Estre takes Porsche to the top of methodical Le Mans Test Day

The No. 6 Porsche Penske 963 set the fastest time during the 2024 Le Mans Test Day, Kevin Estre lapping the Circuit de la Sarthe in 3m25.907s during the afternoon session.

It was a highly productive day of running for most of the 62-car field, held in ideal conditions, with no rain and the sun out. It was also particularly crucial for the batch of rookie drivers who needed to complete their mandatory laps to qualify for the event next week.

The times gradually improved throughout the day as the circuit began to evolve and teams completed setup work.

The No. 4 Penske Porsche ended up second in the combined times with a 3m27.142s from Felipe Nasr, who improved right at the death of the afternoon session to get within 0.3s.


Best of the rest was the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 HYBRID, Brendon Hartley setting the car’s 3m27.615s to slot in third. Sebastien Buemi, installed towards the end, set multiple quick individual sector times but didn’t string a lap together to top the timing screens.

The top five, meanwhile, was rounded out by the No. 5 Porsche and the first of the Ferraris (No. 50).

How do these times compare to last year? Estre’s best was significantly quicker than the best from the 2023 Test Day — a 3m29.504s from the No. 51 Ferrari — coming as a surprise to the manufacturers RACER polled. There’s a lot more to come, too, as last year’s pole time was a 3m22.9s.

Mileage, as ever in a test, is more important than outright speed. The No. 20 BMW Team WRT M Hybrid V8 completed the most, with 75 laps. On the other end of the scale, the No. 99 Proton Competition Porsche managed just 35 across the two sessions.

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In LMP2, the No. 22 United Autosports ORECA ended the day on top with a lap of 3m34.704s from Oliver Jarvis, 1.3s up on Olli Caldwell, who put the No. 25 from Algarve Pro in second. A further 0.35s adrift was the Duqueiene Team ORECA in third.

In LMGT3’s first action at Le Mans, the No. 82 TF Sport Corvette Z06 LMGT3.R set the best time of the day, Sebastian Baud reeling off a 3m59.883s during the afternoon in the final hour of running.

While times shouldn’t be read into at this stage, it was encouraging to see five brands represented in the top five of the combined times during the afternoon. Corvette, Aston Martin, BMW, Lamborghini and McLaren were all in the mix.

After Baud in the classification, the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin ended up second in the combined ranking with a 3m59.920s. It was the first car to set a sub-4m lap when Alex Riberas was at the wheel.

Remarkably, the No. 31 WRT BMW ended up setting an identical time, Augusto Farfus also touring the circuit in 3m59.920s.

There should be a lot more to come in LMGT3, though, in terms of raw speed. While LMGT3 is new to the Le Mans 24 Hours, GT3 cars have been racing on the full Circuit de la Sarthe as part of the Michelin Le Mans Cup support races for a number of years. Valentino Rossi’s WRT BMW M4 GT3 set times in the 3m56s in qualifying last year.

During the day there were a handful of significant dramas to report.

The first was the No. 15 WRT BMW stopping on track with a mechanical issue during the morning session. When it returned to the pit lane it was on the back of a flatbed with no visible damage. However, underneath the bodywork, the car had suffered an issue which prompted a full engine change on “safety” grounds.

It did however end up turning laps during the afternoon, completing 11 tours of the circuit and setting a best time of 3m29.580s.

The second was the No. 37 COOL Racing ORECA suffering a substantial off at the exit of the Porsche Curves right at the end of the session.

A team source told RACER that Lorenzo Fluxa had the car unsettled by one of a series of bumps in that section of the track, lifted off to correct it, but lost the rear end. The impact came front-left, the car spinning and damaging the rear clip. Thankfully the chassis was ok and, after repairs, the car made it out in the afternoon.

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Early in the second session, red flags came out for an incident at Indianapolis. Stephane Richelmi in the No. 10 Vector Sport ORECA hit the barriers nose-in at the escape road entry. That left the front-left corner of the car damaged and ended the car’s day prematurely.

It’s been a tough start to the event for the British team, which had to acquire a replacement chassis on short notice last week after a testing incident at Spa.

Toward the end of the session, the “Spike”-liveried AO by TF ORECA also had an off, PJ Hyett making contact with the barriers at Arnage, damaging the car’s front-right corner.

Beyond that, it was a taxing day for the set of drivers also on DTM duty.

Six drivers — Kelvin van der Linde (No. 78 Akkodis ASP Lexus), his brother Sheldon and Sledon’s co-driver Rene Rast (No. 20 WRT BMW), Marco Wittmann (No. 15 WRT BMW), Jack Aitken (No. 311 Cadillac), and Mirko Bortolotti (No. 63 Iron Lynx Lamborghini) — all took part in the morning test session at Le Mans before jumping on a private jet.

The drivers took the same flight directly from the airfield behind the pit lane grandstands to Amsterdam for the second DTM race of the weekend at Zandvoort.

Aitken, who won the first DTM race of the meeting Saturday, completed 64 laps at la Sarthe this morning and set a best time of 3m32.414s before the flight.

“I knew [this weekend] was going to be busy any way we cut it and would try to make the best of the situation,” he explained. “I’m not too worried about being prepared. I’ve been here a couple of times before, and as a team, we’ve made a few big improvements from last year.

“I’m just looking forward to getting on track more Wednesday. Thankfully, Cadillac has been very generous in allowing me to take part in the DTM weekend at Zandvoort – not only Friday and Saturday but also Sunday’s race.”


Story originally appeared on Racer