***The majority of drivers are predicting a tough race tomorrow, largely due to tire degradation and the heat. LMP1, LMP2 and GTE-Pro teams are all limited to four sets of tires, plus two extra tires, for qualifying and the race, with GTE-Am permitted up to six sets.
“The strategy is going to be key,” GTE-Pro class pole-sitter Sam Bird said. “What people use, tire-wise, whether they single or double in the beginning, let’s wait and see. But for sure, it’s going to be a very interesting battle.”
***Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl believes they could have an edge over Toyota in tire degradation, although the German manufacturer didn’t attempt to complete a full double stint in free practice. “We have to see tomorrow where the temperatures are. The hotter, the better for us,” he told Sportscar365.
***Seidl said they’re not yet certain on driver rotations, having typically double-stinted tires with drivers. “It’s always a risk when you change the driver with fuel-only stops,” he said. “Normally you make it in time. We saw it with Toyota in Mexico; they lost time twice.”
***Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon admitted they will likely only double stint drivers tomorrow “if it’s absolutely necessary.” Vasselon said they drafted in Stephane Sarrazin to the No. 8 car because of the heat, as they’d otherwise have been able to complete the race on a two-driver lineup, in the absence of Anthony Davidson.
***Davidson, who is missing this weekend due to “personal reasons” will return to the No. 8 car in next month’s round at Fuji, according to Toyota Team Director Rob Leupen. “Ant will be back fully fit and determined to do better as what we are doing in the present moment here,” he told Sportscar365.
***The Japanese manufacturer had one of the worst qualifying efforts in its WEC history, with the No. 8 Toyota more than 1.6 seconds slower than the pole-sitting Porsche and No. 7 car some 2.3 seconds adrift in combined average lap times. “At the moment we have no clear explanation,” Vasselon told Sportscar365. “The gaps have been made huge by driver mistakes, traffic, the fact that we stopped using new tires. But the true gap is the biggest of the season and we need to analyze.”
***The date changes to the 2018/19 WEC schedule, announced on Friday, was made possible due to not having a fixed race date in November, according to series boss Gerard Neveu. “When we were finishing our season in Bahrain, it was automatically the week before Abu Dhabi (F1 race) because we are using [some of] the same staff as Formula One.”
***With a minimum of three weeks needed for transport between China and Bahrain, Neveu said it created a bottleneck in the schedule that’s now been solved. The date change for Fuji eliminates a direct clash with the Motul Petit Le Mans, which had been a major concern among drivers.
“I was totally blocked by the slot,” Neveu said of the initial date for Fuji. “But now as I’m not racing in Bahrain, it was easy to push Shanghai to November and in this case to push Japan because they already accepted, very kindly, to move the date.”
***The race format for the WEC race at Sebring in 2019 has yet to be fully determined, according to Neveu, who said an effort will be made to differentiate it from the IMSA-run Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on the Saturday. Neveu, however, said he remains fixed on the idea of the race starting at midnight.
“If, for example, we say this is by miles, if we have to create a second [race] name to be a little bit different,” he said. “It will be a long race, longer than six hours, no question about that. But it could be 10, 12 [hours]. It will depend on the final model.”
***The WEC is launching a global fan survey, in association with Motorsport.com and Autosport, to seek input on the future of the championship from the 2019/20 season. The survey, which opens next week, will be available in ten languages, with the results to be presented in Bahrain in November. The FIA and ACO expect upwards of 50,000 responses.
***U.S. viewers can watch the Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas across the FOX family of networks, with coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET on FS GO before shifting to FS2 at 2:30 p.m. ET until 6 p.m. ET. In Europe, Eurosport will carry the full race live, with English language commentary from Mark Cole and Tom Gaymor beginning at 5:50 p.m. BST. Click Here for the full TV times.