It was an action-packed day in Monza with three sessions stretching across three hours of running. Toyota cemented its advantage with pole the Hypercar class, while Porsche (GTE Pro), Team WRT (LMP2) and TF Sport (GTE Am) were the fastest runners in the other classes.
A scorching hot day at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza offered drivers the perfect conditions to find the right set-up for Sunday’s six-hour race. However, FP2 saw a number of incidents affect cars up and down the field.
The #7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid suffered a left-rear puncture in FP2, but topped that session, FP3 and qualifying to secure their second pole position of the season. The sister #8 machine was just 0.063 seconds behind at the end of the session.
There was positive news for Glickenhaus Racing in Monza qualifying, as the pair of US-entered cars qualified within six tenths of the lead works machines and ahead of all of the LMP2 entries.
LMP2 pole went to the #31 Team WRT car after a blistering lap by Frenchman Charles Milesi. United Autosports almost snuck pole at the close but fell just 3 hundreds of a second short.
There was drama for championship leaders JOTA Sport in qualifying. Stoffel Vandoorne in the #28 car lost control in the Lesmo curves and careered into the wall, red-flagging the session. The Belgian driver appeared unhurt, but the JOTA crew will have a long night ahead of them to repair the damage.
A frantic GTE qualifying session saw Porsche maintain the edge they had shown in FP2 and FP3 to secure class pole. Kévin Estre’s 1:45.412 in the #92 911 RSR-19 was good enough for the third pole in succession for the German marque.
However, the two Ferraris and the pair of Porsches appear to be extremely well-matched in the GTE Pro cateogiry: Estre’s fastest time bettered the 1:45.477 of Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari by just 0.065 seconds.
Free practice was full of drama in GTE Am, and some disappointment too. WEC debutants Inception Racing saw their maiden appearance end prematurely after an accident in FP2. The team’s Ferrari 488 GTE EVO went off at Ascari corner and suffered significant front-end damage. Despite the team’s best efforts, the car is unable to compete in the remainder of the weekend.
A multi-car incident at the end of FP2 also put a spanner in the works for the #80 Iron Lynx entry. Repair work required at the front end after their Ferrari 488 GTE EVO collided with the rear of the #36 Alpine required significant repair work. The car played no further part in Saturday’s action and will start the race from the back of the grid if the car is able to be repaired.
Pole position in Monza qualifying went to the #33 TF Sport Aston Martin in another impressive qualifying performance by gentleman driver Ben Keating. Second-fastest, and almost snatching pole at the death, was Francois Perrodo in the #83 AF Corse Ferrari. However, the team was subsequently excluded from qualifying due to excessive floor wear and will start from last on the grid.
Images (c) Piero Lonardo