IMG_7820After two full days of testing at the Paul Ricard Circuit in France the official FIA WEC tests have come to a close. 

The public day of the tests dawned with a strong, cold wind blowing that lasted all day and long queues of fans waiting to get into the track. With the wind speeds gusting to in excess of 30kts at times the track conditions were tricky all day for the teams with changing strategies and limited runs but although only one car improved its best time overall, the #8 Toyota Racing TS040 Hybrid of Davidson, Lapierre & Buemi, a lot of extra data was gathered from the challenging conditions. Audi’s #1 R18 took top slot on the time sheets with World Endurance Champion Tom Kristensen setting the fastest lap of 1:43.017 ahead of the two Porsche 919 Hybrids. Frenchman Nicolas Minassian put his local knowledge to good use placing the #27 LMP2 SMP Racing ORECA 03 Nissan ahead of its sister #37.  Neither of the Millenium Racing entries ran in the morning session.

IMG_7803The lunch break saw the pit lane opened to the 8000+ fans who had made the journey to Paul Ricard and the drivers taking part in the first signing session of the series; the words of Aston Martin #99 Pro driver Fernando Rees summed up the atmosphere totally, “It was awesome! So many people, and it wasn’t even a race weekend. Impressive for a test day! Thanks everyone”.

IMG_6973With the wind picking up, the post lunch 3-hour session saw 8 of the cars remain in the garage for the entire session with many, like the Aston Martin team, using the time to run through driver changes and engineering duties. Of the remaining 17 cars to head back out onto the track, many only put in a few laps before heading back into the garage. As 2014 LMP2 regulations limit the number of engines that can be used, the afternoon also saw only three cars running in the class and a limited schedule undertaken by all the teams for the entire weekend. The #47 KCMG ORECA 03 Nissan set the best lap of the day with a time of 1:51.071.

IMG_7817In LMGTE Pro the fastest  lap of the two days was set yesterday afternoon by the No.92 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR. Aston Martin Racing’s #99 – crewed by newcomers to GTE Pro, MacDowall, O’Young & Rees set the day’s second fastest time. In the GTE Am class the #88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR set a time of 1:59.042 putting the Am car above its Pro competitor.

The only red flag of The Prologue came out during the day two afternoon when the #14 Porsche lost a wheel while out on track – let’s hope they’ve learned how the wheel nuts work to save a repeat at Silverstone!

IMG_7810The day came to a close with the #2 R18 e-tron quattro of Fässler, Lotterer & Tréluyer setting afternoon’s fastest lap of 1:43.423, four hundredths of a second behind the morning time of the  #1 car.

It is important to remember that, whilst the teams were working hard to set good times, The Prologue remains a test and all out top speed and fastest times are rarely the goals; rather a solid amount of mileage under the wheels, mechanical and operational testing and in the case of some teams, an entirely new crew of drivers learning the car, the team and each other. One thing that is clear from The Prologue though is that we now have an insight into how close the competition will be between VW’s two German LMP1 teams with Porsche’s new 919 Hybrid making an impressive WEC debut finishing the weekend with the fastest time overall of 1:41.289, set during the Friday night session by Brendon Hartley in the #20 car .

Full timing results for the entire weekend are available from the FIA here.

The teams have just over two weeks preparation to finish their race setup before they roll to the UK for the 6 Hours of Silverstone, the opening round of the World Championship which takes place on Sunday, 20th April.