As of the end of the first hour of the first session on Sunday morning of the World Endurance Championship Prologue, ByKOLLES Racing had withdrawn their sole LMP1 Privateer car and did not run for the rest of the day.
The team have barely participated in this weekend’s event at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, with Oliver Webb setting the six laps the car recorded this weekend in the rain-effected evening session Saturday night. With the team hoping to use the 2017 season to develop the Nismo-powered ENSO CLM P1/01 in preparation for challenging the Gibson entrants joining the field in 2018, the lack of testing they have achieved in the last two days will not have been the outcome they were hoping for.
What was suspected as engine issues that stalled the team’s running yesterday have turned out to be the team still building the engine. Parts of the new Nismo engine only arrived yesterday and the team lost almost the entire day trying to build the car. Webb managed to get some mileage on the new engine – an engine that has not completed a single test yet. He set five installation laps and one flying lap on the Saturday evening session when the track was saturated from a predicted rain storm that crossed the circuit. A 2:17.915 was the best Webb could get out of the car, around 44 seconds off the average pace of the LMP1 Hybrid cars.
Robert Kubica and Oliver Webb are the only two drivers currently confirmed to be completing the full season with ByKOLLES Racing. The candidate for the third seat – Dominik Kraihamer – was due to run in the #4 today, but as the team withdrew the car from the test he was not able to have his test. Kubica has not run the #4 ByKOLLES car since his rookie test at Bahrain in November 2016. At this test, it was the 2016 ByKOLLES and not the revised version he will be racing in 2017. Not only has the car barely tested or had any on-track preparation for the upcoming season, that starts in two weeks time for the 6 Hours of Silverstone, but it appears the drivers have also had very little track experience (in this car).
Team principal Boris Bermes told Motorsport.com that “We [ByKOLLES] had some issues with the car, not a major failure, just some issues.” The issues were later described as “unexpected” issues by an anonymous source.
“We are trying to find a solution.” Bermes continued.
But the car does not seem to be ready for the new season yet. The team is planning a test between now and Silverstone to make up for the lost time over this weekend, but the clock is ticking on them being able to find a competent, reliable, and permanent solution to get the car race ready.
ByKOLLES appear to be struggling most with their new Nissan twin-turbo V6 engine. Whilst in the pits yesterday, it appeared that the majority of the work being done to the car was situated at the back, where the engine is. A group of mechanics was seen standing around the back of the #4 ByKOLLES ENSO CLM P1/01 whilst the engine cover was off.
There could be updates brought to the front of the car as early as Silverstone. It is difficult to know what needs improving on a car that has done no more than six laps on track, with those six laps being on a very wet track.
Last year, ByKOLLES ran an AER engine, the same manufacturer engine that had powered the car since 2014. The engine supplier change seems to have had a negative effect on the car. Hopefully, ByKOLLES can sort through their car issues and be ready to compete at a competitive level at the 6 Hours of Silverstone in two weeks time.