The rain that fell over the Autodromo Nazionale Monza last night was still lingering around this morning for the second morning session of the 2017 World Endurance Championship Prologue in the form of a damp track. Proceedings started off slow as the teams waited for dry lines to start to appear.
Porsche #1 took the fastest lap of the session, with Neel Jani setting an impressive time of a 1:32.020. LMP2 had a different pace-setter this morning, with TDS Racing claiming the top spot in class. #92 Porsche GT Team was consistent with yesterday’s form, taking the fastest lap, once again, in LM GTE Pro, but there was a new fastest team in LM GTE Am as the #54 Spirit of Race held the pace.
The most impressive thing about the LMP1 field this morning was the amount of laps both teams managed to set within the three hours. Collectively, the two Porsches managed to set 212 laps, with Toyota Gazoo Racing trailing a little with a collective total of 181 laps. Both teams came out with the green flag and it was clear there were on a mission to get as much mileage on the cars as possible.
Porsche also elected to complete some Hybrid tests. This meant that the cars would lap round on nothing by Hybrid power. The idea being that if the engines fail in a race situation, they Hybrid systems were sophisticated and reliable enough to be able to complete the lap and get the car back to the pits so it could be repaired. This could be in response to the issues that Porsche has faced over the last few years.
The Porsches were lapping at a very competitive pace. Timo Bernhard managed to get to 0.004 seconds off the time set by Jani at the end of the session, with both Porsches finishing four-tenths faster than the Toyotas.
The test session has gone from bad to worse for #4 ByKOLLES Racing who, only an hour into this morning’s session, have withdrawn from the test. Unspecified issues had prevented the #4 from running pretty much the entirety of yesterday’s sessions and it is believed that these issues – which are rumoured to be the new Nismo engine issues – cannot be resolved to give the team enough time to get any useful testing done today. This does not bode well for ByKOLLES season as they are yet to get much mileage in their new car. It is expected they will have a tough race in Silverstone in a fortnight’s time.
The LMP2 field was as close as it was yesterday, with just over two seconds covering the whole field. #28 TDS Racing led the pack with a 1:36.078 and was just over four-tenths fastest than the other TDS Racing car #26 G-Drive.
#31 Vaillante Rebellion reported having engine issues throughout the session. It managed to finish seventh fastest in class with a 1:36.883, getting 25 laps on the board. Whatever the issues were, the team seemed to get passed them. It will be interesting to see how much running they get done this evening.
Another LMP2 that seemed to have some issues was the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing. Until the last few minutes of the session, the car had not set a lap time. It looked like it was doing installation laps and checks, coming in and out of the pits without going for a fast time. Oliver Jarvis climbed into the car and set a 1:37.361 in the last few minutes to put the #38 eighth fastest.
Porsche GT Team #92 continued to lead the LM GTE Pro class with a time of 1:47.507, the #91 setting a time 0.008 seconds slower. But they certainly were not running away with the pace as the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK Ford GT of Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx was third fastest, with only 0.035 seconds splitting them and pace-setter #92.
The LM GTE Pro field went two-by-two in manufacturers, with Ferrari leading Aston Martin to complete the order. Aston Martin Racing are still setting times over half a second slower than AF Corse and over two seconds slower than the Porsches at the front of the field. If this pace is relative, the Aston Martins will be relying on Balance of Performance to bring them closer to the front of the class field.
Spirit of Race made a decent impression during this session, beating yesterday’s pace-setters #86 Gulf Racing to the fastest lap of the session by two-tenths. The 1:49.843 lap time was set before the #54 took to the gravel going too deep into Variante Ascari.
The LM GTE Am field was a lot more mixed this morning, with the top three being composed of all three manufacturers. The final lap times of this morning saw the LM GTE Am class covered by less than a second. Hopefully, this implies that the grid will be mixed and throw up some excellent wheel-to-wheel racing throughout the championship.