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 (c) WEC-Magazin / Walter Schruff