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Le Mans Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday notebook prior to final qualifying sessions at Le Mans…

Photo: Porsche

***Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon confirmed that Fernando Alonso has experienced the Toyota TS050 Hybrid in wet conditions, ahead of predicted showers in Thursday’s qualifying. “We have had a test session that was wet on one day,” said Vasselon. “Fernando has been driving in the wet. As soon as it started raining in the test session he wanted to be in the car.”

***Toyota has tested two levels of its low-downforce aero kit at the Circuit de la Sarthe since the Test Day and plans to utilize another tonight during either of the qualifying sessions.

***Vasselon also explained that the multiple lap time deletions for its No. 8 car during Q1 were caused by Sebastien Buemi overshooting his fuel per lap maximum whilst overtaking traffic. “If there is traffic, the driver does some pumping on a button which costs a lot of fuel,” he said. “We were not concerned at all by that. These things can only happen with a traffic lap.”

***The No. 85 Keating Motorsports Ferrari 488 GTE also lost four laps in Q1 due to overboost, which technical director Rick Mayer attributed to a Ferrari-controlled component. Mayer told Sportscar365 they’ve been assured the issue has been solved for tonight’s final two sessions.

***Mayer said that drivers Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Luca Stolz, who are all making their Ferrari GTE debuts, are still coming to grips with the car’s lack of ABS, which is a typical feature in GT3 machinery. “They’ve got the ABS braking strategy burned into their brains pretty badly, so it’s hard to revert from that,” he told Sportscar365.

***Both of the Jackie Chan DC Racing Ligier JS P217 Gibsons have undergone engine changes following Wednesday’s track action, which saw the cars set the 17th and 18th quickest times in class. The No. 34 car struggled for pace, although David Cheng told Sportscar365 that it was due to the extended life of the powerplant.

***DragonSpeed team principal Elton Julian says he’s more concerned by how much faster the non-hybrid LMP1s are than the LMP2 frontrunners instead of the gap to the Toyotas. “We’re on the limit,” he told Sportscar365. “We need to manage the gap between us and the P2 in a straight line.”

***Julian also believes there’s still a good chance that an LMP2 car could win the race overall. “Two cars have some problems, and it will blow this race wide open,” he said. “For a second, don’t think that my P2 car isn’t a car that could win the whole thing. Look at last year.”

***The problem that brought Renger van der Zande to a halt during Qualifying 1 was a tire rub issue, according to Julian. The No. 10 DragonSpeed BR Engineering BR1 Gibson stopped on track as a precautionary measure to avoid the broken wheel damaging the car.

***Toyota, and the rest of the LMP1 competitors, will be forced to quadruple stint their Michelin tires in the race, with teams limited to only 12 sets of slick tires in the race. 

***With the Toyota limited to 11 lap stints, after being able to complete 14 laps last year, Vasselon said four stints is nearly equivalent to three stints from last year. LMP1 non-hybrids, meanwhile, will be limited to 10-lap stints.

***Vasselon said they have “no clearly defined” plan for team orders in the race, should both Toyotas be in contention in the closing stages of the race but admitted freezing the positions following the final pit stop, as was the case in last month’s Total Six Hours of Spa, is something they “always” consider.

***Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor have adopted “Pink Pig” helmet designs to match the special livery of their No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR.

***Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin is due to make his 17th Le Mans appearance for the team on Saturday, and for the 16th consecutive time he has been called upon to start the race behind the wheel.

***A delegation of IMSA staff, including President Scott Atherton, CEO Ed Bennett, Chairman Jim France, VP of Competition Simon Hodgson, arrived at the track on Thursday ahead of tomorrow’s ACO press conference.

***The press conference, which will reveal the 2020 and 2024 top-level prototype regulations for the FIA World Endurance Championship, is not expected to see any official confirmation of IMSA’s potential future adoption of the platform.

***Alessandro Balzan, who missed the recent IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Detroit due to a minor medical procedure, is at Le Mans to support regular co-driver Cooper MacNeil and Jeff Segal, who are driving the No. 84 JMW Motorsport-prepared WeatherTech Ferrari.

***Balzan told Sportscar365 he plans to return to driving soon, but is waiting on the green light from his doctor before being able to commit to an exact race.

***Masters Endurance Legends series director Nic Minassian hopes the fledgling competition can join the WEC support bill in the future. Minassian told Sportscar365 that he has had informal conversations with the ACO about the competition for 1995-2012 sports cars. “We have talked but it is a slow process and you need to go with the people in the series, what they want as well,” he said.

***Minassian, a 16-time Le Mans starter, who is serving as the sporting director for IDEC Sport Racing, expects at least 27 cars for next weekend’s race, which supports the Formula 1 French GP at Paul Ricard.

Jake Kilshaw, Daniel Lloyd and Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John


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