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.
We will start out with LMP1.
Both Porsche and Toyota arrive this season with the evolution of the 2016 cars. There has been changes to the aerodynamics and the efficiency of both the engine and the hybrid systems on the cars. Porsche had revealed that 60-70% of the car is brand new, but it is still the same chassis as last year. A rule change for this season is that a team is allowed maximum two different body kits as opposite to last year’s three. The low-drag version is only allowed to be used at Le Mans. It is with the thought of reducing corner speeds, but the manufacturers develop so fast, that it probably won’t be noticed at all or only to a limited degree.
Bykolles Racing Team has developed on their 2016 model, too, and has changed to a Nissan engine. We can just go to straight to the point – the Prologue at Monza wasn’t worth anything for the team. They got a total of six laps on a damp track Saturday evening, before the car lost its rear wing! The mechanics were already packing up Sunday morning, and were ready to head home to Greding near Nuremberg.
Saturday morning saw the cars on the track for the first time. Porsche #1 was the fastest car head of the two Toyotas and with Porsche #2 in fourth position. All four cars were separated with about half a second, so the times looked very promising. Toyota sped up in the afternoon session, where we saw number 7 ahead of number 8, with the two Porsche 919 Hybrid cars in third and fourth.
The weather changed Saturday evening from glorious sunshine to showers, so it was only limited driving for the teams before they had to put on the wet weather tires. This time we saw a double Porsche ahead of Toyota, but they were still only separated by about a second.
The track was slightly damp on Sunday morning, but it was drying. It gave a few problems for several of the teams, who pretty much all had to take a small detour through the first chicane at the end of the straight at some point during the first hour of running, until the dampness had disappeared. The two Porsche cars were once again fastest where #1 was a whole 0,004 of a second ahead of #2! The Toyotas were about half a second behind, a massive 0,049 seconds apart!
Sunday afternoon saw the sun reappear again, bringing some heat into the tarmac and the air. Nicolas Lapierre really gave it full beans and ended up being almost one second faster than the other Toyota, and 1,3 seconds faster than Porsche. Perhaps it was a small 33 year birthday present to Lapierre, but the fact is that he was the only guy all weekend to do a 1:30 at the track.
If you take a look at the top speeds, it was Porsche way ahead – at least on the position where it was measured. The hybrid cars accelerate very fast and thereby reach top speed very early, and then either don’t accelerate any more or even lose a little speed at some point of the straight, when the hybrid power runs out. Porsche number 2 turned 319,5 kph while Porsche #1 made 316,7 kph. The fastest Toyota TS050 – Hybrid was the #7 car with only 307,7kph, while the sister car number 8 did 306,8 kph. And you can very much say only, since five LMP2 cars were faster than the Toyota when you look at the top speed, while the rest of the LMP2 field was right down their neck. But as mentioned before, it could be something to do with the hybrid part, and where the speed trap is and when it has run out.
All the cars will be back on the track again in one and a half weeks’ time, when the first round of this years FIA WEC will be run at Silverstone in Great Britain.