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Lapierre Leads Toyota 1-2 at Prologue

Nico Lapierre leads Toyota 1-2 at WEC Prologue…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Toyota Gazoo Racing has ended the FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue on top, with Nico Lapierre, in his return to the team, leading a 1-2 for the Japanese manufacturer in the two-day official pre-season test at Monza.

The reigning LMP2 World Champion reeled off a best lap of 1:30.547 in his No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid early in the fifth and final test session on Sunday, smashing teammate Mike Conway’s best time by more than seven-tenths, which had been the quickest of the weekend.

Lapierre, who was fired by Toyota in 2014 after a series of incidents, will pilot the team’s new third LMP1 entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and second round of the WEC season at Spa.

The pair of updated Toyotas combined to complete more than 2,300 miles over the course of the 15 hours of track time, including a rain-soaked Saturday evening session that was marred by heavy showers, thunder and lightning.

While not able to match Toyota on single-lap pace, defending World Champions Porsche were close in pursuit, with the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid only three-tenths slower than Conway, thanks to a 1:31.666 lap time set by Neel Jani in the opening moments of the night session.

Both Porsche’s quickest times came in the third session, with 2015 Le Mans winner Earl Bamber clocking a 1:31.823 in his new full-season entry.

TDS Racing topped the LMP2 class, which features all Oreca 07 Gibsons this year, with open-wheel ace Matthieu Vaxiviere recording a 1:36.078 lap in his French-entered prototype.

Vaxiviere’s time, set on the penultimate session on Sunday morning, outpaced the No. 31 Vaillant Rebellion and No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing prototypes, which were second and third, respectively.

A heavy accident for the No. 36 Signatech Alpine Matmut entry of Matt Rao in the final session brought out a red flag, with Rao having been evaluated and released by an on-site doctor.

Rao lost control of the Alpine A470-badged car following a brief shower, which arrived in the final 45 minutes of the session. Only the two Toyotas returned to action once the session resumed.

Porsche led the way in the GTE-Pro ranks with its new mid-engined 911 RSR, with Michael Christensen’s 1:47.379 lap from the opening session holding as the quickest of the weekend.

The Dane, in the No. 92 Porsche, edged out teammate Fred Makowiecki by 0.136 seconds, with the pair of Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs third and fourth in class.

GTE-Am, meanwhile, was topped by the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE of Miguel Molina.

The former Audi DTM ace, who also got seat time in AF Corse’s GTE-Pro-entered Ferrari, was the only driver to break the 1:50 barrier in the Pro-Am-enforced class, reeling off a 1:49.843 on Sunday morning.

Molina denied Ben Barker the quickest time in class, after the Englishman had led the way for the majority of the weekend in the No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche.

All but the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche and No 4 ByKolles Racing ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO set times in the final session, with the lone LMP1 Privateer entry packing up early after encountering issues last night.

The car, which was to feature ex-Formula One driver Robert Kubica, completed only six laps in the test.

RESULTS: Session 5
RESULTS: Prologue (Combined)

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John


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