Peugeot dominate free practice at Spa-Francorchamps

As everyone knows, the top event in long-distance motor racing is the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The dress rehearsal for the 1,000km race is taking place this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps. The numerous competing teams had the opportunity to practice for a full two hours on this roller-coaster circuit in the Ardennes today.

In the first session before midday, the fastest lap was clocked by Oliver Panis driving a Peugeot 908 HDi for the Oreca Matmut team. The Frenchman's time of 02:14.068 minutes was two seconds faster than Anthony Davidson and Simon Pagenaud in second and third, who were driving the same model but for the Peugeot works team.

Fourth-placed Jean-Christophe Boullion was the best of the non-Peugeot drivers with a time of 02:17.741 minutes, closely pursued by the fastest car from the small LMP2 class, the Ginetta Zytek of the ASM team.
As track conditions improved, Peugeot retained the upper hand throughout the afternoon. This time, it was Pagenaud posting the best time; moreover, he was the only driver to crack the two-minute mark. Hot on his heels were his team-mates and Benoit Treluyer who claimed fourth place in his Audi R15.

Behind Oreca Peugeot came another Audi in seventh place, but its German driver, Timo Bernhard, had to content himself with a time that was four seconds down on the leader.

In the GT1 class, Stefan Mücke of the Aston Martin works team made the biggest impression. For his fastest lap, the Berliner needed only 02:20.044 minutes, which was eight-tenths quicker than the second-best GT1 team.

The best-known names were to be found in the rear third of the field, mainly for classification reasons. Multiple World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx was ranked 45th in the first session, though team-mate Dirk Müller was able to improve the standing of the Schnitzer team in the afternoon to overall 40th.

A promising performance was also put in by the two former F1 stars Jean Alesi and Giancarlo Fisichella. During a rainy first practice session, the duo together with Toni Vilander clocked 35th-fastest time in their Ferrari F430 GT, and even moved up one place in the second hour. That was good enough to give them sixth in the GT2 class.
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