***The ACO and Asian Le Mans Series are helping to raise funds for those affected by the devastating bushfires in Southeast Australia. Linking with the Red Cross Bush Fire Appeal, a specific event webpage for donations has been set up, with the funds going to “volunteers and communities affected”. Donations can be made here.
***ACO President Pierre Fillon said: “We hope that through our partnership with the Australian Red Cross, including setting up a website where we will make and receive donations, we will be able to help those affected by the fires immediately, and also during the recovery and rebuilding stage.”
***Teams and drivers are also helping to raise awareness for the bushfires. Shane van Gisbergen and Nick Foster have together launched their ‘Apex Hunters United’ website featuring bushfire appeal merchandise, with the proceeds going to the NSW Rural Fire Service and a second to-be-confirmed organization in support of wildlife affected by the fires. RLR Msport has embraced the Aussie spirit, adapting the livery on its Oreca 05 Nissan with “Support the Australian Firefighters” stickers plastered across the car.
***The No. 96 K2 Uchino Oreca 07 Gibson has been officially withdrawn from the weekend, having not turned a single lap. Haruki Kurosawa, who was set to share the car with Shaun Thong, was unable to travel for health reasons which forced the team to pack up before the event had begun.
***Nielsen Racing has switched to a spare Norma M30 Nissan LMP3 following a crash for Rob Hodes in the No. 3 entry during Thursday morning’s private testing session. Graff Racing had a spare car in the paddock, with Nielsen acquiring it to compete this weekend after its chassis was deemed unrepairable on-site.
***The event was formally launched on Thursday morning on the main straight, with State tourism minister David Ridgeway, circuit owner Dr. Sam Shahin and Asian Le Mans Series managing director Cyrille Taesch-Wahlen. Drivers Foster, Garnet Patterson, Roberto Merhi, van Gisbergen and Aidan Read were also in attendance.
***Read was the first driver to turn the wheel of a Le Mans Prototype car at an ACO-run event on Australian soil as part of the launch event. He also attempted to reach the maximum speed possible down the straight as part of the promotional activity, hitting 280 km/h (174 mph) before the braking zone.
***This weekend’s event comes nearly 20 years after the last Le Mans-branded race in Australia, The Race of 1000 Years, held at the Adelaide Street Circuit on Dec. 31, 2000. Allan McNish and Dindo Capello won the American Le Mans Series event at the wheel of an Audi R8 in a special crocodile livery.
***Ben Barnicoat’s LMP2 pole time of 2:35.698 proved 28 seconds quicker than the fastest lap in Australian GT qualifying around the same layout, a 3:03.821 set by Luke Youlden in a Mercedes-AMG GT3 in 2018.
***There were initially question marks hanging over Thunderhead Carlin Racing’s pole after the car was seen on television pictures being worked on during the red flag in LMP2 qualifying. However, it is understood that the Asian Le Mans Series has no official restrictions in qualifying which would implicate the car in this circumstance.
***Before setting his pole lap Barnicoat had an off-track moment at Turn 25, taking to the grass and narrowly avoiding the barrier before wrestling the car back onto the circuit. “The wall was coming pretty quick to be fair,” Barnicoat told Sportscar365. “The car was on it until that point and that’s actually been quite a tricky corner all weekend and I went into there just a little bit on the limit and mid-corner just had a big snap. Luckily I got away with it.”
***Eurasia Motorsport Racing New Zealand only completed one run during qualifying with a single set of green tires. “I can’t really say we learned a huge amount, it was just really nice to have a clear track for a lap,” Nick Cassidy told Sportscar365. “We just did one set so I think the result was pretty decent for one set of tires. I’m really happy with my lap.”
***The No. 3 Nielsen Racing entry stopped on track during LMP3 qualifying, bringing out the red flag. The team is unsure of the reason for the stoppage, but having acquired a new chassis from Graff, the team believes it had something to do with differing processes between the two teams.
***Cody Ware says prototype drivers “are at the will of GT drivers” in sector two of the 4.78-mile (7.7 km) lap, with the tight and twisty section too narrow and difficult to pass slower traffic in.
***Roberto Merhi took the 75-mile (120 km) journey from Adelaide to The Bend by bicycle on Thursday morning. The Spaniard is an avid cyclist and rode from the South Australian capital to the circuit with a group of locals that were doing training for Tour Down Under.
***Merhi told Sportscar365 that the journey took 3 hours 43 minutes in a maximum temperature towards the end of the ride of 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius). This was all after an 87-mile (140 km) ride the previous day.
***There is a double dose of Brabham this weekend with a pair of the Brabham BT62s at the circuit. A race-going blue version of the car is being used for demonstration runs (pictured below) with Foster and Michael Almond behind the wheel, while a road-modified white edition is on display in the Welcome Centre.
***The Bend’s Welcome Centre is filled with historic and modern race cars on show, including an Argo JM19C, Chassis 122, which retired at the end of the 1988 IMSA season, the 2012 Bathurst 1000-winning Team Vodafone Holden Commodore and a 1984 Group C VK Commodore.
***Eurasia Motorsport is running a predominately yellow livery on the No. 36 Ligier JS P217 Gibson to signify its Australian flavored driver lineup and racing Down Under. Read is joined by countryman Foster aboard the car, while Merhi completes the lineup.
***In other Australian driver news, Liam Talbot was a late call-up to the HubAuto Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 in replacement for Morris Chen. Talbot is an Australian GT regular and the 2016 Blancpain GT Am champion, with this weekend marking his first in the 488. Meanwhile, Lithuanian Gustas Grinbergas is sharing the No. 52 RWR entry with Cody Ware.
***The 4H The Bend will begin on Sunday at 1 p.m. local time (9:30 p.m. Saturday EST / 2:30 a.m. GMT), with the Asian Le Mans Series website carrying a live stream. It will also be broadcast live in Australia on Fox Sports Channel 506.