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ELMS Official Test Days, Paul Ricard – Friday Morning

Despite having their headquarters at the Paul Ricard circuit JMB Racing has withdrawn its Ferrari and as a result we’re down to 14 cars. And with several TBA’s on the list before the start of the Official Test here are the updates.

Pierre Bruneau and Ralph Meichtry have joined Race Performance Oreca for the test. Sebastien Buemi is testing with Boutsen Ginion Racing, but more than likely just today. Another former Red Bull-backed driver was seen with the team yesterday, this one being Brendon Hartley - the Kiwi actively searching for a ride. Jesus Diez Villaroel and Jean-Marc Merlin are driving the team’s Oreca FLM09.

Luca Moro has joined Murphy Prototypes, Guillaume Moreau and Dominik Kraihamer are here to test the Morgan-Judd with Jacques Nicolet at OAK Racing.

In the LM GTE Pro category Jonny Cocker joined James Walker in the Ferrari 458 Italia, bright yellow this weekend. IMSA Performance is back with a more metallic blue-white-red livery for its two Porsches.

LMP news from Session 1

No real drama out on the track in the first session – but it became clear that several teams have a lot of work left before the season. In several pitboxes mechanics were still working hard to get the cars ready for this test.

Early in the session the LMP2 cars were already lapping faster than last year’s fastest time set by the TDS Oreca 03 Nissan. After reigning Le Mans Series champion Greaves Motorsport set the fastest time it was the OAK Racing Morgan-Judd, but an hour and a half into the session the Zytek Z11SN was back on top of the list after setting.

That changed when Thiriet by TDS Racing’s Mathias Beche went out for some fast laps, the #46 Oreca setting a 1:48.449, 1.5 seconds quicker than last year’s time in the first test session and almost half a second quicker than last year’s pole position for the 6 Hours of Le Castellet – also set by Beche. As the chequered flag came out Beche improved his time once more – stopping the clocks on 1:48.272.

At the end of the session the garage doors at Murphy Motorsports had been closed, the team spending most of the first session in the pit with mechanics working on the back of the car.

Only Boutsen Ginion Racing posted a time in LMPC. The fastest time several seconds slower than last year. Despite the name change for this year the stickers on the car still show FLM.

GT news from Session 1

In the GT classes the biggest surprise (or not!) was the fastest time set by the Gulf Racing McLaren MP4-12C GT3. Rob Bell took it out on the track early in the session and the McLaren driver posted a 1:58.298, over a second quicker than the first of the GTE cars. Balance of Performance anyone?

Behind the GT3 McLaren it was the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia for quite a while, but in the end it was the IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 997 GT3 RSR #67 that set the fastest GTE time, a 1:59.071. IMSA's second car - the brand new 2012 spec Porsche of Raymond Narac and Patrick Pilet was third fastest. The other GTE Pro car, the JMW Motorsport Ferrari, had its share of trouble as well in session 1, meaning Walker and Cocker didn’t have the chance to show their capabilities yet.

Comparisons with 2011 times from first practice here

LMP2 – 2011 TDS Oreca 03 Nissan 1:50.062 – 2012 Thiriet by TDS Racing 1:48.272
GTE – 2011 Hankook Farnbacher Ferrari F430 1:59.306 – 2012 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 1:59.071
LMPC (FLM) – 2011 JMB – 1:57.952 - 2012 Boutsen Ginion Racing 2:03.551