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Le Mans Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook from Circuit de la Sarthe…

Photo: Marius Hecker/AdrenalMedia.com

***Rebellion Racing faced engine failures on both of its Rebellion R13 Gibsons in Thursday’s qualifying sessions. The cause of the issues are unclear at this point although Sportscar365 understands at least one of the cars was running with a development spec of the V8 powerplant.

***Gulf Racing’s Porsche, which qualified third in GTE-Am, has been experiencing gearbox issues all week. Team manager Owen Daley told Sportscar365 that repeated fluid leaks and an engine change on Wednesday have left the team weary ahead of tomorrow’s race start.

***BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt said that the No. 81 Team MTEK BMW M8 GTE is ready to go following Nicky Catsburg’s off in Qualifying 3 last night. The pair of MTEK-run BMWs, in their final WEC appearances, qualified fifth and 16th in class.

***Marquardt told Sportscar365 that he found it “a bit strange” that qualifying speeds were down from last year in GTE-Pro, suggesting that the majority of the field may have not shown its full hand, with the exception of the class pole-sitting Aston Martin Vantage GTE and the pair of MTEK-run BMWs.

***Rebellion tweeted a joke this morning that both Toyota TS050 Hybrids had been disqualified from qualifying, promoting Rebellion’s R13 Gibsons to second and fourth on the grid. The Toyotas have not, in fact, been disqualified, as confirmed by a FIA World Endurance Championship spokesperson. Rebellion starts from fourth and sixth.

***The team was asked to delete the tweet by the WEC and clarify that its cars will start from fourth and sixth as planned. Toyota’s two cars locked out the front row in Qualifying 3 on Thursday night, meanwhile.

***R-Motorsport has “naturally supported” Aston Martin’s decision to enter the Hypercar ranks. In a team statement, the Swiss squad expressed its pleasure on Aston’s new factory program, which will debut in the 2020-21 WEC season and said that Le Mans remains one of the team’s goals.

***R-Motorsport is understood to likely be the first customer team, alongside the works squad, which could be run by technical partner Multimatic. 

***Despite some initial confusion, Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon has reaffirmed that the manufacturer’s Hypercar entry is prototype-based and not derived directly from a road car, as is the case with Aston Martin’s Valkyrie project.

***The Hypercar regulations are set to be approved by the FIA World Motor Sport Council this evening in a dual-text format, according to ACO sporting director Vincent Beaumesnil, who said the prototype and road car origin regulations have been separated for “practical” reasons but will eventually be combined under a single set of regs.

***Beaumesnil said he expects further tweaks to come in the regulations in the months to come, building up to the platform’s debut in September 2020. “It’s the starting point that gives the opportunity to the manufacturers to start to work, then there is some fine tuning to work together with the guys,” he said.

***Hybrid powertrains will be optional for the entire five-year duration of the regulations, according to Beaumesnil. 

***Beaumesnil said the yet-to-be-determined single-tire supplier in Hypercar may end up offering three or four different types of tire constructions to correspond to the different weight distributions for cars. A class-wide spec tire has been ruled out.

***Former Lotus and McLaren F1 team principal Eric Boullier has been seen throughout the paddock. Boullier now works for the French Grand Prix organization.

***Notable guests in Friday’s press conference include six-time 24 Hours Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx, four-time winner Henri Pescarolo, and former Audi LMP1 boss Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, who serves as a consultant to the ACO.

***Former NBA basketball star Tony Parker has been a special guest of the IDEC Sport LMP2 squad this week. The four-time NBA champion and six-time series All-Star used Le Mans to announce a new business venture with IDEC owner Patrice Lafargue.

***Philipp Eng is racing with a special helmet design paying tribute to Formula 1 driver Roland Ratzenberger, who was killed an accident at Imola 25 years ago. “Roland is a role model of mine – in he fought hard throughout his successful career and on his way to Formula 1,” said the BMW driver.

***Porsche has confirmed that its GTE-Pro driver lineups will remain unchanged next season. Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz will dive the team’s No. 91 car, while Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre will share No. 92.

***Porsche has also formally acknowledged the existence of its “brand new” next-generation 911 racing model, dubbed the Porsche 911 RSR-19. A short teaser video showed the car testing at Paul Ricard, while it’s also been spotted at Monza in recent weeks. The car is expected to be formally launched at the Goodwood Festival of Speed next month.

***High Class Racing still plans to enter two cars into the 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Series, having been confirmed on the WEC grid next season. The Danish LMP2 team, which is also competing in the European Le Mans Series, will run an Oreca 07 Gibson in its first intercontinental program.

***Aston Martin Racing president David King says there could be “some surprises” in the Hypercar manufacturer uptake for its first season in 2020-21, when asked if the presence of two manufacturers – Aston Martin and Toyota – was enough. “We’ve known from LMP1, if you’ve got two competitive manufacturers, you’ve got a very good race. If you’ve got three manufacturers, it’s epic,” he added.

***Aston Martin Lagonda CEO Andy Palmer says he “arrogantly believes” that the genesis of Hypercar came when he told the ACO two years ago that Aston Martin wouldn’t enter LMP1. “I said I would never be interested in LMP1 but if I could race a Valkyrie against a La Ferrari, a 918, a P1, then that is something I would be truly interested in,” he said.

***The ACO expects having multiple manufacturers enter hydrogen-powered cars at Le Mans in 2024. It comes in the wake of a hydrogen station explosion in Norway earlier this week that has made international headlines, in the first major accident of its kind for the emerging technology.

***BMW, which has been a proponent of Hydrogen technology and is in the ACO’s working group on the technology, has “nothing on the screen” for the next two to or three years in regards to a possible hydrogen racing project, according to Marquardt.

Daniel Lloyd and Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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