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COTA Saturday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Saturday FIA WEC notebook from Circuit of The Americas…

Photo: Jamey Price/Toyota

***Rebellion Racing’s third consecutive pole of the FIA World Endurance Championship season came after a rapid engine change to the No. 1 Rebellion R13 Gibson following Free Practice 2, which occurred less than four hours prior in the compact two-day weekend.

“For anyone that knows, it’s not very easy to change an engine in nearly four hours,” said Gustavo Menezes. “A huge thank you to them. Not only did they assemble it all fast and flawlessly, it gave us the opportunity to be out there in qualifying. I’m quite excited to be able to put it on pole.”

***In addition to the No. 1 Rebellion, DragonSpeed’s Oreca 07 Gibson underwent an engine change between Free Practice 2 and qualifying. Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman qualified sixth in class in the team’s first WEC race since last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***Five American drivers are taking part in the race this weekend: Menezes, Mark Patterson, Colin Braun, Ben Keating and Bret Curtis. Menezes is the only American driver to have claimed victory at COTA in WEC competition, both in 2016 and 2017 while driving for Signatech Alpine in LMP2.

***Cool Racing, which isn’t taking part in the next round at Sebring, needed to make a choice on which of the American WEC races it skipped. Sportscar365 understands that a substantial irreversible commitment to partner-based activities for the now-cancelled 6 Hours of Sao Paulo forced the team to cut back on one of the 2019-20 season events as a costs-saving measure.

***Racing Team Nederland team principal Frits van Eerd confirmed to Sportscar365 that Job van Uitert will be in the car for next month’s 1000 Miles of Sebring as originally planned despite the cancelation of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship race in Sanya, which has freed up regular season driver Nyck de Vries. “When you promise somebody things, that’s the way I act. A promise is a promise,” van Eerd said.

***Van Eerd did not get any track time in FP1 after a wheel fell off his TDS Racing-run Oreca 07 Gibson. The team replaced the entire left-rear corner of the car, including the differential, between sessions, according to the Dutchman, who is making his debut at COTA. Van Eerrd, however, previously attended a Formula 1 race here as a guest of Max Verstappen.

***A similar wheel issue occurred for the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE of Marco Sorensen, who lost his left-rear Michelin to bring out a red flag in FP2. The Dane said that it made qualifying “a little more wild” due to lost time in the session, although he and Nicki Thiim broke through to claim GTE-Pro pole.

***Thiim said he’s not fazed by Ferrari gaining ground in the GT drivers’ championship following a successful appeal against its Shanghai disqualification. “It’s just so close in the championship but we are halfway, so it’s too early to think about that,” he told Sportscar365. “We just need to keep pushing and get some more points in the bag.”

***The Equivalence of Technology has not yet been finalized for the 24 Hours of Le Mans according to Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon, who confirmed that the Toyota TS050 Hybrid’s one-lap stint and refueling advantage will be gone compared to last year’s race.

“The pit stop time is normally balanced and the number of laps will be the same,” he said. “So we have lost these advantages. What is left is still to be defined, is the element of the EoT effecting the relative pace of the cars.”

***Vasselon doesn’t believe the FIA World Rally Championship’s planned move to hybrid powertrains in 2022 will have an impact on Toyota’s WEC involvement due to the difference in platforms and audiences.

***Dan Sayers has left his post as Aston Martin Racing’s technical director after five years in the role. Sayers, whose final WEC event was the 8 Hours of Bahrain in December, is now head of technical operations at Red Bull Advanced Technologies.

***Aston’s GTE technical team is now being led by Gustavo Beteli, who was previously a race engineer for the JRM Nissan GT3 team and has worked at AMR since 2016.

***The next step in the ACO-IMSA convergence process is set to take place on Tuesday in Daytona, with a manufacturer steering group meeting involving prospective LMDh manufacturers and technical delegates. Sportscar365 believes that a representative from Toyota Motorsport GmbH will be in attendance, as a voice from the Le Mans Hypercar platform.

***An additional meeting is scheduled to occur prior to the ‘Super Sebring’ weekend, where the technical regulations are expected to be presented.

“We are on the schedule, which is really appreciated,” FIA WEC CEO Gerard Neveu said. “It’s been good teamwork between the ACO and IMSA since we met together in Daytona. So far we’re respecting each step. The process is going forward.”

***Neveu revealed that the final agreement to create LMDh was made on Jan. 6, the day following the Roar Before the Rolex 24, where Neveu, ACO president Pierre Fillon and others met with top brass at IMSA prior to the official announcement later that month.

***A number of IMSA team principals and high-ranking staff are in attendance this weekend, including Wayne Taylor, Bill Riley, CORE autosport team manager Michael Harvey, veteran engineer Jeff Braun, as well as Aston Martin Racing’s North American distributors, Cy and Susan Jary of CSJ Motorsports.

***Riley told Sportscar365 he’s already working on 2021 programs and said he’s open to exploring a full-time WEC effort as long as it wouldn’t conflict with his operations in IMSA. Longtime customer Ben Keating has been among those linked to a potential Chevrolet Corvette C8.R operation for the 2020-21 season.

***Keating has brought around 200 guests to this weekend’s event. The Texas-based Team Project 1 Porsche driver has several Ford dealerships in the area.

***The trailer for the upcoming documentary “Behind the Helmet” has been released. The 90-minute film, produced by Pindare Films and Virginie Dulauroy, chronicles the on-and-off-the track lives of Scott Dixon, Bruno Senna, Memo Rojas and Jules Gounon in the build up to last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. A release date and distribution details have not yet been announced.

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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