FIA World Endurance Championship had called all teams to a collective test day at Monza ahead of the season. It was mandatory to participate for all the teams who want to participate in the full season FIA WEC 2017. So there was plenty for the spectators to enjoy, who by the way had free entry to the track and the paddock area.
We have split up our reports from the weekend into four separate reports: one report per class.
In this article we have the focus on the GTE-Pro field.
Four works teams battle with two cars each, in the category that from this season onwards has been rewarded an official FIA World Title for both drivers and manufacturers. The defending champions Aston Martin Racing just as Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK and AF Corse will enter the same models as last year, with some optimisations over the winter. Porsche enters a brand new Porsche 911 RSR, which is radically different from previous versions, with an engine that has been moved forward compared to the traditional rear-engined car that is the characteristic of a Porsche car. By moving the engine forward, they have got the option to have a better diffuser at the rear of the car, which will provide an extra grip to the car.
Porsche #92 was the quickest in the opening session on Saturday, while Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK #67 were second ahead of their sister car #66, and Porsche #91 in fourth. And then came the two Ferraris and two Aston Martin cars.
The same picture repeated in the second practice with Porsche #92 ahead of Ford #66, Porsche #91 and Ferrari #51. Aston Martin Racing was once again the slowest.
Porsche #92 completed the hattrick by being fastest in the night session too. But only four cars were on the track, when the weather couldn’t decide if it wanted to be wet or dry. Except a few minutes at the start of the session, it was a more or less damp track for the rest of the session.
Sunday was a new day, but #92 stayed on top, ahead of their teammates by only 0,008 of a second. A further 0,027 second behind we saw Ford #67.
We didn’t see Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre cleaning the sheet with their #92 car. Ford took the first two positions in the final session ahead of the two Porsches, while the two Ferraris beat both Aston Martin cars.
It might sound dramatic for Ferrari and Aston Martin, that they haven’t been in top three in any session. But the time gaps were less than a second, so a lot can change during the season.
The GTE category has the so called Balance of Performance, where there cars will be adjusted towards each others performance. A lot of data were collected from this weekend, and before long there will be a baseline BOP announced. As something brand new it will be possible to get BOP adjusted during the weekends, with a lot of data being collected in real time and used for the adjustments. In 2016 we saw ten BOP changes during nine weekends, and that is the thing that the organizers want to get rid of with this new technology.
Ford GT was the fastest with 280,5 kph while Aston Martin Racing was the second fastest with 276,9 kph. Porsche was around the 272 kph mark and Ferrari was the slowest with 268,7 and 268 kph.
How it all will pan out will be seen at the opening round in 11 days, when the 28 competitors in the FIA WEC 2017 will run at Silverstone.