KÜS Team 75 Bernhard began its 2019 Total 24 Hours of Spa assault in ideal fashion as Laurens Vanthoor paced today's opening practice session for the Belgian endurance classic.
The #117 Porsche recorded a best lap of 2m20.098s during the final 10 minutes, securing local star Vanthoor early bragging rights. The 2014 race winner will share the Bernhard-Porsche with Earl Bamber and team boss Timo Bernhard this weekend, forming part of a six-strong assault on the Pro class by the Stuttgart marque.
The #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin took second spot thanks to Maxime Martin, ensuring a Belgian one-two at the top of the order. The 2016 race winner recorded a 2m20.335s to establish his crew as an early front-runner.
Indeed, the Astons looked strong in free practice. The Garage 59 squad completed the top-three, with Andrew Watson lapping just 0.080s shy of the R-Motorsport car.
Yet another Aston was on top in Pro-Am, with the #97 Oman Racing with TF Sport entry leading the way thanks to Nicki Thiim, whose lap was good enough for sixth in the overall classification.
But the session would end badly for the #97 Aston Martin, with Salih Yoluc crashing at Raidillon during the final half-hour. This brought out the only red flag of the 90-minute run and gave the Oman/TF crew a significant repair job ahead of a busy afternoon at the circuit.
The #90 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG led the Silver Cup order with Nico Bastian at the wheel and ended the session a very respectable 10th overall, confirming its status as favourite for class honours. In the Am Cup, the #29 Raton Racing by Target Lamborghini secured top spot courtesy of young ace Alberto Di Folco.
The next track action will begin at 16.15 with pre-qualifying, which also signals the start of live video streaming from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Qualifying proper will get going at 20.00, followed by night practice at 21.40.