Saturday 1 April 2017

FIA WEC 2017 - Monza Prologue Diary: Saturday evening

The weather we were promised finally arrived just in time to turn the evening session into a puddle jumping contest. Do you have your wellies on? Here come the droppings / jottings / waffle from the third (and rather soggy) session of the WEC Prologue day one.

As the green flag was shown, the 'wet track' warning came up on the monitors. The much anticipated precipitation had finally arrived. At first only the works LMP1 H cars were brave enough to risk the damp conditions while the rest played a waiting game.

At 19:09 the first of the LMP2 cars braved the conditions, Mathias Beche in the #13 Vaillante Rebellion. At this point we could see rain falling and there were damp spots on pit straight.  At 19:15 the only remaining car circulating was the Toyota #7 with Mike Conway at the wheel. Thunder was heard in the pit lane at 19:17 when Conway came into the pit lane.

At 19:22 Dumas left the pits with 'full wet' rubber on the #36 Signatech Alpine. By that time the sky had turned battleship grey and the rain looked like it would be more than just a passing shower. Dumas didn't complete a flying lap. it was then the turn of Hartley in the Porsche 919 Hybrid #2 and Pla in Ford GT #66 to reconnoitre the dampness. Pla did a flying lap about 23 seconds slower than dry laps from earlier sessions. Hartley dived straight back into the pits without setting a time. Davidson then took the #8 Toyota out for a flying lap about 25 seconds slower than a dry lap. At that point we heard that standing water had been reported at Lesmo, although the rain looked like it had eased-up a bit. 

At about 40 minutes into the session, a few more intrepid souls braved the conditions and Davidson's times in the #8 Toyota seemed to be improving marginally which suggested the track may be drying a little.

The general reluctance to play in the puddles at night continued but at 19:46 it seemed the rain had finally stopped. Barker in the Gulf Racing Porsche #86 was the first of the GTE Am grid to go out and set a time. By that time the LMP1 cars were setting times about 18 seconds slower than dry so the indication was that things were improving but we could still see 'rooster tails' on the cars passing us on the pit straight. 

After the first hour of this soggy session only 11 cars had set lap times including all of the LMP1 cars except of course the ByKolles CLM which was still awaiting it's missing part. It looked like the times set on the first couple of laps of the session on a relatively dry circuit would stand until the end, and no improvements were expected. 

At 20:06, Negrao in the #35 Alpine became the 12th competitor to set a lap time. By 20:20 the LMP1 times were about 15 seconds of the dry pace suggesting the track was (slowly) drying out.

The ByKolles mechanics finally located the missing jigsaw piece of the CLM #4 and it made its first appearance on the circuit at 20:27. While the #4 was on its out-lap, Lotterer in the #1 Porsche took the shortcut at Rettifilio (T1 T2) but no harm done. Webb meanwhile brought the CLM straight back into the pit lane without setting a time. Webb however took the ByKolles #4 back out again at 20:40 and finally posted a somewhat modest first flying lap time of 2:17.515.

With only 10 minutes left on the clock, the rain started coming down again with some enthusiasm, which rather put the tin lid on any chance of 'drying'. At 20:54 only Kobayashi in Toyota #7 and Webb in the #4 ByKolles were on the circuit, and when the Toyota came in at 20:56 the CLM had the honour of being the only car on track. Debris was reported on pit straight and our (unconfirmed) suspicion was that it had come off the ByKolles car which came back in the pits leaving an empty track for the last 2 minutes until the chequered flag.

The times for session 3 are a bit inconsequential but for the sake of completeness, Jani in Porsche #1 set the fastest time overall in the opening laps on a dryish circuit, followed by the sister Porsche #2 second and the Toyotas #8 and #7. The Vaillante Rebellion #13 was quickest in LMP2 followed by #36 and #35 Signatech Alpines. The factory Porsche #92 and #91 topped GTE Pro followed by the #66 Ford GT. In GTE Am only the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche set a flying lap time.

Full timing and classification is available HERE

See you tomorrow for Prologue Day 2.