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Imola Friday Notebook

Check out Sportscar365’s latest notebook as track action for the 6 Hours of Imola begins…

Photo: Julien Delfosse/DPPI

***Antonio Fuoco set the fastest time across Friday’s two Free Practice sessions at Imola in the No. 50 Ferrari 499P, with a benchmark time of 1:30.957 in the latter session. Leading the way in LMGT3 was Charlie Eastwood in the No. 81 TF Sport Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R with a best effort of 1:41.986.

***Ferrari’s race and test team manager Giuliano Salvi has described the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari as the “Monaco of endurance racing.” He continued: “I think it’s a very accurate description, because track position is very important, some sections are very narrow and overtaking will be really difficult.”

***Salvi predicted that tire warm-up will be difficult at Imola owing to the lack of high-speed corners. “It’s a track with a lot of braking zones and traction, but the energy put into the tires is not huge,” he said. “It’s not a demanding track for the tires, so they struggle to get in the window. To get the tires in the right window will be crucial, especially after a pitstop.”

***Fuoco says he has no strong preference regarding the venue for the WEC’s Italian fixture moving forward, with Imola having replaced Monza on the schedule this year. “The thing I like is that the WEC visits Italy, so for me going here or Monza makes no difference,” he said. “Both are very historic tracks and they are special.”

***Porsche is planning to hold its final pre-24 Hours of Le Mans test at Circuit Paul Ricard in the days immediately following next month’s 6 Hours of Spa, LMDh factory director Urs Kuratle told Sportscar365.

***Although the test falls just before Porsche’s May 19 deadline to confirm its lineup for the No. 4 Porsche 963 for the French classic, Kuratle insisted that it is “not a shootout” to decide who will take the two vacant seats alongside Mathieu Jaminet in the third Porsche Penske Motorsport entry.

***With Penske Porsche managing director Jonathan Diuguid on IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship duty at Long Beach this weekend, his role at Imola is being filled by a combination of Kuratle, Penske competition director Travis Law and Diuguid himself via remote link.

***Hertz Team JOTA co-owner Sam Hignett confirmed to Sportscar365 that the team’s No. 12 Porsche 963 will race with a two-driver lineup comprising Callum Ilott and Will Stevens for next month’s third round of the season at Spa, with Norman Nato away on Formula E duty in Berlin.

***The four WEC drivers who are missing the Berlin race – Toyota pair Sebastien Buemi and Nyck de Vries, plus BMW Team WRT’s Robin Frijns and Peugeot’s Nico Mueller – are set to head to the German capital immediately after racing at Spa, despite the fact they will be unable to take part in the second leg of the FE double-header on Sunday.

***Mueller believes that Peugeot’s hybrid deployment speed being increased to 190km/h for this weekend’s BoP – in line with the other LMH manufacturers – will not make a great deal of difference to the French marque’s prospects this weekend as the revised 9X8 2024 debuts.

***The Swiss driver said: “At some locations [a lower deployment speed] can be a plus, but here you don’t have to think about it, because there’s basically no corner where we will have four-wheel drive in the combined phase. At Spa you start to have some corners where you can play with the front deployment, some corners where you reach 190km/h, so maybe we will get a better read on it there.”

***He added: “It was a bigger tool in the old car, because with the wider front tires you could actually put some power on the ground. That has changed quite a lot, and it’s a lower priority topic now.”

***Several Hypercar teams are set to take part in a test at the Circuit of The Americas in July immediately after the Interlagos round, to prepare for the WEC’s visit to the Texas venue in August. Among the expected participants are Toyota Gazoo Racing, Ferrari AF Corse, Porsche Penske and JOTA.

***Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Ryo Hirakawa is among a minority of Hypercar drivers to have driven at Imola this year already, having participated in a test with the McLaren Formula 1 team in mid-March using the 2022-spec MCL36.

***Hirakawa gave his views on the most critical points of the track in terms of managing traffic. “You can’t pass from Turns 2-4 [Tamburello chicane] because the track is always curving; you have to wait until Turn 5 [Villeneuve chicane],” he told Sportscar365. “Also you can’t pass at Acqua Minerale. The rest of the corners were quite simple; either you go [for a move] or not.”

***Duqueine team manager Max Favard told Sportscar365 that the suspension issue that forced the Isotta Fraschini Tipo 6 Competizione out of the Qatar 1812km has been fixed for this weekend, having been traced to a faulty batch of parts provided by an external supplier.

***Favard described Isotta Fraschini’s run to the 14th-fastest time in FP1 as “very positive.” He added: “We didn’t do any testing since Qatar, so we were able to validate a lot of things. The car balance was good, and compared to Qatar we’ve made a step forward in every area.”

***Former WEC driver Gabriel Aubry has based himself in the media center for this weekend’s race. The Frenchman is out of a drive this season after being dropped last-minute by Vector Sport for the European Le Mans Series in favor of Felipe Drugovich.

***Aubry worked as a commentator for French broadcaster L’Equipe TV for the Qatar 1812km and will be on-site for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in his role with the same network. He told Sportscar365 that he’s hoping to work as both a driver and in the media in the future, in order to give himself more financial security following his unexpected dismissal from Vector Sport.

***New Zealand businessman and philanthropist Sir Colin Giltrap passed away on Wednesday at the age of 84. Giltrap’s funding was responsible for launching the careers of many Kiwi drivers over the years, including current WEC stars Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber.

Davey Euwema contributed to this report

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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