Photo: John Rourke John Rourke/AdrenalMedia.com
The season-opening Prologue to the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship took place over the weekend of April 1 – 2 at Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
27 of the full-season 28 entries were present on the grid for five test sessions, spread over the two days. Three were held on Saturday April 1, including a night session, with two on Sunday.
Mixed weather conditions allowed teams to test both dry and wet set-ups as the Saturday evening and Sunday sessions were all rated officially wet sessions.
In the premier LMP1 class it was the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 – Hybrid which topped the weekend’s time-sheets after Nicolas Lapierre, driving alongside Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, put in 1:30.547 in the afternoon of the second day. The new-for-2017 Toyota TS050 – Hybrid is clearly very competitive as Davidson put in the second quickest time of the weekend, also on Sunday afternoon, when he lapped the Italian circuit in 1:30.809 on the his 11th lap out of 23.
In LMP2 Matthieu Vaxivière, in the #28 TDS Racing Gibson-powered ORECA 07, finished the weekend quickest in class with a 1:36.078 which he put in on the Sunday morning. Bruno Senna, in the #31 Vaillante Rebellion ORECA 07 was less than two-hundredths of a second slower with a 1:36.094 which the Brazilian driver had clocked on the first session of the weekend.
Less than half a second covered the top five in the LMP2 class which suggests that racing in the new chassis with Gibson powerplants will be highly competitive in 2017.
Porsche GT Team must be very satisfied with its performance over the weekend. Michael Christensen was quickest in the LMGTE Pro category in the #92 Porsche 911 RSR with a 1:47.379 set on the first Saturday session, closely followed by his driving partner, Kevin Estre who set a 1:47.507 on the Sunday morning.
The #91 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR was the second quickest LMGTE Pro car with a 1:47.515 set by Fred Makowiecki on the first session of the second day.
Ford Chip Ganassi team UK were third quickest but maybe have not yet shown all the speed in the Ford GT. Harry Tincknell set a 1:47.530 on Sunday afternoon to finish third quickest in class.
Sprit of Race were quickest in LMGTE Am with the #54 Ferrari F488 GTE lapping in 1:49.843 in the hands of Miguel Molina on Sunday morning. Porsche must again be happy with its performance in the LMGTE ranks with the #86 Gulf Racing UK Porsche 911 RSR (991) lapping in 1:50.010 with Benjamin Barker at the wheel on the first session of the second day.
The scene is now set for the first round of 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship, the 6 Hours of Silverstone on April 16.