With around two minutes left to run the 30 hour Prologue session was red-flagged due to the Dragonspeed LMP1 car stopping on the Mistral straight. With the cars now all back in the pits, Toyota leave France’s Paul Ricard circuit with the ‘fastest’ car as Mike Conway topped the times with a 1:32.662; however, all may not be as it seems.
As reported by DSC, Toyota’s early times were set with the cars configured without the fuel flow and boost control limits that are specified by the Equivalence of Technology (EoT) regulations as the team were undertaking (successful) tests of a new cooling system to extreme levels. Since 5pm on Friday the team have reverted to the EoT specified engine configuration and the TS050’s lap times have dropped back; the #7 being behind the #11 SMP Racing BR1, the #1 Rebellion Racing R-13, #17 SMP BR1 and #4 ByKolles CLM non-hybrid LMP1s.
And talking of the ByKolles CLM, the ageing chassis, loosely based remember on the ADESS built Lotus T128 LMP2 platform, has lapped consistently in the top times of the non-hybrid cars (with Tom Dillmann setting a 1:37.795 fastest lap) and completed a not unreasonable 331 laps over the two-day test.
Looking at each class in a little more detail:
In the LMP1 category the non-hybrid field appears to be incredibly close with o.76s separating the top four cars and under 3 seconds for the entire field. With the extrapolation of the Toyota’s times being slower when the take to the track in Spa than headlined here we can be sure of some very close racing in the top class from the first round. Come race-day the three BR Engineering BR1 cars should be watched closely too – throughout the Prologue there has been little separating the SMP run cars and the Dragonspeed car yet they utilise different power units; a 2.4 litre V6 turbo AER for the SMP duo and the new 4.5 litre normally aspirated V8 Gibson GL458 for Dragonspeed.
Looking at the LMP2 class the Oreca 07 continues its dominance displayed in 2017; the top three positions were all filled by the Oreca teams (with the #31 Dragonspeed topping the times) yet the gap certainly appears to be narrowing with Racing Team Nederland clocking up a 1:41.323 with their Dallara P217 to claim fourth spot means just 0.552 seconds separate them from the leading #31 Dragonspeed Oreca.
Sadly the sole Ligier JS P217 is still struggling to find speed in the hands of Labre Competition and the very competitive Fernando Rees (who for the moment at least appears to have swapped his Brazilian race licence for a Canadian one), languishing at the bottom of the class some 1.19 seconds off the lead pace.
The Porsche and Ford factory teams continued their dominance of the GTE Pro ranks with the #91 and #92 911 RSRs taking first and second spot respectively over the #67 and #66 GTs of Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK, the fastest of the Porsches lapping some 0.7 seconds ahead of the Fords.
In terms of ‘getting the laps in’, Aston Martin Racing were the team to watch with the #95 Vantage AMR clocking in an enormous 852 laps with the next closest being the #82 BMW Team MTEK M8 GTE with 682. Neither Porsche nor Ford completed anywhere near as many laps with the #91 Porsche completing 350 laps and the #67 Ford GT clocking in 304.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the GTE Am 991 RSR Porsches were setting the lap times alight with the #86 Gulf Racing UK and both Dempsey – Proton Racing cars splitting the GTE Pro field times, consequently the race in the Am field appeared to be to claim the honour of ‘second fastest manufacturer’. To that end, the ageing Aston Martin V8 Vantages of the factory team and TF Sport acquitted themselves admirably to hold back the AF Corse run Ferrari 488s – time will tell whether the ‘old bruisers’ can keep up their advantage of succumb to the turbo-lead attack of the Ferrari 488 GTEs.
What all this means is that, as usual for the pre-season tests, not much can be drawn from today’s figures! While some of the cars will have been putting in ‘race pace’ laps some of the time, it is reasonable to suggest that all of the teams have been working through final test scenarios and as such the times set here today can at best be described as indicative.
You can find all of the timing from the 30 hour Prologue on the Alkamel Systems timing page here.