At 10.30 CET, 20 drivers of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB headed out onto the Circuit de la Sarthe, many for the first time, for free practice. Most of the 61-car field, gathered from 9 of the 19 Porsche one-make series, were facing a steep learning curve as Carrera Cup Le Mans took to the iconic circuit.
Times tumbled by over four seconds during the first practice session, which saw Euan McKay (Redline Racing) and Tom Wrigley (IN2 Racing) very much a part of the leading pack which comprised mainly Porsche Carrera Cup GB competitors.
JTR once again showed their pace with Dino Zamparelli, Lewis Plato and Tio Ellinas all posting strong performances. However, the first practice session ultimately came down to a duel between Porsche Carrera Cup GB championship leader Dan Cammish (Redline Racing) and Florian Latorre (Martinet by Almeras) of Porsche Carrera Cup France. Cammish went fastest and looked to be holding the top spot until on his very last lap, Latorre took fastest time by just 0.058 seconds over the 8.5 mile lap.
A slow zone early in the second session and rising track temperatures meant that initially times struggled to match those from the first session. A notable absentee from the timesheets was Cammish, early contact with a corner marker putting the double champion out of the session. Also missing out was Wrigley, repairs to damage sustained earlier finishing just moments after the pitlane closed.
Porsche GB 2016 / 2017 Scholar Charlie Eastwood (Redline Racing) topped the Carrera Cup GB entry in third with Plato fourth until Zamparelli stormed to the front with just over five minutes remaining. With a 4:09.614, his second of two flying laps, Zamparelli became the only driver to have lapped under the 4:10 second mark and sets himself up as favourite for the qualifying session.
In Pro-Am1, Alex Martin (Team Parker Racing) set a strong pace, but Greg Caton (G-Cat Racing) came through to lead the category timings at the final flag from Graeme Mundy (Team Parker Racing) then Martin.
Peter Kyle-Henney (IN2 Racing) looked to have Pro-Am2 under control, although the nearest challenge looked as though it would come from multiple 2017 podium finisher Peter Parsons (The Race Car Centre). Iain Dockerill (Asset Advantage Racing) rounded out the top three.
With the honour of leading away the grid in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands at stake, the pressure was high going into qualifying. It was Euan McKay who made the early running for Carrera Cup GB in third, with Ross Wylie (Slidesports) in fourth.
Cammish responded to go fastest, and by the mid-point of the 60-minute session six of the top ten were representing Carrera Cup GB. Alex Martin held the lead of Pro-Am1 from Mundy and Sherwood, while Kyle-Henney remained at the top of Pro-Am2 with Shamus Jennings (G-Cat Racing) and Dockerill in pursuit.
The majority stopped with 20 minutes to go in order to change to fresh rubber, and the final flurry of laps saw times drop below the 04:09 mark, the fastest of the weekend so far. Eastwood catapulted himself into third before slipping back to an eventual sixth after light contact with the barriers, while Cammish managed to edge his way into third despite traffic preventing a clear run on his new tyres.
Leading the charge for the top spot was Zamparelli, the fastest driver from practice two pitting himself against the fastest driver from practice one, Latorre. Unfortunately a red flag with two minutes to go caused by a car stopped in a dangerous position interrupted their battle and meant the session would not restart. The stoppage left Latorre with an advantage over Zamparelli of just 0.016 seconds.
In Pro-Am1, Caton once again made a late charge to take category pole position, with Martin second and Mundy completing the top three.
Kyle-Henney improved his times relentlessly to earn himself some breathing space at the top of Pro-Am2, chased by Dockerill and Parsons.
Despite each championship and category scoring points individually, the battle will be on to take the overall win. Cammish missed out on the second practice session and possibly has the most time yet to find of anyone in the top ten. With a rolling start, a long lap and opportunities for slipstreaming, the eventual winner could come from anywhere on the grid, and 2014 proved that at Le Mans anything can happen.
Porsche Carrera Cup Le Mans and round seven of Porsche Carrera Cup GB will take place on Saturday 17 June between 10.15 and 11.00 CET (09.15 and 10.00 GMT).