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SMP Closes the Gap to Toyota Overnight

Vitaly Petrov edges closer to Toyota TS050 Hybrids at Paul Ricard…

Photo: MPS Agency

SMP Racing’s Vitaly Petrov reduced the gap between the LMP1 non-hybrids and Toyota during the night portion of the FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue.

The ex-Formula 1 driver turned in a time of 1:37.034 behind the wheel of the No. 11 BR Engineering BR1 AER to position the best-placed privateer entry 4.372 seconds off the overall pace, which was set earlier on Friday by Mike Conway.

Night improvements were made by six of the non-hybrid runners, with Tom Dillmann initially bumping the ByKolles Racing ENSO CLM P1/01 Nissan into the top three with a 1:37.909 set just after 9:30 p.m. local time.

Shortly after, Andre Lotterer replaced the ByKolles in third with a succession of fast laps aboard the Rebellion Racing R13 Gibson.

The former Porsche LMP1 driver’s ultimate best of 1:37.044 came at 11 p.m. but that was subsequently bested by Petrov, who held the top non-hybrid spot heading into the second daytime segment of the 30-hour endurance test, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Stephane Sarrazin slotted the sister BR1 into fifth, while DragonSpeed’s BR1 Gibson improved on its time but not its position.

Manor performed the first roll-out for its No. 5 Ginetta G60-LT-P1 Mecachrome LMP1 challenger, having only finished assembling the car on Friday.

It completed 46 laps with Charlie Robertson, Mike Simpson and new signing Dean Stoneman all accruing mileage.

Toyota didn’t improve on its times set on Friday, with the manufacturer running only its No. 7 TS050 Hybrid through an endurance simulation run.

The car slowed on track a couple of times during the early hours of Saturday morning, but returned to the pits without reporting any major issues.

Besides the Ginetta and the Toyota, the only other cars to appear on track after midnight were the No. 82 BMW M8 GTE and the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE.

Neither managed to unseat the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR, which shaved its its previous best effort down to a 1:51.332 at half past eight in the morning with Gianmaria Bruni at the controls.

No changes were recorded in LMP2 which had no teams signed on to complete the night segment.

Pastor Maldonado’s Friday time of 1:40.771 is the benchmark heading into the final seven hours of the test.

In GTE-Am, Joerg Bergmeister elevated the Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR from fourth to second in the class standings, consolidating the German marque’s 1-2-3-4.

RESULTS: Prologue (after 23 hours)

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.



  1. Dave

    April 7, 2018 at 4:12 am

    Are they planning on BOP’ing the Toyota, or will P1 non-HY be relegated to a second class within the class? I don’t care how much they are “closing the gap”, if one car can turn a 4+ second faster lap, they are not really competing. That’s more than the gap between GTE PRO/GTLM and GTE AM/GT Daytona.

    • Antonio Desmond Miles

      April 7, 2018 at 7:23 am

      Keep im mind this is just a test session. To be just 4 seconds off the pace is an improvement to me. Without the hybrid boost the non-hybrid LMP1’s are going to be behind the Toyotas regardless. Wait & see what happens @ Spa then we can start making race pace comparisons. You can’t compare the GTE-Am cars in WEC to the GT-Daytona cars in IMSA. They’re 2 different classes altogether. One is GTE & the other is GT3.

    • Felix

      April 7, 2018 at 7:34 am

      Important to note that the Toyotas received permission to run outside the EoT, and are doing so. They want to push their new systems harder than they would be to detect any weaknesses.

      • Antonio Desmond Miles

        April 7, 2018 at 8:20 am

        You’re absolutely right. I just looked at DSC and just they were running unrestricted! According to their website, their most recent laptimes puts one of the Toyotas just 5th behind the non-hybrid LMP1’s! Whaaattt? Still we have to wait & see during race conditions @ Spa.

  2. Toyota should be faster

    April 7, 2018 at 7:15 am

    First of all, there’s no BOP in LMP1 so no they won’t BOP anything. And although there is EOT, this test shouldn’t change that as the LMP1 privateer cars are all new and have to work out the kinks.

    Second GTE-AM and GTD are NOT the same thing so the gap from GTE/GTLM is not something they have in common. GTD=GT3 and GTE-AM=2017 GTE, BIG difference in potential performance there.

  3. Dave

    April 7, 2018 at 11:41 am

    Respectfully accepting the finer points made here: A) FIA is not going to let Toyota as its sole HY entrant be handicapped. If it is slower operating within the prescribed guidelines, they will allow them more boost to at least be competitive. This would then be BOP. Only my opinion, but if Toyota is their last show pony they will not risk Alonso being and also-ran. B) Yes, there are differences between GTE AM and GT Daytona/GT3, the point I was makings that that no one expects the lower GT class (in either series) to win over the Platinum/Gold drivers regardless of equipment and 4+ seconds is a great time disparity than exists there (be it through MFG assistance, driver skill or superior equipment). The article did not mention Toyota was running w/o restrictions, so I would temper my comments accordingly. My main concern is that I don’t want to watch a Toyota-led conga line all season.

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