The final session of the World Endurance Championship Prologue saw a new fastest lap time set, with Nicolas Lapierre jumping on board the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing LMP1 car and putting in a 1:30.547. No others cars could get close to the staggering lap time, leaving Toyota with the fastest lap of the session and the two fastest laps of the weekend.
Oliver Jarvis put in a good first performance for Jackie Chan DC Racing by putting the #38 fastest in LMP2. For the first time this weekend, the #92 Porsche GT Team did not finish the session fastest of the LM GTE Pro cars. That honour was taken by Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK. Porsche were also not fastest in LM GTE Am as the Clearwater Racing Ferrari set the class’ top spot.
Lapierre’s time was nearly a second fastest than that set in the #7 Toyota, with both of the Porsche LMP1 cars over a second away from it. The track temperature was a lot warmer this afternoon than it had been in the morning, and with a completely dry track, Lapierre was able to show just how quick the LMP1 cars are this year.
However, due to the amount of running both Porsche and Toyota completed this session, and the morning session, it is assumed that both LMP1 teams were focused on mileage over speed today. Once again, combined, Porsche set an impressive amount of laps – 167 between both cars – whilst Toyota could not quite match the distance. A late and unexpected rain shower prevented Porsche from repeating their lap total from the morning session as, for the last half an hour of the session, only Toyota was out on track.
After only getting a few laps on the track this morning, Jarvis took the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA 07 and set the fastest lap of the session in the LMP2 class. With this being Jarvis’ first impression of the LMP2 challenger, it was good to see him come out and confidently take the fastest lap, something that remained unchallenged for the session.
There was one Full Course Yellow in this session; it occurred with about half an hour of the session left. Matthew Rao crashed the #36 Signatech Alpine into the tyre barrier at the exit of Lesmo 2. The unexpected rain shower hit the Lesmo corners first and travelled down the track to Variante Tribune. This made the track wet at the top before it reached the pit lane, meaning that it was wet when Rao was not expecting it to be. He simply lost control of the car on the wet track. After being checked track side by the doctor, Rao was cleared and told he was fine and did not need to go to the medical centre.
The Full Course Yellow turned into a red flag as the tyre barrier Rao hit needed to be repaired. In the brief ten minutes where the track action was halted, the rain continued to fall. Unfortunately, this meant that the track was damp again. With only twenty minutes of running left after the track returned to green, none of the teams saw any point in taking their cars out on track. Only Toyota took to the track, setting two/three lap stints for the remained of the session time.
Tincknell and Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK took the final fastest lap of the LM GTE Pro field, with the sister car making it a Ford one-two. The Ford GTs were around four-tenths faster than the two dominating Porsches and split from each other by 0.042 seconds. Just like the LMP1 cars, it could have been that Porsche was more focused on putting mileage on the cars and completing a lot of laps than scoring the fastest time. Combined, the Porsche GT Team #91 and #92 set 103 laps in comparison to the combined total of the Fords, which was 61 laps.
Porsche were knocked off the top spot in LM GTE Am as well as the Ferrari’s of Clearwater Racing and Spirit of Race took the two fastest laps in class. #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488 GTE set the pace with a 1:50.271 whilst the second Ferrari 488 GTE was just over two-tenths of a second slower. The Gulf Racing Porsche was not lost in the distance, setting a time that was only three-tenths off that of the #61. The Aston Martin Racing #98 of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, and Mathias Lauda held the slowest lap time of the session but was only four-tenths off the pace-setting Ferrari’s time.
Along with the formerly withdrawn #4 ByKOLLES Racing LMP1 car, the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing LM GTE Am Porsche 911 RSR (991) announced that it would not be taking part in the final session of the prologue about an hour after the session started. The team did not announce why the Porsche would not be racing, just that its next track exertion would be at Silverstone in a fortnight’s time for the 6 Hours of Silverstone.
With the Prologue now ended, teams will look forward to the first round of the 2017 WEC season. Porsche and Toyota look to be offering a close battle in LMP1, but all will be revealed when relative pace and more data is available at the first practice session of the 6 Hours of Silverstone.
The LMP2 field, with everyone running the same chassis and engines, looks to be wide open for who will take victory at the opening round. Porsche have shown a strong hand in both LM GTE Pro and Am, but whether that is relative and how much Balance of Performance will effect them is yet to be seen. There is no denying that, after the exciting two days of testing that have taken place at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, the 2017 WEC season looks like it is going to be one no one wants to miss.