***Thousands of fans flocked to Autodromo di Monza for the opening day of the FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue. The larger-than-expected crowd prompted organizers to schedule an additional pit walk this afternoon. Admission is free to the public this weekend.
***The new-generation LMP2 cars have been blindingly quick, with the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 Gibson of Roman Rusinov clocked at 309.5 km/h (192 mph) in the speed traps. As of the second session, only the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid was quicker overall at 313 km/h (194 mph). However, a WEC representative told Sportscar365 the LMP1 trap speeds are not representative and should be in the 320 km/h range.
***Defending LMP2 World Champion Gustavo Menezes told Sportscar365 that LMP1 cars have struggled to pass their Signatech Alpine A470 on the straight and are only able to overtake under braking and under acceleration, when the hybrid systems are fully activated.
***The FIA has released the initial Balance of Performance for the GTE-Pro and GTE-Am classes. For GTE-Pro, it’s understood to be the baseline for the new automated BoP system, which will be used in all six-hour races this year, with a Le Mans-specific BoP in the works for the double points-paying round.
***While full details on auto-BoP is expected to be released next week, it’s understood the above published table is locked in for GTE-Pro for the first two rounds, with the first “automated” change coming as early as the fourth round of the season at the Nürburgring in July.
***The No. 4 ByKolles Racing ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO has yet to turn a lap, with the team having been waiting on parts, according to director of operations Boris Bermes. The LMP1 non-hybrid car features a new rear-end assembly to fit the Nissan V6 engine. Bermes told Sportscar365 they’re pushing to be on track in tonight’s two-hour session, in what would be the car’s first laps with its new powerplant.
***While having both cars present at the Prologue, Signatech Alpine Matmut will field only a single Alpine A470 Gibson at Silverstone, with the No. 35 car of Pierre Ragues, Andre Negrao and Nelson Panciatici not debuting until Spa. Team principal Philippe Sinault told Sportscar365 that the current spare parts supply and car preparation are factors for the team’s decision to focus on only one car for the season-opener.
***ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil confirmed that they’ve shelved plans to introduce DRS to LMP1 non-hybrids, which was initially on the cards for next year. “For the moment it’s not planned mainly because we don’t have guarantees, from a safety point of view, that we can get it as we’d like for private teams at this stage,” he told Sportscar365.
***Beaumesnil said the current LMP1 non-hybrid regs are locked in through 2021, having been extended for two additional years due to the freezing of the hybrid regs until the end of the 2019 season.
***In addition to aero changes, LMP1 hybrid regulations sees changes in tire usage, with only four sets, plus two spare tires, allowed for qualifying and six-hour races. Safety enhancements, such as a wider visibility field for side mirrors and an illuminated light for normal powertrain behavior, have also been implemented.
***While not being present this weekend due to their Formula E commitments in Mexico City, Toyota Gazoo Racing team director Rob Leupen has reaffirmed that both Sebastien Buemi and Jose Maria Lopez will take part in the Six Hours of Nürburgring, which appears set to remain in direct conflict with the New York ePrix on the weekend of July 14-16.
***The most obvious absence from the paddock this weekend is Audi, following the German manufacturer’s withdrawal from prototype racing at the end of last year. “For sure they were a big player and gave a lot to the series,” said Timo Bernhard, who claimed victory at Le Mans with Audi in 2010. “It’s a bit strange but I think we now have to look in the future.”
***It’s understood at least two of the second cars from two-car teams in LMP2 are not yet confirmed post-Le Mans, with at least one additional full-season entry understood to be planning a Europe-only program, which could result in a depleted entry for the flyaway rounds.
***Rebellion Racing will unveil a new Michel Vaillant livery for its pair of Orecas at Spa in May, which will debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and will be run for the remainder of the WEC season. There will also be a new livery for the Anglo-Swiss squad’s IMSA car for its next scheduled WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Watkins Glen in July.
***The Italian flag is adorned on the right side dive-plane of the Rebellion entries this weekend, and is expected to switch to the country’s flag at each WEC event.
***Porsche assembled its most powerful hybrid models for a group photo on Friday, during the unveil of the 2017-spec 919 Hybrid. The LMP1 contender was joined by the road-going Porsche 918 Spyder and Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, as well as the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid, which took part in selected one-off races in 2010.
***Tonight’s night sessions runs from 7-9 p.m. local time, with two final sessions scheduled for 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 2-5 p.m. on Sunday. Rain is in the forecast for this evening.