Toyota Gazoo Racing

Toyota tops opening day of WEC Prologue at Monza

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Toyota made an impressive start to the FIA World Endurance Championship’s pre-season ‘Prologue’ test at Monza in Italy by edging out Porsche at the top of the timesheets.

Toyota unveiled its updated TS050 Hybrid LMP1 car on Friday, with its No. 7 and No. 8 entries getting their first public runs at Monza today.

Mike Conway turned in a fastest lap of 1:31.332 to finish the day at the top of the standings, ending up three-tenths of a second clear of Porsche’s Neel Jani in the 919 Hybrid.

Defending WEC champion Jani squeezed his fast lap in just before heavy rain began to fall at the start of the night-time session, which prompted half the grid to remain in their garages instead of braving the wet conditions.

2015 Le Mans winner Earl Bamber slotted into third in the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, two-tenths off Jani’s time, with Kazuki Nakajima following in P4 for Toyota.

ByKolles managed to get out in the night-time session after its parts were delivered late, completing six laps in total after a frustrating day.

Rebellion made a good start to life in LMP2 by storming to a one-two finish on Saturday, led by Bruno Senna in the No. 31 ORECA-Gibson. Mathias Beche finished six-tenths of a second behind in the sister No. 13 entry, with G-Drive’s No. 26 entry completing the top three courtesy of Roman Rusinov.

After failing to top LMP1, Porsche was able to do so in GTE Pro as the mid-engined 911 RSR enjoyed its first public running in Europe. Michael Christensen set the pace in the No. 92 car, finishing 0.160 seconds clear of Andy Priaulx for the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.

While MST has been deliberately absent of April Fool’s coverage today, it is worth sharing this fun prank that Ford and Ferrari played on its GT drivers, swapping their cars around (a novel approach to Balance of Performance, we must say…).

In the five-car GTE Am category, British racer Ben Barker topped the timesheets for Gulf Racing in the No. 86 Porsche 911 RSR, finishing 0.145 seconds clear of Matteo Cairoli in the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche.

The WEC Prologue continues on Sunday at Monza with a further six hours of running.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.