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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, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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