Text and Images: Rick Kiewiet
SMP Racing has set the fastest time in free practice on day 1 of the 6h of Spa. Where FP 1 was driven in completely dry conditions, FP 2 was characterized by a couple of fierce rain showers, not unfamiliar to frequent visitors of the track in the Belgian Ardennes...
In FP 1 the no. 17 car of Sarrazin, Orudzhev and Sirotkin was almost two seconds clear of the no. 11 sister car of Aleshin, Petrov and debutant, local hero and ex-McLaren F1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne. Vandoorne did immediately manage to become the 2nd fastest driver of the day, seemingly not needing a lot of time to adapt to his new LMP1 machine. Behind both SMPs followed the two Toyota's, the no. 8 a tenth of a second quicker than the no. 7. The Rebellion no. 3 and no. 1 cars followed not far behind. The ByKolles car, now running with a Gibson engine instead of the Nissan, couldn't put in as much laps as the other LMP1's, resulting in a 3.5 second gap to the Rebellions.
In the wet FP 2 the Toyota's, with their All Wheel Drive, were back on top of the charts. The no. 11 SMP however continued to show strong pace, as it fell no more than 0.6s behind the second Toyota. The no. 17 sister car was parked with his behind in the barrier at Blanchimont by Stephane Sarrazin, suffered considerable damage to the rear and had to be returned on a flatbed. It did not return to FP 2. On respectable distance the two Rebellions and the ByKolles followed the SMP, noteworthy the fact that the ByKolles squad managed to pick up the pace, only 0.023s behind the second Rebellion.
The championship leading no. 36 Alpine squad topped the LMP2 time table of FP 1. Last years winner, the no. 26 G-Drive car was only 2 tenths of a second away. In third was the Racing Team Nederland Dallara P217. The team is getting the only Dallara entry in the field more and more up to speed. After they only just missed out on the podium at Sebring, Giedo van der Garde was now able to drive the third best time in class. The rest of the field was all within a second behind.
The no. 31 Dragonspeed Oreca driven by Pastor Maldonado, Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzales showed strong pace in wet FP 2. The managed to create a 1.6s gap between them and the rest of the field. The no. 28 TDS racing car was best of the rest.
First place in FP 1 in the GT Pro category was actually shared by two cars: Both the no. 97 Aston Martin Vantage (Maxime Martin) and the no. 66 Ford GT (Harry Tincknell) drove a 2:15.290. The no. 82 BMW M8 took third place. The entire field was within 1.4s.
The Dane Train in the no. 95 Aston took the honours in FP 2. Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen staying some 2 tenths in front of the no. 91 Porsche. The no. 97 Aston took third spot.
In GT Am both sessions were topped by Porsches, though not the one which can take the championship this race: The no. 56 Project-1 Porsche didn't get further than 5th place in both sessions. FP 1 was topped by the no. 86 Gulf Porsche, while the no. 77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche was quickest in the rain.
Action continues tomorrow with FP 3 at 11:00 (10:00 GMT), GT qualifying at 15:00 (14:00 GMT) and LMP qualifying at 15:35 (14.35 GMT).