The ELMS season kicked off this afternoon with the first free practice session for the 4 Hours of Silverstone. The sun got through the clouds a few times in a relatively quiet first session, only interrupted by a few short full course yellows, but without any incidents. The 90 minute session ended under FCY when the #16 Panis-Barthez Competition LMP3 came to a halt at the first corner with only 3 minutes remaining.
Ryo Hirakawa was fastest overall in the #22 G-Drive Oreca 07. Hirakawa managed a lap in 1.44.699, with an average speed of 202.9 km/h. The Japenese driver trashed the former lap record set by Harry Tincknell in the Jota Gibson in 2015 with more than 5 seconds. It was known that the new breed of LMP2's would be fast, but such an improvement is still a bit of a surprise ... and this was only the first free practice session !
Second fastest in the LMP2 class was Ben Hanley in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca, almost a second (0.980) behind Hirakawa. Andrea Pizzitola was the quickest Ligier driver in the #25 Algarve Pro Racing JSP217. Fastest of the Dallara's was Roberto Lacorte in the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara P217 in 1:47.618, placing him fouth ovrall.
Another lap record went down in the LMP3 class this afternoon. Sean Rayhall went fastest in the #2 United Autosports Ligier JSP3 in 1.54.222. Compared to last year's fastest lap set by Alex Brundle in the same car, the American took off 1.6 seconds of Brundle's best lap. Alex Kapida was second quickest this afternoon in the #15 RLR MSport Ligier (1.55.092), ahead of Giorgio Mondini in the #11 Eurointernational (1.55.843). The Norma M30 of M.Racing - YMR has been repaired after its heavy shunt at Monza two weeks ago, and took 12th position in class.
Nicki Thiim set the pace in LM GTE in his #90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage V8. With a fastest lap of 1:58.771, Thiim put himself in the middle of the LMP3 pack. Birthday boy Darren Turner made it an Aston 1-2 today, driving the #99 Beechdean Aston Martin round the track in 1.59.583. The third placed car in class was the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 driven by Matt Griffin.
Second free practice is scheduled for Friday morning at 09.00h. Qualifying is due in the afternoon from 14.05h onwards.
Our picture gallery of the first practice session can be found here.