Lopez Finishes WEC Prologue Fastest with Toyota

by Alice Holloway
Toyota Gazoo Racing led a one-two overall for every session of the 2019 WEC Prologue

Maintaining their position locking out the top two spots on the timing screen, Toyota Gazoo Racing finished the FIA World Endurance Championship 2019 Prologue fastest. In the final session, however, less than half of the grid took to the track as most teams opted to end their tests early.

Only 14 of the 30 cars took to the track this evening, with LMP1 being the only class to see all of its car on the circuit. Five LMP2s and three GTE Ams joined them, but the Ams were only seen towards the start of the session. Due to the drivers being needed in Belgium for the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, none of the GTE Pro cars ran in the final session of the WEC Prologue.

Jose Maria Lopez dictated the pace in the #7 Toyota, setting a 1:29.141 in the early moments of the session. Kazuki Nakajima was less than a tenth off the sister car with his 1:29.187, settling for second in class. The #7 topped more sessions than the #8 during the four sessions of the Prologue. Both cars, once again, were colossal in their lap mileage, both putting in around 130 laps. The team have by far surpassed any other for laps set around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this week.

Signatech Alpine finished the session third in class
Credit: Race Photography

A rapid lap from Gustavo Menezes in the #1 Rebellion Racing brought the team as close as they have been all week to the Toyotas, with his 1:29.408 only two tenths off Lopez’s time. Luca Ghiotto in the #6 Team LNT attempted to go faster than Menezes’ time in the final moments of the session, but his 1:29.679 was three tenths off the Rebellion and half a second off the Toyotas.

Although the #5 Team LNT looked to suffer more issues this session, spending a lot of time in the pits compared to the sister car, a late update from Charlie Robertson saw him close the the gap to the other LMP1 cars. They may have finished slowest of the class, but they were ahead of all the LMP2 cars and only a second off the Toyota pace.

The non-hybrid runners have slowly but surely been climbing closer to the Toyotas during the Prologue, and this could suggest that Toyota may have a bit more competition than just itself this season, if the non-hybrid teams continue to develop as they have done during this test.

Only five of the LMP2 cars took to the track this afternoon, with High Class Racing setting the most laps for the class. They were fourth fastest, just under two seconds off the class pace with their 1:33.534 and an impressive 106 laps of data collected.

Team Racing Nederland stayed on top for the final session of the Prologue, not only claiming the fastest lap with a 1:31.659 in the hands of Nyck de Vries but also setting 92 laps – the second highest of the class. They led #22 United Autosports and #36 Signatech Alpine on the timing board to complete the top three.

Jota, Jackie Chan DC Racing and Cool Racing did not take to the track in the final test session.

#86 Gulf Racing Porsche on track at Sunset
Credit: Race Photography

Only three Am cars set laps in the final four hours of track action, with the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing finishing on top with a 1:44.523. This result meant that a Porsche-running team topped each session in the Am class, giving the impression that the German manufacturer’s package is going to be the one to beat this season.

The #86 Gulf Racing was seven tenths off the pace of the Dempsey car with a 1:45.326, whilst the sole Ferrari to run in this session, #54 AF Corse, finished half a second behind them. Both the #86 and #54 set 20 laps in the first hour and a half of the session, whilst the class leading #88 put in double the lap count with 48 laps.

No GT cars were seen on track from the 90 minute mark, meaning the last two and a half hours of the session were dominated by LMP cars.

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