The FIA World Endurance Championship has held their Prologue, which is the official test ahead of the 2018/19 season.
The test was run over two days, where the teams had the chance to test 30 hours non-stop, so they had the opportunity to test in both daylight and 24 degrees track temperature, and in the darkness with just 12 degrees.
It’s always hard to know what programs the teams are running. Some are just doing long-runs, where they don’t aim at lap times, while others goes flat out, to try and see how fast the car can actually go.
Toyota Gazoo Racing was definitely in the second group. On Saturday afternoon they removed all the limitations of the car, and put down a sensational lap time, which was 4,3 seconds faster than the best non-hybrid car. They even posted a top speed of 347,3 kph, but that wasn’t the actual pace. When they went back to running within the regulations, their race pace was within the same second as the other LMP1 cars.
SMP Racing managed to do 515 laps with their two cars, and was marginally faster than Rebellion Racing. It was a bit of a sensation to see Rebellion Racing this fast already. Prior to the test starting Friday morning, they had only completed five laps in total with the brand new car. But they ended up doing 263 laps.
ByKolles Racing Team did 331 laps, which hasn’t always been a given for the team. Their mechanics was actually so bored, that they spend more time playing with their mobile phones than the tools – fortunately.
CEFC TRSM Racing had brought both their cars, but it wasn’t until Saturday afternoon, that car #5 was really to roll. They managed to do 259 laps in total, but they still have a long way to go, before the Ginetta can last 6 or 24 hours. Only 7 hours of running in 30 hours, isn’t very much – especially when this is the total of both cars.
DragonSpeed runs the same BR Engineering BR1 as SMP Racing, but SMP Racing has chosen an AER engine while DragonSpeed has gone for a Mecachrome. If that was the 0,7 seconds splitting the two outfits, is hard to tell. The car is still quite new to the team, whereas SMP Racing has been testing since last autumn.
If we take a look at the LMP2 field, we had all 7 cars within 1,2 seconds. The field is a bit low on numbers this year, but with all cars being this close, there is hope for close racing. DragonSpeed was the fastest, while Larbre Competition was the slowest. It is the Larbre team who has the weakest line-up, where Fernando Rees was the fastest man. The four other guys in the car, was the slowest in the field, running four seconds a lap slower than Pastor Maldonado – yes, him. He will be racing for DragonSpeed this year, and together with Ben Hanley as the other pro driver, and the Silver ranked driver Roberto Gonzalez only two seconds back, the three can be a really strong combination, as long as they can keep the pace up, and keep the car away from the garage.
Porsche seems to have a big advantage in both GTE categories compared to the others. If it’s down to the BOP or if the other teams didn’t go for ultimate pace, only time will tell during the upcoming races. But with a gap of 0,7 and 1,2 to the best non-Porsche’s, there a huge difference.
While Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK was closest to Porsche in the GTE Pro, they were nowhere near their laptimes.
AF Corse Ferrari had a very strange strategy for the test. They only ran a total of 252 between the two cars. #71 only did 68 laps during the Friday, adding another 122 laps Saturday. #51 was only running Friday, whey they did a total of 64 laps. So perhaps they wanted to hide something, rather than using the full testing opportunities? We will see at Spa and Le Mans.
BMW Team MTEK managed to do almost 700 laps with their #82, and was very close to the Ferrari times – but two seconds from Porsche.
It was a Porsche 1-2-3-4 in GTE Am, with all four cars within 0,7 of a second. A further half a second behind, we found the best Aston Martin from TF Sport, marginally faster than Aston Martin Racing. The three Ferraris were within two tenths of the Astons.
So, what did we learn from this test? Well, as we said at the start of this article, no much, since the teams could potentially have run very different strategies.
The first real indication will be in one month time, when the first round of the FIA WEC will be run at Spa Francorchamps on 5 May.