Image credit: SportsCarGlobal.
As the FIA World Endurance Championship pre-season Prologue test officially kicks off, Porsche set this morning’s fastest time in the opening test session here at Paul Ricard,. The #2 919 Hybrid was quickest in the four-hour morning session, with a 1:38.264 lap.
Neel Jani’s time some 2.25 seconds quicker than Sébastien Buemei’s in the #5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid in second and the #7 Audi R8 completing the top-three.
Fastest laps aside, Anthony Davidson set the fastest speed of the morning with 338.6 38 kph through the speed trap in the Toyota – the all-new V6 twin turbo engine clearly performing well.
Porsche, Audi and Toyota all chose to run only one car each this morning.
David Cheng’s Baxi DC Racing Alpine led the field in the LMP2 class, with Nelson Panciatici going quickest in his #35 Alpine A460 Nissan setting a 1:47.340, leading an Alpine 1-2 in class.
AF Corse’s #51 Ferrari 488 GTE of Gianmaria Bruni and Paolo Ruberti’s set the GTE Pro top time putting in a1:57.808 with the #50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R taking the GTE-Am morning honours in 1:58.268.
There was a brief red flag ay 11:50 due to debris around turns 9-10 but no serious accidents during the session.
The afternoon session kicked off slowly with just eight cars out for the first 45 minutes. But 15:00 20 cars had set a time.
Light rain arrived at 15:00 but disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived and caused no trouble.
The #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid again set the pace in the 4 hour afternoon session with Romain Dumas putting in a storming 1:37.960 on the second lap after lunch.
Second went to the #7 Audi R18 with Benoît Tréluyer clocking in just 1.433s behind the Porsche. Anthony Davidson took the Toyota TS050 Hybrid to third spot setting a 1:39.559 on the 9th lap.
Oliver Webb made his LMP1 debut this afternoon in the ByKolles CLM P1/01 with the privateer LMP1 finishing the session in sixth place with a 1:43.236 best lap time.
By the chequered flag the Porsche team had clocked up a huge 101 laps with the next closest LMP1 being the Toyota which put in a respectable 62. The Audi R18 spent much of the time in the garage today notching up only 28 laps.
Strakka Racing’s Gibson 015S Nissan topped the tables in LMP2 in the afternoon session clocking in at a very respectable D 1:46.976 on lap 60. RGR Sport by Morand’s LIGIER JS P2 Nissan came home on the second step (1:47.569) with the #36 Signatech Alpine again ‘on the podium’ with teh afternoon’s third fastest time of 1:47.946.
In LM GTE Pro the #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE stole the top spot by 0.218s from the hard charging Chip Ganassi Ford Performance #67 & #66 GTs who took second and third fastest laps with 1:58.697 & 1:58.781 respectively.
The GTE Am credits again went to the Larbre Competition Corvette C7 locking in a 1:58.957 on lap 37 with AF Corse taking second and the Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR finishing third fastest of the session.
Aston Martin Racing were again somewhat unusually lounging at the bottom of both Pro (2:01.681) and Am (2:02.958) timing sheets.
Porsche again set the fastest time during the night session with Neel Jani throwing in a 1:37.487, to set the fastest lap of the day on only the second lap of the session.
Toyota again finished up in second spot with Kazuki Nakajima finishing up 0.86s behind the Porsche. Audi rounded out the hybrid prototypes with a 1:39.678 lap set on the third of their four night laps.
Porsche again put in the bulk of the mileage with 52 laps during the night session.
In LMP2 the Signatch team again showed their potential speed with the #36 Alpine A460 Nissan setting a 1:47.782 to finish at the top of the table. RGR Sport by Morand put in 21 laps during the night session and ended up just 0.039s shy of the Alpine at the end of the session. Third went to Pipo Derani in the #31 Extreme Speed Motorsports with a 1:47.858 – less than 1.2s separating the top three teams!
In LM GTE Pro the final positions were similar to the afternoon session with AF Corse topping the table and the next two places taken by the Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK, the difference being this time the #51 Ferrari 488 topped the table setting a 1:58.109 and the Fords positions were reversed with the #66 putting in a 1:59.041 and the #67 just 0.064 behind its sister car.
Only two cars took to the track in the LM GTE Am class which saw Aston Martin Racing pleasingly at the top of the times when Paul Dalla Lana set a 2:01.754, 0.164s faster than the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR.
Track action begins again at 9am on Saturday when the public will get to see this year’s WEC challengers on track for the first time.