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Fuji Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday notebook from Fuji Speedway…

Photo: Vincent Wouters

Photo: Vincent Wouters

***All 32 cars are set for this weekend’s FIA WEC Six Hours of Fuji, including a handful of driver changes since the most recent round at Circuit of The Americas, in addition to today’s news from DC Racing Alpine, which sees Paul-Loup Chatin in its Alpine A460 Nissan for the remainder of the season.

***Will Stevens subs for Audi factory driver Rene Rast, who is on DTM duty, in the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 05 Nissan, while Mikhail Aleshin returns to SMP Racing for the remainder of the season in the No. 27 BR Engineering BR01 Nissan.

***Manor’s second Oreca 05 Nissan returns for the first time since the Nürburgring, with Tor Graves, Alex Lynn and Shinji Nakano. Marino Franchitti has been dropped from the No. 67 Ford GT lineup for the final three rounds, while Yutaka Yamagishi returns to the No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R.

***The biggest change for Fuji comes at Extreme Speed Motorsports, with its No. 30 Ligier JS P2 Nissan having been transformed into the Jagonya Ayam entry for Antonio Giovinazzi, Sean Gelael and Giedo Van der Garde, which is carrying the colors of KFC Indonesia (pictured above).

***The trio replace the all-American lineup of Scott Sharp, Ed Brown and Johannes van Overbeek, who have since shifted their focus to 2017 preparations for its full-time IMSA return. Both ESM team owner Sharp nor Brown, the Patron Spirits President/CEO, will be making the trip to Fuji this weekend.

***ESM has also switched back to Dunlop tires, after running Michelins on its two Ligier Nissans for the last three races. While it was believed that a team was only allowed to make one tire manufacturer change per season, ESM team principal Philippe Dumas told Sportscar365 that’s not the case. Michelins are currently listed for the pair of ESM entries for Shanghai, although Dumas said the plan is to stay on Dunlops for the rest of the season.

***Both Giovinazzi and Gelael will now have driven three different LMP2 cars, in the span of four races. The pairing won the final two 2015/2016 Asian Le Mans Series rounds in an Oreca 03R Nissan, before taking part in the European Le Mans Series season-opener at Silverstone this year in a SMP BR01 Nissan.

***The No. 77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR has received a full rebuild with all-new parts for this weekend. Only the chassis has been carried over from last month’s round at Circuit of The Americas, as the German squad looks to capitalize on a recent Balance of Performance adjustment.

***The 2016-spec Porsche’s 20kg weight break this weekend is likely to help them by about 0.250 to three-tenths of a second, according to Richard Lietz. “We hope it helps us. It won’t be easy but we’ll squeeze everything out of the car to do good here,” Lietz told Sportscar365.

***Proton plans to return to the GTE-Am class next year, despite the ACO’s decision to allow 2016-spec GTE-Pro cars, including the Ferrari 488 GTE into the class. Team boss Christian Ried told Sportscar365 that in an ideal world they’d continue to run 2015-spec Porsche 911 RSRs, due to the 200,000 Euros cost to upgrade each of the cars to the latest specification. Ried said he’s been promised an equal BoP from the FIA and ACO for the 2015 and 2016-spec cars.

***Ricky Taylor, who is now confirmed for the remainder of the season in the Larbre Corvette, has additional support this weekend, with Max Angelelli having made the trip to Japan with him. They’ve been joined by newly crowned Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Series North America champion Shinya Michimi, who drives for the Wayne Taylor Racing-run Prestige Performance squad.

***There are indications that 2016-spec GTE cars will be allowed in the WEC GTE-Pro and GTE-Am categories only next year and not the ELMS GTE class, which is believed to remain for 2015 or older machinery.

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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