This weekend is the Prologue, an open test session for all teams that have declared intentions to race in the FIA World Endurance Championship full-time in 2017. 27 cars are present at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza for two days of testing on the ultra-fast 3.5996-mile road course.
After the first day, Toyota GAZOO Racing’s Mike Conway is fastest overall. His lap in the afternoon session of 91.332 seconds (141.884 mph) was nearly three-quarters of a second clear of the field.
During the morning session, it was Porsche that put themselves at the top of the order quickly. Despite Porsche LMP Team’s No. 2 of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, and Marc Lieb winning the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship last year, only Jani is back to defend the title. Dumas and Lieb have been replaced by former Audi racer André Lotterer and former IMSA regular Nick Tandy.
The first session saw Jani setting the pace in the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, setting a fast lap of 92.068 seconds (140.750 mph). Jani’s lap was one-sixth of a second faster than the best of the Toyotas. The No. 8 Toyota TS050 – Hybrid of Anthony Davidson was second fastest, followed by the No. 7 Toyota of Conway. Brendon Hartley was fourth quickest in the No. 2 Porsche.
In the WEC, P2 is effectively a spec class. Even though all four chassis manufacturers (Dallara, Onroak Automotive, ORECA and Riley-Multimatic) are eligible to compete, the only cars entered for the season are ORECA 07’s. That includes the Alpine A470’s run by the Signatech Alpine Matmut team. Those are rebadged ORECA 07’s.
Valliante Rebellion’s Bruno Senna was fastest in the morning session (fifth overall) with a lap of 96.094 seconds (134.853 mph) in the team’s No. 31 ORECA 07-Gibson. Mathias Beche was second fastest, nearly two-thirds of a second slower than Senna in the No. 13 Valliante Rebellion entry.
The real takeaway in the opening session was that the P2 cars are much faster in a straight line this year. The aforementioned Dumas, now driving the No. 36 Alpine A470-Gibson for Signatech Alpine Matmut, was the fastest overall through the speed trap in the morning session at 307.7 kph (191.196 mph).
In GTE-Pro, Porsche GT Team’s Michael Christensen was fastest (14th overall) in the new Porsche 911 RSR with a lap of 107.379 seconds (120.681 mph). The Manthey Racing-run team is back in the WEC full-time after a year away. Christensen’s lap is one-sixth of a second faster than Andy Priaulx in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK Ford GT. Stefan Mücke, in a similar No. 66 Ford GT was third quickest, four-tenths of a second back. Frédéric Makowiecki was fourth quickest in the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR, while Davide Rigon was the fastest of the Ferraris in fifth.
GTE-Am saw Ben Barker fastest in class (22nd overall) with a lap of 110.315 seconds (117.469 mph). That lap was a tenth and a half faster than Dempsey-Proton Racing’s Matteo Cairoli in a similar 2015-spec Porsche 911 RSR. Miguel Molina was third fastest in the Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE.
In the afternoon, the speeds increased as the drivers got more time in their 2017 mounts. Conway turned the fastest lap of the day in the No. 7 pictured above on his fourth lap in the session.
Conway’s lap was the only lap in the 91-second bracket turned in all day. Kazuki Nakajima was second fastest in the No. 8 Toyota, just a few thousandths of a second faster than Jani’s time that topped the charts in the morning. Hartley was third fastest in the No. 2 Porsche, followed closely by Jani.
P2 saw Gustavo Menezes quickest in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470-Gibson with a lap of 97.020 seconds (133.566 mph). The lap was six-hundredths of a second faster than Vitaly Petrov in the No. 24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing entry. Rusinov was third quickest, followed by Alex Brundle in the No. 37 Jackie Chan entry and Vaxivière.
GTE-Pro was led by Porsche GT Team’s Kevin Estre with a lap of 107.844 seconds (120.160 mph). Estre was one-tenth of a second faster than Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK’s Olivier Pla. Makowiecki was third quickest, followed by Richard Lietz in the No. 91 Porsche. AF Corse’s James Calado was fifth quickest.
GTE-Am was again led by Barker with a lap of 110.035 seconds (117.768 mph). Cairoli was again hot on his heels in second, followed by Francesco Castellacci in the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari.
The only team in attendance that did not set a lap on Saturday was the No. 4 ByKolles Racing Team ENSO CLM P1/01 – NISMO shared by Dominik Kraihamer, former Formula One racer Robert Kubica and Oliver Webb. The team is in Monza, but never came out of the garage.
On Sunday, the WEC teams will have two more on-track sessions to shake their cars down. The first race of the season, the 6 Hours of Silverstone, is scheduled for Apr. 16.