Porsche ended the FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue as the leading manufacturer, dominating the two day test session at Paul Ricard with its pair of new Porsche 919 Hybrids.
Neel Jani’s 1m 37.220s in the first afternoon session was the fastest time overall, nearly two seconds quicker than the nearest Audi R-18 etron quattro of Benoit Treluyer.
Jani’s lap was an astounding 3.9 seconds faster than the qualifying lap record, set by Nicolas Lapierre in a Peugeot 908 HDi FAP in 2010. The sister Porsche also ran successfully, with Marc Lieb’s 1 m37.439s lap on Friday night the second quickest of the event.
The #7 and #8 Audis were third and fourth fastest respectively, while Toyota assumed the final two manufacturer spots. Defending world champion Anthony Davidson set the pace for the Japanese squad, with a 1m 39.949s in Friday’s opening session.
Team ByKolles was the only representative from the LMP1 privateer ranks taking part in the Prologue, after Rebellion Racing withdrew its two car effort to focus further on its engine and chassis integration. Former Toro Rosso F1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi posted a fastest time of 1m 46.983s on Saturday afternoon, nearly ten seconds slower than the leading Porsche. However, the turbocharged AER V6 tubro engine was able to compete with some of the manufacturer entries on the Mistral Straight, with Simon Trummer recording a top speed of 198.2 mph.
The only major incident of the Prologue occurred in the final session, when Mike Conway (#2 Toyota TS040 Hybrid) stopped on track after reportedly taking evasive action in response to a GTE-Pro Ferrari, bringing proceedings to a premature end.
KCMG’s Matthew Howson set the quickest time in LMP2, despite the team experiencing slight setbacks in the first and last sessions. The Englishman’s 1m47.456 was enough to place the team’s newly purchased ORECA 05-Nissan at the head of the timing sheets, almost seven tenths quicker than the fastest lap of the European Le Mans Series test that took place earlier in the week.
G-Drive Racing also enjoyed a thorough test session, using the year-old Ligier JS P2-Nissan. Frenchman Julien Canal recorded a 1m 47.760s which was enough to hold second place at the end of Saturday’s running.
Extreme Speed Motorsports decided not to run in the Saturday sessions, although Ed Brown and team owner Scott Sharp were able to gain track time in an OAK Racing Ligier to help them acclimatise to the chassis that the team will be using from Spa onwards.
Despite trailing the other manufacturers in the early stages, Aston Martin Racing set the quickest time of the Prologue in the GTE-Pro category, with Fernando Rees registering an impressive 1m 57.331s in the #99 Aston Martin V8 Vantage. The championship-winning #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of Gianmaria Bruni finished just 0.1s adrift in second place. The #95 ‘Dane Train’ Aston Martin completed the top three, with recent signing Marco Sørensen at the wheel.
Aston Martin Racing also topped the GTE-Am class, with the #96 Aston Martin V8 Vantage of Stuart Hall setting the fastest overall GTE lap of the Prologue. The Briton’s 1m 57.116s was seven tenths quicker than the guesting #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia, driven by Jakub Giermaziak. Experienced American driver Patrick Long ended the test as third quickest, with a 1m 58.275s lap aboard the #77 Dempsey Racing-Proton Porsche 911 RSR.
The 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship gets underway next month with the 6 Hours of Silverstone (April 12). Several of the cars competing in the opening round will be presented at London’s Marble Arch next week.