Toyota’s final generation TS050 Hybrids set the pace in today’s opening session of the World Endurance Championship Season 8 Prologue at Spain’s Circuit de Catalunya. The first session seeing five of the six LMP1 cars on site take to the track.
The #7 car shared by Conway, Kobyashi, Lopez and Toyota newcomer, Thomas Laurent, set the fastest lap of the day with Jose Maria Lopez setting a 1:29.991 and a maximum speed of 186.2 kph on lap 75.
By lap 107, Sébastien Buemi was lapping under .3s behind Lopez’s fastest time in the sister #8 TS050 setting a fastest lap of 1:30.258.
The fastest of the non-hybrid cars was the #3 Rebellion Racing R13 Gibson in which Gustavo Menezes set a 1:31.603. The team surprised some in the paddock by running two cars today as initially only a single chassis had been entered.
Bruno Senna took the #1 Rebellion R13 to fourth fastest of the day setting a 1:32.091 across the 4.655 mile circuit.
While ‘non-factory’ Ginetta Team LNT delivered on their commitment to bring two Ginetta G60-LT-P1-AER cars, only one made it out of the garage. The #6 car, under the helm of Stephane Sarazin, completed just 15 laps with a fastest time of 1:34.670 putting it squarely in the middle of the LMP2 lap times.
In the ultra-competitive LMP2 class, two of the top three cars were ‘new for Season 8’ Oreca teams.
United Autosports topped the pack with their brand new Oreca 07. After a steady start and running through a new test and familiarisation program following a switch from the Ligier, Paul Di Resta set a fastest lap of 1:33.344 on the penultimate of the car’s 62 laps.
Hot on the Scotsman’s heels was André Negaro in the #36 Signatech Alpine (wearing ELF sponsorship this season with Matmut moving to Rebellion) who set a best time of 1:33.652.
Third fastest in class was Racing Team Nederland. Having extracted all they could get from their Dallara last season the team switched to the Oreca 07 supported by TDS with today being the first running the new team/driver/car combination has had. The car ran 97 laps in this morning’s session with Giedo van der Garde setting a best time of 1:34.176 on lap 56.
Less than 1.2 seconds separated positions four through seven with the 1:35.513 of Giorgio Sernagiotto in the #47 Cetilar Racing Dallara P217 – Gibson being noteworthy as it put the Dallara mid-table of the fastest driver’s times (although penultimate overall in class).
The ex-Dragonspeed trio of Davidson, Maldonado and Gonzalez, now installed in Jota’s “Mighty 38” rounded out the class finishing up the session 3s adrift of the United Autosports time.
GTE, both Pro and Am, was littered with new liveries (TF Sport’s switch from blue to read being the most striking) and new entries.
In Pro, Ferrari and Porsche dominated the times with the lone Aston Martin Vantage GTE bumping along the bottom. Fastest of the session was Italian Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE EVO who clocked in a laptime of 1:44.040 around half-way through the car’s 75 laps.
Next up was the #71 sister car of Rigon and Molina .6s behind setting a 1:44.667.
Third and fourth fastest respectively in class were the newly updated Porsche 911 RSR – 19 cars; Gianmaria Bruni setting a 1:44.922 in the #91 and Kevin Estre less than .05s behind (1:44.970) in the #92.
The ‘Slowest’ Pro car was the #97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage AMR in which Belgian driver Maxime Martin set a 1:46.090.
In GTE Am, the ‘podium’ was a Porsche lockout.
Matteo Cairoli topped the table setting a 1:45.009 in the #57 Team Project 1 911 RSR. Next up was Jorg Bergmeister in the sister #56 car (still wearing its Le Mans livery) just .6s behind.
Third fastest in the session was the #77 Dempsey – Proton Racing 911 which Matt Campbell took to a 1:45.730.
The first Ferrari was the #54 AF Corse which finished fourth with the first of the ‘new for 2019’ Aston Martin Vantage GTE Am being the #90 TF Sport car piloted by Jonny Adam. The #88 Dempsey – Proton Racing did not run in the morning session.
With just over 1.6 seconds between first and last, GTE Am looks like it could be the class to watch in 2019/20.
As usual, we finish of with the words: Remember, this is just testing, so don’t put any reliance into the times you see here over the next two days, we’ll see what these teams and cars are really capable of when Round 1 kicks off at Silverstone next month.