In some ways it was like the first day back at school, some new teams joining the World Endurance Championship and old friends meeting up after the break. The same true for the media and FIA staff, greetings were exchanged and hopes for the upcoming season expressed.
The mood was relaxed in the pit lane as the cars were pushed around to be scrutineered by the FIA stewards, and then checked that they would survive being lifted in the event they were caught in a gravel trap (a little odd as the circuit has none…).
All eyes were soon on the new herd of LMP1 cars as they emerged for their checks. The news the day before of the partnership between Rebellion and TVR was reinforced as the livery of the car was revealed – some making comment that it seemed a little last minute and they had just slapped on some TVR logos – we shall see if this gets refined for Spa! Also a notable livery, or rather lack of one, was the number 5 Ginetta LMP1 – though I have to say it did look rather good in carbon!
There was the launch of the Project 1 GT AM Porsche 911 RSR, with its very distinctive black and yellow livery. Also sporting a new livery for the Super Season was Clearwater Racing in their chrome and orange, reminiscent of their Asian series car and the 60 car at the 2017 Le Mans race.
And so to the on track action!. This was to be a 30 hour session for those teams that wished to take part, with all teams able to be on track for the first and last 6 hours. The notable teams which ran for the entire duration were Toyota, with the number 7 car running for 839 laps. BMW M8 GTE number 82 completed 682 but the gold star went to Aston Martin Racing’s number 95 with 852 laps over the 30 hours… we believe without fault!
If there was one team out to prove reliability this was ByKOLLES, and I think that a run of 331 laps certainly shows that this years car has good reliability – this was the second most laps run behind that of the Toyota.
Now if we look at the timing results, you will see that Toyota have shown the fastest time on lap 65 by Mike Conway in the number 8, which was 4.3 seconds faster than the number 11 SMP Racing BR1 AER. BUT, all is not as it seems, as until 17:00 local time both Toyotas were running ‘without’ their equivalence of technology (EOT) being applied, meaning that the cars ran with un restricted boost and fuel flow. Post 17:00 the quickest time set by a Toyota was 1:38.12 by the number 7 car, putting it 5th behind the 2 SMP racing cars, the Rebellion and the ByKOLLES.
This means that the balance of the hybrid and non-hybrid car is much closer than the timing results show – it will certainly make for an interesting race at Spa!
In LMP2 is was almost business as usual with the teams picking up from where they left off. Of note was the Dragon Speed number 31 taking the fastest time, and Pastor Maldonado only being 1 second off the pace AND keeping it on the track…
In the GTE Pro there was a bit of a mixed bag with BMW running both cars in formation for a large part of session, before leaving the 82 to complete the 30 hour test. BMW appeared to struggle with pace along with Aston Martin. Topping the Pro times were both the Porsche 911’s followed by both Ford GT’s then the 88 and 86 AM Porsches.
The Ferrari contingent had various struggles throughout the test including a fuel fire for the 71 and excessive tyre wear on the 51.
What was interesting was that the AM cars were in a positon to mix with the Pro cars, and that the Porsches look incredibly strong this year.
Next up will be Round One of the FIA WEC Super Season: the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, Saturday 5th May 2018.