27 March 2016
WEC: Porsche completes Prologue sweep
Porsche heads into the new World Endurance Championship as pacesetter in the pre-season Prologue at Paul Ricard.
The first official group test of the new World Endurance Championship season concluded with Porsche completing a 100 per cent hit rate at the top of the Paul Ricard 'prologue' timesheets.
Having topped all three sessions on Friday, including a two-hour thrash after dark, the German giant completed its clean sweep by running the table in each of Saturday's outings, with Brendon Hartley posting the best time of the test with a 1m 37.445s effort in the #1 919 Hybrid.
The pace was similar to that seen last season, despite the teams having eight per cent less fuel to work with, but Porsche's dominance was undoubtedly helped by both of its main rivals running their 2016 LMP1 contenders for the first time in public.
Toyota Gazoo Racing ended its trip to the south of France by again occupying second spot in both sessions, as Kamui Kobayashi posted the TS050 Hybrid's best time in the afternoon session. The new car, complete with a fresh livery, set a series of fastest sector times during the two days of running, but often opted not to complete the lap, perhaps aiming to disguise its performance and keep its powder dry for the season-opener at Silverstone next month.
Benoit Treluyer posted Audi's best mark in the latest-spec R18, again during the final session, but the German powerhouse suffered a run of niggling issues with the car that perhaps blunted its true potential.
The LMP1 Privateer class again fell to Rebellion Racing, which took another 1-2, this time with the #13 car ahead of the #12.
LMP2 proved to be as unpredictable as ever across the two days, with the #26 G-Drive Racing ORECA-Nissan adding itself to the list of cars to have set the pace in five sessions. Strakka, Signatech Alpine, RGR Sport by Morand and SMP Racing, amongst others, all showed just how closely-fought the 'junior' prototype class will be this season. The new Manor-run ORECA finished second on the timesheets in the final session, ahead of the 'Chinese' Alpine.
In GTE-Pro, Ford Chip Ganassi finally got the better of Ferrari as the #67 car outpaced AF Corse's pacesetter, while Gulf Racing maintained top spot in GTE-Am as Adam Carroll took the iconically-liveried Porsche to top spot ahead of the assorted Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin runners. The British marque will be looking 'to make its mark' in GTE-Pro after a relatively quiet spell in France, but will be a contender in the Am class, which proved extremely hard-fought throughout the test.
As well as giving the teams a chance to shakedown their machinery, however, the Prologue was as much about the fans, and the circuit teemed with them throughout Saturday as enthusiasts took the opportunity not only for an early speed fix, but also to meet the drivers in pit-lane.
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