It’s the final outing in what has been a cracking FIA WEC season. There have been highs and lows, and there will be a few goodbyes.
In LMP1 we’ll be celebrating the end of a short, but oh so sweet return to endurance racing from Porsche. From race wins to championship wins with some Le Mans successes along the way, it could be argued that the team had reached the peak – that they couldn’t be more successful. In a way that is true, but it doesn’t mean that the series won’t miss them dearly. Though one series’ loss is another’s gain, and Formula E has gained a brilliant manufacturer in Porsche.
Meanwhile, in GTE Pro, there’s a retirement party being thrown for a real stalwart of endurance racing – the Aston Martin Vantage GTE. This beast, with its familiar roar and over-sized rear splitter, has 36 class wins to its name making it the WEC’s most successful machine. However, this iteration of the Vantage won’t be disappearing entirely – it’s still the Aston of choice in the GTE Am class. The formal reveal for the Vantage’s replacement is set to take place next week.
We also say hello to Loic Duval who joins G-Drive in his first race since Audi’s departure at the end of 2016, and farewell to Shell who shall be replaced by Total next season.
There’s still plenty up for grabs across the board. Three of the available championships were claimed last time out in Shanghai with Porsche taking both LMP1 titles and Ferrari taking the GTE Pro Manufacturer’s title. Expect to see some fierce battles on track as LMP2, GTE Pro and GTE Am all have at least two teams apiece vying for the titles.
Red flag extends FP1, Toyota fastest
Following a lengthy red flag period, an extended free practice session finished in darkness with the #7 Toyota coming out on top. Mike Conway set the pace early, putting in a 1.42.313s lap time that would remain unbeaten. The sister Toyota came in just two tenths slower, ahead of both Porsches.
In LMP2, a Rebellion topped the times, but not the championship leader. Nelson Piquet Jr in the #13 set the quickest time of the session for the class, ahead of G-Drive racing and the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing car.
The aforementioned red flag was thrown because of an oil leak from one of the GTE Pro runners. Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford came to a halt at turn 6 reporting an oil leak. The session was halted while the marshals did their best to clear the track. Tincknell still managed the third quickest time of the session, finishing behind the #51 AF Corse Ferrari and #97 Aston Martin Racing machine.
Meanwhile, in GTE Am, the top time was claimed by Dempsey Proton Racing – a 2.00.428. They finish ahead of championship rivals Aston Martin Racing and Clearwater Racing.
Toyota on top again in FP2
By the light of floodlamps, the second free practice session was much smoother than the first. Though the timing screens repeatedly flashed with warnings for track limits (taking out the bollard at T7 seems to be becoming a regular occurrence) the session ran mostly without incident.
Toyota topped the timing screens again, beating the Porsches back into 3rd and 4th. This time around, the #8 car ran quickest, with Kazuki Nakajima setting a 1.40.095 – more than two seconds faster than the #7 managed in FP1.
LMP2 saw the Rebellions back on top, this time with the championship-leading #31 car running quickest with a 1.47.664 from Bruno Senna. Their closest championship rivals, the #38 DC Racing crew finished up third fastest.
Aston Martin Racing put in a good session, locking out the top of the board. Jonny Adam in the #97 set a time of 1.57.014, four tenths ahead of the sister car, and almost a second clear of the #71 Ferrari of Rigon and Bird.
And the pairing pattern continued across all the classes as the GTE AM times were headed up by Clearwater Racing and Spirit of Race – the class’ two Ferraris. Third quickest in the session was the #98 Aston Martin of Dalla Lana, Lamy and Lauda.
Track action continues tomorrow with Free Practice 3 at 11.20am local time.