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COTA Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s first notebook of the weekend from Circuit of The Americas…

Photo: Jose Bispo/JB Photo

***A total of 30 cars are set for this weekend’s Lone Star Le Mans event, one fewer than in Bahrain, but most notably the lowest ever LMP1 car count (three) in series’ history. It comes following the absence of Team LNT’s Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AERs, which were withdrawn for alleged logistical reasons.

***Sunday’s race will mark the 50th six-hour race in WEC history and will also be the 50th start for Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Kazuki Nakajima. 

***Mike Rockenfeller is set to turn his first laps in the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R on Saturday. The Audi DTM ace, who is also new to Circuit of The Americas, had a seat fitting earlier this month. Co-driver Jan Magnussen, meanwhile, hasn’t driven the mid-engined Corvette since last August, prior to his initial parting of ways with the manufacturer.

***The No. 63 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R is a brand-new chassis, with Pratt & Miller having only recently completed build of chassis No. 4, which took part in a brief “one hour” shakedown at Sebring last week, according to team manager Ben Johnson.

“The car hadn’t been officially presented [to the WEC] so it was a little bit of a gray [area] there on how [testing restrictions] apply but we just adhered to that, put an hour on it to make sure the systems worked and put it back in the truck,” Johnson told Sportscar365.

***Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon said their “quite big” Success Handicap this weekend, 2.77 seconds (No. 7 car) and 2.21 seconds (No. 8 car) to the ‘virtual car’ reference, will likely result in a lower powertrain coefficient handicap than in Bahrain due to nature of the 3.426-mile circuit.

***The LNT Ginettas are expected to remain with the same handicap when they are slated to return for Sebring, according to Vasselon, due to the 40-point threshold already been met. “They will be in the theoretical position to be on pole and win the race [at Sebring],” Vasselon said.

***High Class Racing has signed former Cool Racing race engineer Franck Larue for the reminder of the 2019-20 season and the 2020 European Le Mans Series season. Larue replaces Bastien Hanouet, who was “released from his contract with immediate effect,” according to team manager Nikolaj Johansen.

***High Class has also confirmed Polish racer Marcin Fedyna as its LMP2 simulator driver. Fedyna, who raced in the Ultimate Cup Series last year, will contribute to the team’s testing program with its Oreca 07 Gibson for the WEC and ELMS.

***Two-time GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup Pro-Am champion Ahmad Al-Harthy was spotted in the paddock mingling with Aston Martin Racing staff. The Omani driver works with WEC competitor TF Sport for his program with the Aston Martin Vantage GT3.

***Giuseppe Risi was also on-site Friday, meeting with staff from Ferrari in AF Corse’s garage. The Houston-based team is understood to have submitted a GTE-Pro entry request for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***The full entry list for Le Mans will be revealed on Feb. 28. It is expected to again feature 62 cars, with the use of two temporary garages and also the return of a Garage 56 participant, likely for Frederic Sausset’s SRT41 project for an all-disabled driver lineup in a specially adapted Oreca LMP2 car.

***A decision on Matt Campbell’s replacement in the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR for Le Mans has yet to be determined according to team owner Christian Ried, who indicated to Sportscar365 that the team would receive another Porsche-contracted driver in place of the Australian.

***Campbell has been confirmed in one of Porsche’s four factory GTE-Pro entries for the race.

***Among the Porsche factory drivers without confirmed Le Mans rides include Sven Mueller, Dirk Werner and Patrick Long, as well as former Young Professional Dennis Olsen.

***Ried told Sportscar365 that a decision on the driver lineup for its No. 88 Porsche for the 1000 Miles of Sebring has not yet been made. Bret Curtis and Adrien De Leeneer have joined Thomas Preining this weekend.

***Jeroen Bleekemolen is set to mount a bid for the Porsche Cup this year. The Dutchman revealed to Sportscar365 plans to contest multiple series in Porsche machinery, including several yet-to-be-announced efforts in IMSA and SRO America, which led to his ambitions.

***Bleekemolen will contest the remainder of the WEC season in the No. 57 Team Project 1 Porsche, which is sporting a new livery this weekend. Bleekemolen and Ben Keating, who are tied for the GTE-Am points lead, are rejoined by Felipe Fraga, who missed the last two races due to his Stock Car Brasil commitments.

***ABB FIA Formula E Championship race director Scot Elkins is serving as the Clerk of the Course for this weekend’s race as well at Sebring.

***Elkins, who holds an extensive background in North American sports car racing with previous technical and executive roles with the American Le Mans Series and IMSA, is able to work the Sebring weekend due to Formula E’s recent cancelation of the Sanya round, which has resolved several clashes for drivers as well.

***For the first time, two ACO-run championships are running on the same weekend, with the Asian Le Mans Series season-ending 4 Hours of Buriram taking place. It has resulted in a splitting of resources between Texas and Thailand that has extended down to pit lane officials.

***WEC race director Eduardo Freitas, who also normally works Asian LMS races, has been replaced by Rui Marques in Buriram, where ACO President Pierre Fillon and sporting director Vincent Beaumesnil will also be in attendance. ACO sporting delegate Thierry Bouvet, meanwhile, is on-site at COTA this weekend.

***The rescheduled WEC race, which was initially set for Interlagos on Feb. 1, has also impacted the TV talent lineup, with Martin Haven unavailable due to his bobsled commentary commitments. Jim Roller has been drafted into the booth this weekend alongside Allan McNish, with Duncan Vincent in the pit lane in place of Louise Beckett.

***Roller told Sportscar365 that he will also be on the broadcast team for Sebring and the season-ending 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***1990 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Price Cobb is on-site this weekend. Cobb’s business, Tread Connection Austin, is supplying tires to drivers taking part in the ‘Car Club’ hot laps initiative which is running in lieu of a support race series.

***One of the cars taking part in the Car Club is an ex-Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 from 2016 that Riley Motorsports ran in last year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. There are also McLaren and Porsche GT4 race cars, two McLaren Sennas, an Aston Martin Vulcan and an GT1-spec Matech Ford GT.

Daniel Lloyd & Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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