***One car from each team taking part in this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship assembled for a traditional pre-season group photo, this time held the iconic Variante del Rettifilo at Monza.
***This weekend marks the official return of top-level prototype machinery to the famed Italian circuit for the first time since the 2008 Le Mans Series race, although multiple LMP1 manufacturers, including Audi and Porsche, have used Monza for private testing purposes.
***Friday also saw the unveilings of the 2017-spec Toyota TS050 Hybrid and Porsche 919 Hybrid, news that Toyota is now committed through the end of 2019 WEC season, both LMP1 manufacturers agreeing to freeze their chassis development until the new set of regulations in 2020, and also the first details emerge of the FIA and ACO’s new automated Balance of Performance system for GTE-Pro.
***Toyota has hired a handful of ex-Audi LMP1 employees, including an engineer. “Immediately when Audi was withdrawing, we got in touch with them,” Toyota’s Pascal Vasselon told Sportscar365. “It’s been a quite open approach and they were happy to find a possibility for their staff. All of the Audi staff had been [were to be relocated] within Audi but some of the racers really wanted to stay in LMP1. So we’ve offered a couple of opportunities.”
***While the pair of Toyotas debuted in low-downforce trim, Vasselon said they will both run with the high-downforce aero kit at Silverstone and Spa, with the third entry to sport the Le Mans kit in Belgium. “At the moment it’s what’s likely to happen,” he said.
***Porsche has yet to declare what aero configuration its LMP1 contenders will be in for the first two rounds, in the wake of a reduction to only two kits allowed per season. “In theory, you could come with the low-downforce kit up to Le Mans, sacrifice Silverstone and have more time [to develop] a high-downforce kit and bring it for the Nürburgring,” Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl said.
***While none of the LMP2 cars will be running in low-downforce configuration this weekend, Ford is understood to be taking a split approach, with one Ford GT being prepped in Le Mans aero and the other running its standard, season-long configuration.
***ORECA has produced 14 Oreca 07 Gibsons so far, with a 15th car set to be delivered to Manor prior to next month’s season-opener at Silverstone. Eight cars, including chassis from Manor, Signatech Alpine, Jota Sport and TDS Racing, meanwhile, have been upgraded from last year’s Oreca 05.
***An ORECA representative told Sportscar365 they could reach a production total of 20 cars by the 24 Hours of Le Mans, due to the high initial demand. The French constructor also hasn’t ruled out an additional car debuting in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship by the end of the year.
***All of the customer Porsche 911 RSRs are running to 2015-specification worldwide, according to Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, who said it was a cost driven decision. “As there was the openness, and you would have to balance them anyway, we will use the ’15 car,” he told Sportscar365. “We will see. It’s more difficult on the [GTE]-Am side than the [GTE]-Pro side.”
***Only the two Porsches will be running to the previous generation of technical regulations, with the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 having been upgraded to last year’s specification, alongside the two Ferrari 488 GTEs, which were new-for-2016.
***Walliser said he’s taking a wait-and-see approach on the GTE-Am BoP, with multiple factors to now take into account. “We cannot really judge it, because on top of that we have two tire manufacturers,” he said. “That does not make it easier. It only works with openness and a lot of communication between the manufacturers to achieve a proper starting point.”
***Rebellion Racing’s Oreca 07 Gibson that took part in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Twelve Hours of Sebring has been air-freighted to back to Europe to serve as the No. 13 car at Monza. The Anglo-Swiss squad’s No. 31 Oreca, meanwhile, is coming off a multi-day test at Motorland Aragon.
***Both of the Ford GTs are the same chassis the team ran last year in the WEC. The No. 66 car of Olivier Pla and Stefan Muecke has come back from Daytona, while the No. 67 WEC car was used in a Michelin tire test in Abu Dhabi in January and did not make a trip Stateside. Ganassi’s spare U.S.-based chassis was instead put into service as the fourth Ford for Daytona, and third car for Sebring.
***A total of three test sessions are scheduled for Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.; 2-5 p.m. and a night session from 7-9 p.m. (all times local). An additional six hours of track time is scheduled for Sunday.