LE MANS, France – A late run to the top of the charts saw Circuit de la Sarthe track-record holder Kamui Kobayashi pace the opening day of 24 Hours of Le Mans practice on Wednesday.
Kobayashi turned a time of three minutes, 18.091 seconds around the legendary, 13.626-km, 38-turn course with his No. 7 TS050 Hybrid Prototype for Toyota Gazoo Racing.
That lap bested the No. 11 BR1 privateer entry from SMP Racing for top honors, on a day when Toyota’s No. 7 turned 48 laps between Kobayashi and co-drivers Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez.
Stoffel Vandoorne set a 3:19.931 for SMP Racing in his Le Mans debut, second-overall as the Le Mans course dried throughout the course of a four-hour, rain-plagued practice.
The No. 3 Rebellion R-13 was third for the day after leading the time sheets until the sun came out with just more than an hour left in the session, with the sister Toyota LMP1 of Sebastian Buemi, Fernando Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima fourth, 2.85 seconds adrift.
Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Bruno Senna – in the second Rebellion Racing entry – completed the fastest five in the first practice session.
Because of the off-and-on rain showers, there were incidents aplenty in the session.
The No. 99 Proton Racing Porsche, with Tracy Krohn at the wheel, crashed between the two chicanes on the Mulsanne Straight. The shunt damaged both the car and the barriers, leading to a 45-minute red flag for cleanup.
A later update from the FIA confirmed Krohn’s status as “conscious and in good spirits. He is being taken to the hospital for precautionary checks.”
Frits van Eerd, in the Racing Team Nederland Dallara, also went off course after van Eerd spun the car multiple times down the Mulsanne straight. A third off was seen when the Larbre Competition Ligier hit the gravel at the conclusion of the practice session.
The No. 48 IDEC Sport ORECA 07 Gibson of Paul-Loup Chatin topped the LMP2 class with a lap of 3:28.363, good enough for ninth overall, while Porsche paced both the GTE classes.
The factory-backed Porsche GT Team topped the GTE-Pro ranks, with the full-season No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR co-driven by Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor leading the way after a lap of 3:52.149.
Meanwhile, in GTE-Am, it was Bathurst 12 Hour winner Matt Campbell setting the pace in the Dempsey-Proton Racing No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR at 3:55.304.