Oreca dominate two out of three sessions
Only Rebellion offer any sort of resistance during free practice at the Hungaroring
While Formula One continues to lay on processions, the Le Mans Series offers a thrilling night-time race with the LMP2 and GT2 titles still very much up for grabs.
The Oreca Peugeot 908 was determined to stamp its authority on the proceedings right from the first of the three practice sessions. On the penultimate race weekend of the season, the French team aim to increase their lead in the overall standings and – after flopping so badly at Le Mans itself – at least win the series.
Although no-one can wrap up the LMP1 championship in Hungary this weekend, the fastest class of the series will once again be the main focus of attention. The crowd will not only be assessing the comeback by the Mansell family following their accident at Le Mans but also the performance of the Oreca Peugeot 908. Stéphane Sarrazin, Nicolas Lapierre and Olivier Panis in their diesel coupé stormed into the lead during Free Practice 1 with a time of 01:38.853 minutes, while their closest pursuer in the LMP1 class – Rebellion Racing in the shape of Neel Jani – was being pipped by the fastest of the LMP2 contestants.
The second session also belonged completely to the Lions. Nicolas Lapierre shaved two whole seconds off the lap time clocked by the Oreca Peugeot in FP1 ahead of the solid Strakka crew from LMP2 and the two Lola coupés of Rebellion. Swiss-based Rebellion then went on to secure the first two places ahead of the 908 and the Strakka during the third (night-time) session.
The LMP2 class could see the first of the championship titles decided this weekend, because the Ray Mallock Ltd. (Lola-HPD) team already has 55 points – a 16-point advantage over the two Pescarolos of OAK that are both currently on 37. In the first practice session, though, it was the Acura of Strakka that headed its own class and ranked second overall. RML meanwhile came in behind Quifel ASM and one of the two OAKs. In the subsequent test sessions, a scrap broke out between OAK, Quifel ASM and RML for second pace behind Strakka.
In the Formula Le Mans Series, all the teams are in with a chance of the title with Applewood, Dams and Hope showing a particular appetite for pole position.
The GT1 class, which has been shabbily treated this year and is due to disappear from the scene in 2011, sees the two Saleens of Larbre and Atlas eFX compete for honours in Budapest. In the practice sessions, the two S7s never got into any semblance of rhythm and even had to watch as some of the GT2 teams sailed past. The French Larbre Equipe already has a 36-point lead and looks unassailable, but whether the GT1 championship amounts to much – especially in the eyes of the FIA – is a moot point.
If the AF Corse Ferrari F430 driven by Fisichella, Vilander and Alesi (currently on 52 points) messes up tomorrow, this could allow Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz to snatch the title in the small but high-calibre GT2 class. The Felbermayr Proton Duo (Porsche 911 GT3-RSR) has a ten-point lead on the Italians going into Sunday's 1,000km race, but was unable to match the time of the F430 in the first session, coming only fifth in its class. The two Ferraris were also faster than the Prospeed Porsche of Marco Holzer and the Aston Martin Vantage of JMW.
In the second free practice session, Alesi's lapped the Budapest circuit faster than the Porsche of IMSA Performance Matmut and the Vantage of JMW. The CRS Ferrari then snatched the fastest lap in the final session ahead of Marc Lieb (Felbermayr) and Giancarlo Fisichella (AF Corse).