***The 2017 WEC schedule is set to be released next week, according to WEC CEO Gerard Neveu. While having traditionally been announced during the COTA weekend, it’s believed a few race dates, including the Mexico round, are still being finalized. Neveu stressed stability in the calendar, despite paddock rumors indicating up to two venue changes.
***The only likely change expected is the location of Prologue official pre-season test, which has been tipped to move from Paul Ricard to Monza. The famed Italian circuit came close to hosting this year’s event.
***Officials have continued to crack down on track limits this weekend, with ten cars having lost at least one timed lap in qualifying due to going out of bounds. It included three violations for the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 05 Nissan of Alex Brundle alone.
***It’s understood cars will be given two warnings, then a black-and-white flag, followed by a penalty, which the severity will be at the discretion of the race director.
***The majority of drivers appear to be in support of the stricter enforcement this weekend. “I’m for that, really,” Darren Turner told Sportscar365. “I’m sure most drivers aren’t doing anything different from last year, it’s just we’re all being picked up on it.”
***Turner feels some changes to the track will help self-police the issue in the race. “They’ve put some extra curbs on the exit, which I think helps,” he said. “They’re aggressive enough that you’re going to lose performance. I’m really happy the circuit has gone down that route.”
***Audi is hopeful the mechanical issues from Mexico are behind them. The No. 8 Audi R18 suffered a wheel bearing failure, while both cars had brake issues. Head of LMP Stefan Dreyer told Sportscar365 the issues were not tied specifically to the circuit. “Obviously with the analysis and looking at parts, we did a lot of work, but in the end, there’s not a lot of time to react,” Dreyer told Sportscar365.
***Dreyer said new components and further developments are in the works for the next round at Fuji in one month’s time.
***Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl says the key to tomorrow’s race will be having the more flexible setup for the changing conditions. “It will be an interesting race and how we get through the different temperature scenarios, with the very high temperatures in the beginning, then cooling down rapidly,” he told Sportscar365. “It’s not easy to find the right compromise in terms of setup for conditions.”
***Ricky Taylor, who is one of four drivers pulling double duty this weekend, will start tomorrow morning’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race from the overall pole in his Corvette DP before swapping to the Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R for the WEC race. “As far as driving goes, they’re very different, so it’s easy to separate the two,” Taylor told Sportscar365. “You can compartmentalize one and the other. It’s been a fun exercise.”
***Lap times for the GTLM runners have been slightly faster than the GTE-Pro cars, with the Ford GT and Porsche 911 RSR both a half a second quicker in the WeatherTech Championship, but with AF Corse’s WEC Ferrari 488 GTE faster than Risi Competizione in qualifying. Ryan Briscoe’s pole time of 2:04.188 is 0.616 seconds quicker than the highest-placed Ford in WEC qualifying.
***IMSA has been much more liberal in regards to track limits than WEC, however. Many of the faster WEC lap times were deleted because of this issue, particularly at Turns 9 and 19.
***All four Ford GTs are at the same track for the first time since the 24 Hours of Le Mans, although this time in separate races. It’s part of a busy weekend for Chip Ganassi Racing, which is running cars in six series (WEC, WeatherTech Championship, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, Verizon IndyCar Series, Global RallyCross).
***While current-generation LMP2 cars will continue to be eligible through 2017 via grandfathering rules, they may find refuge in other championships next year. The French VdeV Endurance Series has announced that P2s will be eligible for its championship, provided they feature an all-gentlemen driver lineup.
***FOX Sports 2 will carry live coverage of the Six Hours of COTA, beginning Saturday at 6 p.m. ET, with Motors TV and Eurosport also providing lights-to-flag coverage, starting at midnight CET on Sunday. Mark Cole, Martin Haven and Stuart Hall will be on the call for Eurosport’s English broadcast, its first full-length coverage of a WEC race since Le Mans.
Jake Kilshaw and Laurent Mercier contributed to this report