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Barcelona Wednesday Notebook

Daniel Lloyd’s notebook from the final day of FIA WEC pre-season test…

Photo: MPS Agency

***Several teams packed up their equipment before the end of today’s second session, in which 14 of the 30 entered cars took part.

***A large contingent of AF Corse staff left early to head to the Total 24 Hours of Spa, which kicked off today. Another Spa-bound team, TF Sport, only entered the first Tuesday session with its new Aston Martin Vantage GTE.

***Racing Team Nederland will retain Michelin as its tire partner for the 2019-20 season after arriving at the Prologue on the fence between the French company and Goodyear.

***A statement attributed to Goodyear’s motorsport director Ben Crawley said: “We thank Racing Team Nederland for testing some of our initial tire specifications and respect their decision to remain with their current tire partner for the time being. Goodyear is still in the process of evaluating new tire specifications.”

***Goodyear, which is replacing Dunlop in LMP2, is arranging a further tire test at Catalunya next week to nail down its final specifications ahead of the 4 Hours of Silverstone.

***FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu said he was “not prepared” for SMP’s withdrawal from LMP1 competition. The Russian squad announced last month that it would be ending its two-car operation despite having been on the entry list for the upcoming season.

“I’m very sad for ART [SMP’s LMP1 operations] because it’s a fantastic team,” Neveu told Sportscar365. “When I see the job they made with this car, especially considering where they started at the beginning of the Super Season and where they finished at Le Mans, they did an incredible job.”

***Neveu considers the 2019-20 season to be a “transition period” amid the arrival of the Hypercar formula next year. Five LMP1 cars look set to contest the entire season, following SMP’s late withdrawal. “If we can maintain the [other categories] and have a very good Hypercar category, this would be fantastic.”

***Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi said it “didn’t make sense” for SMP to leave after just one season with the BR1 AER: “I think to be successful in this kind of racing, you have to be always keeping in this category instead of doing one season and leaving,” he said.

***Gulf Racing’s final driver is set to be announced next week. Team manager Owen Daley told Sportscar365 that the team is waiting for the 24 Hours of Spa, in which both Prologue testers Andrew Watson and Nico Bastian are racing, to pass before communicating the decision, out of fairness for both drivers.

***Daley added that Gulf is aiming to utilize its second Porsche 911 RSR for a handful of WEC races this season. He identified the 2020 rounds in Sao Paulo and Spa as likely targets, in preparation for a potential 24 Hours of Le Mans entry request.

***The FIA has clarified the pit stop regulations, which will no longer permit a mechanic to carry more than one wheel at a time during tire changes. As previously announced, tire changes will no longer be allowed during refueling, in a reversal from the change for the 2018-19 season.

***LMP1, LMP2 and GTE-Pro teams will be allowed to utilize an additional set of tires for next month’s season-opening 4 Hours of Silverstone. Eighteen tires will now be permitted between the qualifying and race, instead of the originally declared 14, due to “safety reasons.”

***An allocation change has also been made to the GTE-Pro class for the Six Hours of Sao Paulo, which will see up to 26 tires (six sets plus two tires) allowed in the race, the same number permitted in GTE-Am.

***While LMP1 and LMP2 teams are allowed to make a change of tire manufacturers once during the season, GTE-Pro and GTE-Am teams must remain with their initially declared tire provider.

***It will result in Michelin becoming the defacto sole tire provider in the production-based classes this season, although both classes technically remain open tire categories.

***A handful of former Rebellion Racing mechanics are working on Team Project 1’s Porsche GTE-Am program this season, as part of the German squad’s expansion to a two-car entry.

***Toyota started testing its new aero design at Aragon back in January, according to the manufacturer’s technical director Pascal Vasselon: “The new format of the season makes it very difficult because you basically have to introduce a new car when you are still operating the car of the year before for Le Mans,” he said. “So we had to anticipate the rollout of this package in January.”

***An announcement confirming Aston Martin Racing’s factory driver lineups for both GTE-Pro and GTE-Am is expected on Aug. 13, according to team principal Paul Howarth.

***While a date change for the WEC’s penultimate round of the 2019-20 season at Spa has been agreed upon, avoiding one of three initial clashes with the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, Gerard Neveu is hopeful that Formula E Holdings will follow through with eliminating at least one additional WEC/Formula E date conflict.

“I hope they will avoid at least [the] December [date] because if we maintain at one clash, it’s a shame but one is easier to manage than two,” he said.

***The fastest lap of the Prologue was a 1:29.141 set by Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Jose Maria Lopez this evening. For comparison, the pole position time from the last public LMP1 event at Circuit de Catalunya held 10 years ago was a 1:32.492 set by a Ginetta-Zytek 09S (per Racing Sports Cars).

***Six Prologue drivers – Bruno Senna, Richard Lietz, Gianmaria Bruni, Nico Lapierre, Andrea Belicchi and Christian Ried – also took part in the 2009 race which was then a part of the Le Mans Series.

John Dagys contributed to this report

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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