***FIA World Endurance Championship teams unloaded and prepped for this weekend’s Prologue test, which gets underway on Friday. A total of 29 cars are expected to take part in the two-day test, with some multi-car teams opting to only field a single entry, per the series’ requirement.
***The test will see only a single Toyota TS050 Hybrid from Toyota Gazoo Racing, as well as one Audi R18. “This kind of test has limited benefits. It’s a mandatory test for very good reasons; it’s to set up all the FIA systems. Then we have a lot of red flags and cars on track, so it’s not a good endurance session. We prefer to keep it to a minimum,” Toyota’s Pascal Vasselon told Sportscar365.
***Toyota will run both its high downforce and Le Mans-spec low downforce confirmation on its solo entry at the test. New rules for 2016 limit LMP1 manufacturers to up to three different aero configurations over the course of the season.
***The day also saw a number of unveils. Toyota took the wraps off its new TS050 Hybrid, while Porsche and Signatech-Alpine formally presented the liveries of their 2016 prototype contenders as well.
***Scott Sharp told Sportscar365 that a final decision on Tequila Patron ESM’s participation in the two remaining Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds at Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans has yet to be made. The team is currently evaluating the logistics, and other factors, behind such an effort.
***Only four of the six ESM drivers are due to take part in the test this weekend. Both Sharp and Chris Cumming are not here, with the Canadian driver having previous business commitments. The team will remain at Paul Ricard for an unofficial test on Monday, with Cumming.
***Other teams, including Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and Proton Competition, are also scheduled to test early next week, with the Ford GTs set to have their first 30-hour endurance test in Europe.
***A number of ex-Prodrive/Aston Martin Racing crew are now at Ford, including former chief mechanic “Woody” as well as support personnel. Former Prodrive team principal George Howard-Chappell is heading up Ford’s UK-based race operations.
***Ford Performance director Dave Pericak is on-site for the car’s European public debut.
***Manor WEC sporting director Graeme Lowdon told Sportscar365 they’re still working to finalize their sixth driver in the second Oreca 05 Nissan alongside Richard Bradley and Matthew Rao. Lowdon said a prospective driver may be on-site, but will not get seat time in the car at this test.
***The second Manor WEC car will take part in all rounds except the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as it was added after Le Mans entries were confirmed. Lowdown said he’s not been in discussions with KCMG on the possibility to take over the team’s automatic invite for the race.
***Manor’s first Oreca Nissan completed a successful shakedown Thursday morning at the Paul Ricard driving center, with Bradley at the wheel. The British team will field a single car in this week’s test for Rao, Tor Graves, James Jakes and Will Stevens.
***David Markozov is listed as the third driver in the No. 27 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR01 Nissan alongside Nic Minassian and Maurizio Mediani.
***Greaves Motorsport could take part in the Six Hours of Mexico round with its Gibson 015S Nissan, in what could potentially be an all-Mexican driver lineup. “We’d obviously have Memo [Rojas] in the car,” Tim Greaves told Sportscar365. “One of the benefits of not running the Gibson in the ELMS is that we’ve got the car freed up for other work.”
***Paul Ricard marks the first official event for Toyota’s LMP1 program under the Toyota Gazoo Racing banner. It follows a realignment of all of the Japanese manufacturer’s motorsports activities under a single team name.
***2014 LMP1 World Champion Sebastien Buemi has become a brand ambassador of Rebellion Timepieces. The Swiss driver returns to Toyota Gazoo Racing this season in the team’s new Toyota TS050 Hybrid.