to decrease as the track gets cleaner. The RML car had a small fire, but made it back to the track. One of the Astons, the #009, had an oil leak. Aston hopes to be back out for the next session. The #74 Corvette had a small fire out the left hand side of the car around the two hour mark, but the car returned the track shortly after pitting.
Next is the first of two, two hour qualifying sessions. This will be the night session. After a two hour break from practice, the cars will take to the track again.
Read about qualifying here!