First blood to Toyota after WEC Prologue

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Toy­ota Gazoo Rac­ing left the weekend’s WEC Pro­logue with broad smiles after secur­ing the quick­est times on both days of test­ing, but the pair of fac­to­ry Porsche 919 Hybrids kept a watch­ing brief at Mon­za and topped three of the five ses­sions.

Prodi­gal son Nico­las Lapierre, return­ing to Toy­ota Gazoo Rac­ing after his acri­mo­nious depar­ture at the end of 2014, took the hon­our of the weekend’s fastest lap, post­ing a 1:30.547 in the final ses­sion of the week­end on Sun­day after­noon. How­ev­er, the Porsches and Toy­otas appeared to be equal­ly matched across the five ses­sions, offer­ing a taste of what could become a mouth­wa­ter­ing bat­tle for this season’s WEC and Le Mans titles.

The main sto­ry of the LMP2 was the speed of the new Gib­son V8-pow­ered machines, which pushed the sec­ond pro­to­type class to with­in five sec­onds of the top cat­e­go­ry. The Vail­lante Rebel­lion squad head­ed up two of the ses­sions, with TDS Rac­ing, Jack­ie Chan DC Rac­ing and Sig­nat­e­ch Alpine Mat­mut also show­ing some impres­sive speed around the 6-kilo­me­tre Mon­za cir­cuit.

The quick­est dri­ver of the LMP2 pack was French­man Matthieu Vax­ivière, who put in a 1:36.078 in the morn­ing ses­sion on day two. Vaxivière’s time was only 14 thou­sandths of a sec­ond ahead of Bruno Senna’s fastest lap, which the Brazil­ian set for Vail­lante Rebel­lion on day one.

GTE Pro hon­ours went, some­what sur­pris­ing­ly, to Porsche and the return of its GT squad. Michael Chris­tensen was the fastest man of the week­end, set­ting a best time of 1:47.379 on lap 29 of a 50-lap run in the first ses­sion. Christensen’s time wouldn’t be beat­en, with Kévin Estre and Frédéric Makowiec­ki round­ing off the top three quick­est dri­vers for the Ger­man mar­que. Ford were sec­ond fastest on aver­age over the week­end, but just half a sec­ond cov­ered the top sev­en dri­vers in terms of fastest lap times over the five ses­sions.

For­mer Audi DTM dri­ver Miguel Moli­na marked his WEC debut for the #54 Spir­it of the Race Fer­rari 488 GTE with the quick­est time of the week­end in GTE Am – a 1:49.843 on the morn­ing of day two. Ben Bark­er was sec­ond quick­est over the week­end, post­ing a best of 1:50.010 for the #86 Gulf Rac­ing Porsche 911 RSR.

Images © WEC-Mag­a­zin / Wal­ter Schruff