Adding to the hope that there will be a tight fight at the front of the field this year, Toyota Gazoo Racing has finished the second session of the 2017 World Endurance Championship Prologue fastest. They are the first and only team to have set a lap time under the 1m32s mark this weekend.
Last year’s LMP2 champions #36 Signatech Alpine set the pace for the junior prototype class. There has been a great variety in who has been fastest in LMP2, which hopefully indicates a close field and tight battles for the season.
Just as they were this morning, the Porsche GTE cars were the ones to beat in the Pro and Am classes. #92 Porsche GT Team took the fastest lap of LM GTE Pro while Gulf Racing set the pace in LM GTE Am, just as they did in the morning session.
There was a cause for concern for the #2 Porsche LMP1 car as it failed to make it out onto the track until just before the end of the first hour. There is rumour that the second Porsche may have been suffering electrical issues throughout today, something that – if true – Porsche will be striving to fix as soon as possible. Even after it managed to get up to speed, it was no match for the #7 Toyota.
The Toyota #7 seemed to be in a class of its own this afternoon as it took to the track, with Mike Conway wasting no time in setting a fastest lap that was unchallenged by anyone. The 1:31.332 remained unbeaten for the entire session, with the #1 Porsche only managing to get within 0.730 seconds of the time set by the Brit.
This could indicate that Porsche has elected to run their Le Mans aero package from the beginning of the season. Although not confirmed, if they were using a low downforce package on a track that would prefer a high-downforce package it could explain why Toyota appear to have the upper hand.
ByKOLLES, once again, had a horrible session, losing another three hours of testing to the rest of the paddock as they spent another session without leaving the garage. An update on their situation revealed that there were a lot of mechanics crowded around the back of the car and it looked to have the engine cover off.
After finishing the morning session fastest in class, the Vaillante Rebellion had to settle for sixth in class with the #31 and eighth in class for the #13 as Signatech Alpine took the class as their own. The LMP2 grid was covered by 1.2 seconds overall, so it is definitely a tight battle to be fastest.
The #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing had a session full of issues. Firstly, it brought out the first Full Course Yellows after spinning off at Variante Tribune and then a few laps later reported losing liquids on the track, which forced it into the pits. Although it struggled through the first half of the session, the team managed to turn it around and have the car finish second in class, just under a tenth off the class pace-setting team.
There were two Full Course Yellow periods in the afternoon session. The second turned into a red flag period that lasted around ten minutes. The LM GTE Pro car that ended with the fastest lap, Porsche GT Team’s #92, lost the car going through Variante Ascari and ended up stuck in the gravel. Once it was cleared and the session was back underway, the #92 sat in the garage for about half an hour before it was back on track.
Aston Martin still appears to be off the pace in the LM GTE Pro grid, finishing the afternoon session in the last two positions of the class.
Although the #92 Porsche was, again, fastest, the second-placed Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #66 was less than a tenth behind. Porsche took P3 in class with the #91 Porsche GT Team car, but Ferrari managed to get in between the second Ford and the Porsches with the #51 AF Corse. Apart from the Aston Martins so far the grid does seem to be fairly competitive across all cars.
Porsche took a one-two in LM GTE Am with the #86 Gulf Racing and the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing separated by about a tenth of a second. The two Ferrari’s of #54 SPIRIT OF RACE and #61 Clearwater Racing kept the Am final order in manufacturer order.
Aston Martin seems to be struggling in both LM GTE classes, with the pace of the other teams appearing to be too strong for them. Of course, this is only testing, and a lot of set-up factors are unknown, but the fact that they are ending most sessions at the bottom or at the back of their respective classes may be some cause for concern.