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Andre Lotterer makes Porsche LMP1 test debut

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The lone Audi Sport LMP1 driver who has found a full-time ride in next year’s FIA World Endurance Championship, Andre Lotterer, has made his debut aboard his new car with his new team this week.

Lotterer joined several others of his Porsche Team drivers at a test at the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain. Porsche LMP1 head Fritz Ensinger officially welcomed Lotterer to the team after the images were revealed.

He’ll be part of a new-look lineup in the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid next year, with reigning World Champion Neel Jani and Porsche factory ace Nick Tandy, who’s now a full-time LMP1 driver after stepping up from the Porsche GT program. Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber, who replaces the retired Mark Webber, are in the No. 2 Porsche.

The three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner and 2012 FIA WEC World Champion shifts to Porsche for the 2017 campaign, following Audi’s withdrawal from the championship announced late last year. He has competed in every FIA WEC race since the series’ inception at 2012 at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, one of only a handful of drivers to do so.

The remainder of Audi’s six factory drivers are yet to sort their FIA WEC plans. Loic Duval and Audi GT ace Rene Rast will join the manufacturer’s DTM program. Lucas di Grassi is set to focus on FIA Formula E with the Audi ABT Schaeffler squad, while Oliver Jarvis, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer’s full 2017 programs remain to be determined.

Fassler and Duval will race at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Fassler in an encore with Corvette Racing while Duval will make a one-off run with Elton Julian’s DragonSpeed team.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.