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COTA Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday notebook from COTA…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

***FIA Technical Director Bernard Niclot is no longer with the organization, in a shakeup made last week following the Six Hours of Mexico. Niclot, the architect of the LMP1 Equivalence of Technology regulations, was reportedly under scrutiny in the wake of Balance of Performance discrepancies in GTE-Pro last year, and more recently, the originally announced 2020 LMP1 regulations, which has since been abandoned.

***Former Ferrari F1 engineer Gilles Simon, who worked with now-FIA President Jean Todt at the Italian manufacturer, has been tipped as Niclot’s replacement. A FIA spokesperson told Sportscar365 that no further information has been communicated beyond Niclot’s confirmed departure.

***The brake issues for the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, which resulted in the car’s retirement in Mexico, was a “strange, unique problem” never seen before, according to team principal Paul Howarth. “We’ve obviously had a very in-depth review post-Mexico as any top manufacturer would,” Howarth told Sportscar365. “The brake demand in Mexico is the highest of any race.”

***Howarth said he doesn’t expect any issues this weekend, despite the excessive heat forecast for Saturday’s six-hour race, which will be run in full daytime hours for the first time since WEC’s first visit to Austin in 2013. “We just did long runs this morning and I don’t foresee any problems,” he said.

***Post-race analysis from Jackie Chan DC Racing determined that its No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson would have won the Mexico race by nearly 30 seconds had it not hit clutch issues. It resulted in the first non-podium class finish of the year for Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent, who also saw their LMP2 championship lead cut in half as a result.

***Rebellion Racing has yet to decide on its 2018 plans, with the Anglo-Swiss squad still evaluating its options following news of a combined LMP1 class for next season. Team manager Bart Hayden told Sportscar365 that they should have a better picture of its program by the next round at Fuji Speedway in October.

***GTE manufacturers are set to meet with representatives from the FIA and ACO tomorrow to discuss the future of the category in the WEC. BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquart is understood to be flying in specifically for the meeting.

***Ford Performance is providing additional support to the UK-based Chip Ganassi Racing squad this weekend, with the use of Ford’s engineering transporter and additional engineers on-site. Ford Performance Global Director Dave Pericak will also be in attendance this weekend, his first WEC race since Le Mans.

***All five of Chip Ganassi Racing’s programs are in championship contention this year. Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell lead the WEC GTE World Championship, with Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand third in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans title race. Scott Dixon is within three points of IndyCar championship leader Josef Newgarden heading into this weekend’s season finale in Sonoma, with Kyle Larson and Brennan Poole sitting second and fifth, respectively, in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series.

***Ten drivers have competed in all five WEC races at COTA from 2013-17: Sebastien Buemi, Andre Lottterer, Stephane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Roman Rusinov, David Heinemeier Hansson, Darren Turner, Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Christian Ried. The WEC is set to not return to the home of the U.S. F1 Grand Prix next season, with a move to Sebring International Raceway for 2019.

***Sebring track President and General Manager Wayne Estes is on-site this weekend to meet with WEC representatives ahead of the newly announced joint weekend in March 2019. “This is their last North American race before they come and see us, it seems appropriate to come out here and get us to know each other,” Estes told Sportscar365.

***Estes confirmed that the facility received damage from Hurricane Irma, mainly to signage, marshal posts and varying levels of flooding. He said the track operations staff have already made most of the repairs, with power expected to be restored this evening. Team Penske is scheduled to test at Sebring on Monday and Tuesday with the new Acura ARX-05 DPi cars.

***IMSA Vice President of Competition Simon Hodgson and Geoff Carter, IMSA’s Senior Director of Technical Regulations and Compliance, are also present this weekend, with both making their first visits to a WEC event since Le Mans.

***A number of other IMSA staff, including its Director of Racing Platforms Mark Raffauf, are also in the paddock this weekend, but focused on Ferrari Challenge North America, which IMSA sanctions.

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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