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Imola Saturday Notebook

Check out Sportscar365’s latest notebook on the eve of the 6 Hours of Imola…

Photo: DPPI

***Antonio Fuoco scored his third career WEC pole at Imola, and a third for Ferrari in the Hypercar class at the wheel of the No. 50 AF Corse 499P. The Italian driver’s previous poles came last year in the Sebring 1000 Miles and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***On his pole-winning effort, Fuoco said: “The feeling was already good from this morning in Free Practice, so I just tried to keep the concentration high and put everything together. It’s always tricky in qualifying with the traffic and everything else, but I think the car today was really good, and I just put a really good lap together.”

***Manthey PureRxcing’s Alex Malykhin credited a pre-event test at Imola for his speed as he took LMGT3 pole by a significant margin of 0.693 seconds. The British-based Belorussian commented: “We had two good test days a few weeks ago at Imola. We tested a lot of things and we just had the car ready in the first practice session of this weekend. This was key to our success today.”

***Dries Vanthoor was “a bit surprised” to see the red flag come out after he spun the No. 15 BMW M Hybrid V8 at Piratella in the first segment of qualifying, considering he almost immediately rejoined the track without issue. “At the end I wasn’t stuck and I just kept rolling, so I didn’t really stop,” he said. “I think it was quite a harsh red flag. I ruined my own session a bit, but [the race director] putting a red flag in it for sure didn’t help.”

***The No. 15 machine was then shown stopped at pit exit when the session resumed. This was not the result of an issue, but rather because article 10.2.4 of the WEC sporting regulations states that ‘any car causing a red flag may not be allowed to re-join the qualifying sessions’ and stewards stopped Vanthoor from going back out.

***In the sister BMW, Rene Rast said he felt he could have qualified in the top five with a perfect lap, but was pleased to give the Bavarian marque its first appearance in Hyperpole as he put the No. 20 car seventh on the grid. “I think we can be very happy with what we achieved already in our second race,” he said. “Being in Hyperpole is more than we expected after Qatar.”

***Qatar pole man Matt Campbell suffered an off on his first push lap aboard the No. 5 Porsche 963 in Hyperpole en route to fifth on the grid. “I just had a massive lock-up into [Tamburello], couldn’t get it unlocked and flat-spotted the tire in two places. The vibrations were huge was after this and it was affecting our balance a little bit. Nevertheless, I was able to recover quite well.”

***Alpine driver Nicolas Lapierre admitted the Imola weekend is “not going as expected” for the French brand after qualifying down in 17th and 18th places with its pair of A424s. “We are struggling a bit riding the curbs, and with top speed as well,” he said. “We need to investigate this a bit deeper, but for sure it’s disappointing not to make the step forward we were expecting for this race.”

***The No. 81 TF Sport Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R is set for an overnight engine change after experiencing a “constant misfire” per a GM spokesperson. Tom van Rompuy qualified the car 11th in LMGT3.

***Earl Bamber Motorsport is “still looking into” the possibility of running the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R after previously expressing early interest, according to team boss Earl Bamber. “[It] probably just really depends on chassis availability at the moment, that’s the biggest thing.”

***While not racing at Imola, EBM is working through an intensive schedule this weekend with simultaneous engagements in Porsche Carrera Cup Asia and Australia as well as the Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia powered by AWS opener in Sepang and the Hankook 12H Spa-Francorchamps.

***Similarly, Heart of Racing Team faces a triple duty weekend with WEC as well the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and GT America powered by AWS at Long Beach.

***Team principal Ian James told Sportscar365: “Obviously I’ve got some great people working for me and I fully trust what they are doing, but I like to stay involved and see how the decision making is going and what our thought plan is.” James added that he plans to stay up to watch the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in full, which kicks off at 10:35 p.m. European time.

***Alessandro Pier Guidi believes the crew of the No. 51 Ferrari 499P can afford no more missteps in the championship after it came away from Qatar with zero points. “If we think in the championship, you can have one kind of race joker that you can play, but we already used the joker,” he said. “Now we need to score points. We can’t have any other zero or mistake. We need to be really focused and start to score. I hope in our home race, it could be the best place to start to score.”

***An additional camera monitoring track limits was installed overnight at the exit of Rivazza 2. BMW Team WRT’s Valentino Rossi and Iron Lynx Lamborghini man Matteo Cressoni have been among those to fall foul of the stewards for repeated violations, earning five-minute stop-and-go penalties.

***Takeshi Kimura was also hit with a five-minute penalty for failing to slow for double-waved yellow flags in his Akkodis ASP Lexus RC F GT3 during FP3.

***Ferrari AF Corse has been hit with a reduction in tire allocation for testing this season by 12 tires (three sets) after having been found to have exceeded its quota by the same number for a two-day test in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 5-6. Regulations permit 24 tires to be used per day of testing, with the Italian marque found to have used 60.

***The No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari meanwhile was found to have used 64 tires during the same test, four sets over the maximum, and as such has had its allocation reduced by 16. Teams are restricted to 120 tires across the entire season.

***Toyota Gazoo Racing meanwhile escaped sanction for exceeding its tire quota by four – i.e. a single set – during a three-day test at Paul Ricard. Toyota had declared the test as a combination of a team test day on Jan. 29 and a two-day endurance test on Jan. 30-31, but successfully argued that the final day of the test should be counted as a team test day as the endurance test did not take up the entire day.

***JOTA co-owner David Clark has returned to the WEC paddock this weekend, having missed the entire 2023 campaign due to illness.

***Alpine driver Charles Milesi is wearing a special Ayrton Senna tribute helmet this weekend, as the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari prepares to mark the 30-year anniversary of the Brazilian Formula 1 legend’s death.

***BMW factory driver Max Hesse is on site with Team WRT this weekend after completing simulator work in Munich ahead of the M Hybrid V8’s European debut. Hesse recently took a breakthrough victory in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup season opener at Paul Ricard.

***The WEC’s regular team of Martin Haven, Anthony Davidson and Graham Goodwin are on commentary duty for this weekend’s race, with Bruce Jouanny reporting from pit lane. The broadcast is accessible via the series’ official app and across channels including MotorTrend and MAX in the U.S.

***Radio Le Mans is also providing coverage of the race with John Hindhaugh and Peter Mackey in the commentary booth. The race is slated to begin on Sunday at 1 p.m. local time (7 a.m. EDT).

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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