WEC: Scene set for spectacular Super Season after conclusion of the Prologue at Paul Ricard
The first public running of the new 2018/19 FIA WEC Super Season came to a close at Circuit Paul Ricard this afternoon after 9,836 laps were completed.
The 30-hour Prologue test was conducted in perfect conditions for the teams as they make final preparations before the first round at Spa-Francorchamps on May 5, the Total 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps.
The pair of Toyota GAZOO Racing TS050 HYBRID entries headed the way as they conducted the most laps by a team, registering a remarkable 1,002 tours of the French circuit.
The team tested many aspects of its upgraded design and, although Mike Conway set an overall best of 1m32.662 in the No.8 car, it was largely unrepresentative due to Toyota running unrestricted when the time was set.
Behind the Japanese team there was a large amount of interest in the variety of all-new non-hybrid LMP1 cars.
The SMP Racing BR1 design continued its impressive introduction to LMP1 competition as Vitaly Petrov took third position. There were equally promising showings from the new Rebellion R13 as André Lotterer set the fourth quickest time in the car’s first significant test.
The ByKolles and CEFC TRSM Racing teams both ran important test programmes during the track time available with the new Ginetta running a combined 259 laps.
Dragonspeed placed eighth in the LMP1 order in its debut showing, with the American team accruing valuable data and knowledge as it gets set for the Super Season.
The 2018 LMP2 field was headed by former Williams and Lotus F1 driver Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan made his endurance racing debut at the test after two years away from motorsport.
Maldonado set a best lap of 1m40.771s on Friday evening in the DragonSpeed Oreca-Gibson he will share with Roberto Gonzalez and Nathanael Berthon at Spa and Le Mans.
Signatech Alpine Matmut placed second as they chase a second title to add to their 2016 LMP2 championship success. Jackie Chan DC Racing ended the test third and fourth as they introduced new drivers to the WEC in both of their entries for 2018.
The LMP Headlines from the 2018 Prologue…
• Toyota ends 2018 Prologue top of times but new LMP1 entries impress with reliability and pace as teams prepare for Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps next month.
• Mike Conway sets fastest lap of 1m32.662s in No.8 Toyota TS050 HYBRID as team runs a combined 1002 laps of Paul Ricard.
• SMP Racing lead chase of Toyota in first non-hybrid LMP1 entry.
• No.11 BR1-AER LMP1 sets a time of 1m37.034s as Vitaly Petrov sets time in evening running for Russian squad
• Rebellion Racing debuts new R13 model and places fourth as André Lotterer laps just 0.010s off Petrov’s best
• Second SMP Racing entry places fifth ahead of ByKolles challenger
• Ginetta G60-LT-P1 Mechachrome ends seventh as CEFC TRSM Racing new signings Alex Brundle and Oliver Rowland get to grips with all-new British LMP1 design.
• Dragonspeed BR1and the second CEFC TRSM Racing Ginetta complete LMP1 order as new entries shakedown for first time.
LMP2 class witnesses WEC debutant Pastor Maldonado set best time on his endurance racing debut.
• Maldonado sets 1m40.771s best in Dragonspeed Oreca-Gibson
• Signatech Alpine Matmut places second as they chase a second LMP2 title in 2018
• Fans enjoy open house at Circuit Paul Ricard with post-test pit walk.
The LMGTE Pro class saw the Porsche GT Team to the fore as they placed 1-2 after the Prologue test. The running saw five highly prestigious manufacturers continue preparations for one of the most anticipated LMGTE PRO title fights in recent years.
Gianmaria Bruni, in the No.91 Porsche 911 RSR set a best of 1m51.332s on Friday evening. The Italian’s lap just eclipsed Kevin Estre’s best effort in the No.92 car as the German manufacturer logged a combined 638 laps.
BMW set about endurance testing one of its all-new M8 GTE cars logging 682 laps with the No.82 car BMW Team MTEK squad making good progress as they ready for debuting at Spa next month. Ferrari put more miles on its updated 488 GTE Evo model but saw drama with its No.51 car when a fuel fire curtailed its test and limited running to just 64 laps. No.71 ran untroubled.
Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK ended the test third and fourth behind the Porsches, while Aston Martin conducted a pure endurance run with its no.95 car.
In LMGTE Am Porsche locked out the four fastest positions as the pair of Dempsey Proton 911 RSR’s placed first and third sandwiching the Gulf Racing entry. New entrants Team Project 1 ended fourth while fellow WEC debutants TF Sport took their Aston-Martin to fifth quickest.
The Headlines from the GTE Classes at Prologue….
• LMGTE Pro sees strongest ever field share track for first time as ten factory entries begin title campaign preparations.
• Porsche GT Team ends 30 hours 1-2 as No.91 911 RSR heads sister No.92 car
• Gianmaria Bruni sets best time of 1m51.332s as he makes first WEC appearance for German manufacturer
• Ford GTs get closest to Porsche times as No.67 and No.66 Ford Chip Ganassi entered cars are separated by just 0.1s
• BMW conduct endurance test on spectacular new M8 GTE design
• No.82 BMW Team MTEK car driven by seven factory drivers present places sixth in LMGTE Pro class
• Ferrari sees test compromised by fuel fire which damaged wiring loom on updated No.51 AF Corse 488 GTE car
• New No.95 Aston Martin Vantage sets the most individual laps of the test with 852 completed
• Dempsey Proton Porsche lead the way in LMGTE Am as Matteo Cairoli sets best class time in early morning running
• Italian peaks on 1m52.936s best with No.86 Gulf Racing Porsche second and second Dempsey Proton Porsche rounding out top three
• Teams now get set to head to Belgium for opening round of FIA WEC Super Season on May 5 – the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps