Glickenhaus Racing driver Richard Westbrook says the American constructor is set for a “big learning experience” on its FIA World Endurance Championship debut at Portimao.
Westbrook is teaming up with fellow experienced sports car drivers Ryan Briscoe and Romain Dumas for the non-hybrid SCG 007 Le Mans Hypercar’s maiden race outing, which comes off the back of a busy testing program in the early months of 2021.
The Podium Advanced Technologies-developed car struggled for ultimate pace in qualifying, with Westbrook finishing 11th overall behind seven LMP2 cars and with a 1.8-second gap to the pole-sitting Alpine A480 Gibson grandfathered LMP1.
However, the former Ford GT driver told Sportscar365 that Glickenhaus is aiming to “get back” to the “sweet spot” it found during Free Practice 3 on Saturday afternoon when Westbrook beat both of the Toyota GR010 Hybrids.
He anticipates the 8 Hours of Portimao race will continue the intensive learning process Glickenhaus has faced throughout pre-season testing and this weekend in Portugal.
“In practice we’ve proved there is some pace there in a lap,” said Westbrook.
“There was obviously an issue in qualifying, to get that speed in one lap. But we’ll get there. We’ll learn that.
“The only problem is I’m right in the middle of the LMP2 pack. So if the Hypercars get away it’s going to make our life a little bit difficult and our day a bit longer.
“It would be nice to be able to jump the LMP2s straight away, but it’s going to be very tricky to make my way through there. We don’t have the big delta down the straight that you saw at Spa: there’s probably only a 10 km/h difference down at the end of the straight.
“So it will be difficult. But we’re not here for that. We’re here to learn.
“We had a big learning experience in qualifying and we’re going to have a big learning experience in the race as well. But that’s why we’re here.
“We’ve learned so much this weekend, it’s incredible. In FP3 we hit a sweet spot and it gave everyone a lift. Now we’ve just to get back to that and continue.”
Westbrook reckons there’s “more to come” from the Pipo Moteurs-powered Glickenhaus in today’s race after yesterday’s qualifying run.
The Brit explained that the team struggled to get the SCG 007 LMH’s tires into the optimal working window for the short 10-minute session and hinted at some other operational issues that he declined to identify.
“We certainly never got the most out of the tires, that’s for sure,” said Westbrook.
“In FP3 we saw the potential of the car and were hoping for even more in qualifying but it wasn’t there. We had a couple of issues which are part of the learning curve here.
“That was our first-ever qualifying in this car. We had a big lesson there and it definitely won’t happen again. In the future we’ll keep improving. But we didn’t have that in qualifying, we missed it
“But in FP3 there was definitely potential and still more to come. I think, all things considered, the future looks bright.”
Alpine Aiming to “Manage” Stint Length Deficit
Alpine Endurance Team driver Matthieu Vaxiviere, who took pole on Saturday, said after qualifying that he hopes the French team can “manage” its stint length deficit in the race.
Vaxiviere was coy when asked about Alpine’s chances considering the A480 Gibson LMP1 carries less fuel than the Toyota GR010 Hybrid and cannot expand the size of its fuel tank which is at maximum capacity.
The problem caused Alpine to run shorter stints in the Total 6 Hours of Spa and, as a result, made it serve an additional pit stop against the winning No. 8 Toyota.
“We will see in terms of fuel, the capacity that they have and what we can do and achieve,” Vaxiviere told Sportscar365.
“For sure we will push [to the] maximum and we will see if we need to pit a bit more.
“Maybe with Full Course Yellow and strategy we can manage it. We have a great team for strategy.”
Vaxiviere added that it was enjoyable to have a close fight with Toyota for the pole, which was ultimately decided by 0.094 seconds after a late charge from Brendon Hartley.
“We felt that we can fight, because it’s more of a track for us,” said the Frenchman. “For sure we will do the maximum to fight them every weekend.
“We put it all together and we got pole position. It was the plan to go for two [runs] because we knew that they [Toyota] would do well and fight us.”