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JOTA Planning Spa Debut for its Porsche 963

Hertz Team JOTA could join Hypercar grid at Spa shortly after April delivery of Porsche 963…

Image: Nick Dungan Photography

Hertz Team JOTA is planning to debut its customer Porsche 963 at the 6 Hours of Spa in late April before going on to tackle the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The British squad, in partnership with American car rental giant Hertz and Porsche restoration company Singer, has acquired one of the German manufacturer’s LMDh cars to run in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

It appeared on the Le Mans entry list earlier this week, but it was unclear at the time if that would be the No. 38 car’s first appearance on the Hypercar grid.

Porsche is planning to deliver customer 963s at the end of April, however JOTA co-owners David Clark and Sam Hignett told Sportscar365 that the Hertz program is set to enter the third round of the season on April 29.

“We’re going to run the car at Spa,” Clark said. “We’ll be doing some testing after Spa, which will probably be more reliability testing than performance testing.

“Then we’re ready for Le Mans. We’re up against it a bit, but that doesn’t faze us. You can test as much as you want, but racing’s racing. That’s where it all changes.

“We’re ready and up to speed with Porsche. Our guys will be there building the car [at Weissach].”

Hignett added that racing the Porsche 963 at Spa will enable the JOTA team to learn “five times more” than if it focused solely on a testing program before Le Mans.

“To go and do a three-day race weekend is worth an enormous amount in terms of testing,” he explained.

“When you look at the time ahead of Le Mans, we’re better off racing and a bit of testing, than we are entirely focusing on testing. In terms of our rate of learning the car and processes.

“We will have done a scrutineering event at Spa before we get to Le Mans. To go into Le Mans as your first scrutineering, with the increased level of inspection and due diligence that’s done, it would be a nightmare.

“We’ll have experience of how you go through scrutineering, what you need to do, what’s being looked at etc. And then it’s just one more box ticked ahead of going to Le Mans.

“We can shelve as many new problems as possible. It doesn’t mean that we will solve the problem, but at least we have knowledge.”

Porsche’s three initial LMDh customer teams — JOTA, Proton Competition and JDC-Miller Motorsports — are expected to receive their cars at similar times in late April.

Porsche motorsport boss Thomas Laudenbach recently told Sportscar365 that the manufacturer’s plan for its customers is to deliver “as soon as their cars are finished” and that it has been “constant communication” with teams throughout the process.

“Porsche have been very accommodating,” said Clark. “I know there have been quite a lot of comments from others about it, but they are bending over backwards to help us.

“They really are. I’ve got nothing bad to say at all. It’s not easy times for anybody with the production of anything.

“What they don’t want to do is just deal with every client in a different way. We’re doing everything to work with them to get delivery of the car.”

LMP2 Stopgap Entry to Contest Portimao

While awaiting the handover of its new Porsche, JOTA will run its Hertz-backed entry in the LMP2 class at the first two rounds of the WEC season.

Its No. 48 Oreca 07 Gibson for next month’s 1000 Miles of Sebring was confirmed in Wednesday’s entry list reveal, while Clark and Hignett later confirmed plans to contest the 6 Hours of Portimao on April 16.

For Sebring, Hypercar drivers Will Stevens and Yifei Ye will team up with David Beckmann who is Porsche’s Formula E reserve driver.

Beckmann and Ye are set to remain in the lineup for Portimao, while it is believed that Antonio Felix da Costa could replace his Hypercar co-driver Stevens in the third seat.

Outlining the reasons for the two-car Hertz LMP2 entry, Hignett said: “It’s part commercial, and it’s part [the fact that] we are a race team.

“If the guys are going into Spa having not raced all winter… we’ve got to keep fresh. We’ve just got to keep racing.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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