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Bahrain Pre-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s news and notes prior to today’s 8 Hours of Bahrain…

Photo: John Dagys

***McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown told reporters that he expects Toyota Gazoo Racing to spend “north of 40 million [Euros]” in the new Le Mans Hypercar class next season, which is well above the FIA and ACO’s initial target for the new class.

“I don’t think you have to spend north of 40 million,” Brown said. “I think you maybe spend half that but I think he who has the biggest checkbook, we know historically, is who wins.”

***Brown confirmed that McLaren has abandoned hopes of building a Le Mans Hypercar, for budget reasons, with all hopes resting on an agreement with IMSA for a global DPi 2.0 platform. 

***With a 65 percent chance of rain, weather could impact tomorrow’s Bahrain Rookie Test, with several teams, including Toyota Gazoo Racing, expected to reduce its testing program should wet weather arrive in Sakhir.

***Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon told Sportscar365 they are working on an “alternative” program in the event of rain. The Japanese manufacturer is required to run WEC-nominated rookie Nyck de Vries for a minimum of 30 laps, but it also planning to test Thomas Laurent and Kenta Yamashita.

***Teams with other WEC-nominated ‘rookies’ that are required to offer a minimum of 30 laps on Sunday are G-Drive Racing (Mikkel Jensen), Porsche GT Team (Job van Uitert) and Team Project 1 (Vincent Abril).

***Formula 2 star Louis Deletraz has been a late addition to Rebellion Racing’s test lineup alongside Norman Nato, with Jonathan Cochet having switched from G-Drive Racing to the fellow TDS Racing-run Racing Team Nederland Oreca 07 Gibson for the test. Click Here for an updated entry list.

***Jan Magnussen has arrived and was spotted in the paddock this afternoon ahead of his drive in the No. 33 High Class Racing Oreca 07 Gibson on Sunday.

***Porsche is bidding farewell to two of its GTE engineers, Anna Schwaiger and Markus Wuebben, who are moving on to different roles within the company. Systems engineer Schwaiger will switch to Porsche’s Formula E team while Wuebben will work on road car development in 2020.

***Glickenhaus has posted early photos of its Le Mans Hypercar in development. The U.S. automaker appears to be pushing on with its program, in the wake of the ACO confirming its acceptance as an “automotive brand” for the new-for-2020 regulations.

***Roman Rusinov told Sportscar365 that he expects G-Drive to return to the European Le Mans Series next year with TDS Racing. The Russian driver also hinted at a 6 Hours of Spa return in May whilst rejecting any other WEC cameos outside the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***Rusinov is in the planning stages for an LMP3 program, which he suggested would also likely be run by TDS. “[TDS] hasn’t done LMP3 but LMP2 costs quite a lot of money and needs a big budget. It is very hard to find the drivers with the necessary sponsorship behind them [for LMP2].”

***WEC CEO Gerard Neveu told Sportscar365 that it’s “not been very difficult” in setting up the replacement Lone Star Le Mans round at Circuit of The Americas with less than 80 days notice following the cancelation of the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo.

***Neveu credited the WEC’s five previous trips to the Austin F1 circuit and their previous relationships including with COTA CEO Bobby Epstein, for having the turn-key option. It’s understood the Feb. 22-23 event is intended as a one-off race.

***The 2020-21 WEC schedule, which was released on Thursday, features six rounds from the 1984 World Sportscar Championship season, with all tracks except Sebring International Raceway and Bahrain International Circuit, which opened in 2004, having featured on the series calendar that year.

***Other races from the 1984 season included 1000km races at the Nürburgring, Brands Hatch, Mosport and Sandown in Australia.

***Aston Martin Racing has ruled out a GT Le Mans entry for January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, with managing director John Gaw confirming to Sportscar365 that the British manufacturer will focus its efforts around its two new-gen Vantage GT3 cars, which are set for their North American debuts.

***Longtime The Heart of Racing-backed driver Alex Riberas is expected to be confirmed as a full-season driver for the newly formed team’s Aston Martin effort, with an increased role for the Spaniard possible within the AMR structure.

***AF Corse will not be present at Daytona for the first time since 2011, with team principal Amato Ferrari confirming to Sportscar365 that his team will have no entries for either the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener or Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.

***The Italian Ferrari squad has been a mainstay at Daytona through multiple guises, including under the Sprit of Race and AF-Waltrip banners.

***Coverage of the 8 Hours of Bahrain will be carried live across Europe, North America and Asia. Eurosport will broadcast nearly half of the race live, with MotorTrend carrying the first 90 minutes (6:30-8 a.m. ET) and final 90 minutes (2-3:30 p.m. ET) live in the U.S. Eurosport 2 will show the final three hours. starting at 5 p.m. UK time, with commentary from Mark Cole and Tom Gaymor.

***Full coverage is also available on the WEC App, with Louise Beckett returning as pit lane reporter after missing the Shanghai round. Click Here for the full broadcast schedule.

Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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