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24H Le Mans

Le Mans Wednesday Notebook

John Dagys’ Wednesday notebook from Circuit de la Sarthe…

Photo: John Dagys

***Toyota led an incident-filled and rain-affected Free Practice on Wednesday afternoon, thanks to a late flyer by Kamui Kobayashi in the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid. Kobayashi’s 3:18.091 lap came with just two minutes remaining in the four-hour scheduled session, which was interrupted by a heavy crash for Tracy Krohn.

***While Krohn escaped injury, the No. 99 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR sustained chassis damage. A team spokesperson confirmed to Sportscar365 that while a spare chassis is on-site, a decision has not yet been made on whether it will be built up or instead withdrawn.

***A decision on the entry’s status is expected tonight, while Krohn has yet to be cleared by the track doctor.

***Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon believes they will have a “very strong” challenge for pole by either SMP Racing or Rebellion Racing, and “even possibly” for race pace. “They have a really massive top speed so for sure Sector 2 and the beginning of Sector 3 will be a bit tough,” Vasselon said prior to the start of Free Practice on Wednesday.

***Vasselon admitted they will only go for pole “within reason” and will limit the number of runs and also not change the car’s setup. “We will try to be on pole but we will not focus on pole,” he said.

***Brendon Hartley will be paired with Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima next season, Vasselon confirmed, which will see Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi remain as a trio amid Fernando Alonso’s departure.

***A revised yellow procedure has been outlined for the race, which sees the use of Full Course Yellows (virtual safety cars) for the first time at Le Mans. According to race director Eduardo Freitas, a FCY could be deployed for short periods of time, in the range of 3 to 5 minutes, instead of Slow Zones or safety cars. The pits will be closed during any FCY.

***Should a safety car be called, the pits would also stay closed until the second safety car passes the pit straight. Emergency service will be allowed but cars will be forced to return to the pits for full service once the pit lane opens.

***It’s understood the changes are aimed to help prevent a repeat of last year’s GTE-Pro situation, which saw the eventual class-winning No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR gain more than two minutes due to safety car timing. 

***Freitas indicated that an active effort will be made to help preserve class battles on the track, particularly in the 17-car GTE-Pro field.

***Sportscar365 understands that GTE-Pro teams could be reprimanded in the race for exceeding the fuel flow numbers the cars achieved at the test day. Le Mans marks the first race where fuel flow meters have become mandatory in the class.

***Rebellion Racing’s plans for the 2019-20 WEC season are still unclear, with most, if not all, drivers yet to sign contracts. Neel Jani and Thomas Laurent are definitely leaving the team, while Andre Lotterer has hinted he could step away to focus on his ABB FIA Formula E Championship duties, depending on potential clashes between the series.

“If I were to stay with [Rebellion], there is no future plan at the moment,” Lotterer told Sportscar365. “I guess there will be one, eventually, at some point, but at the moment I don’t know. At first, the calendars have to come out and if there are too many clashes, I’d obviously need to focus on Formula E as this is the bigger challenge at the moment.”

***Toyota’s Vasselon said they are open to Laurent racing in other categories next season, but not with a direct competitor in LMP1. The Frenchman has been linked to Signatech Alpine for the 2019-20 campaign.

***Vasselon, meanwhile, would not comment on the contractual status of Anthony Davidson, who had previously been the team’s reserve driver for this season.

***Toyota has moved all of its drivers onto seasonal contracts, unlike many Pro-Am teams in the WEC paddock, which have continued to employ drivers per calendar year. 

***Roman Rusinov says he’s eyeing a return to the Rolex 24 at Daytona, having contested the race in 2014. “I would love to do Daytona next year but I have to find with which car and how,” he told Sportscar365. When asked if it would be with his usual G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 Gibson, he added: “We need to figure it out but I believe it could be a good idea.”

***Porsche Digital has launched its ‘Second Skin’ online configurator that enables customers to apply a fully customized livery design to vehicles. The concept made its debut on the No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR, which is sporting a livery designed by New York pop artist Richard Phillips that was implemented on the system.

***The ‘Second Skin’ tool will be available to road car customers beginning next month, with complete vehicle liveries beginning at €4,000 ($4,500).

***Corvette Racing’s mechanics got some unexpected extra pit stop practice when the Jackie Chan DC Racing team parked one of its Oreca 07 Gibsons in the GTE-Pro squad’s box yesterday.

***Fernando Alonso offered his take on securing a possible second victory in this year’s Le Mans against the prospect of winning the 2018-19 WEC title:

“After winning Le Mans once, being world champion in endurance, it would be a nice thing to have; maybe even more than the two Le Mans wins,” said the Toyota driver.

***Mark Cole and Carlton Kirby lead Eurosport’s English-language coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with today’s sessions; it is the 15th year that the international broadcaster has provided full coverage of the race.

***The TV lineup, which will be simulcast in North America on MotorTrend TV and Velocity Canada, will also include Sam Hancock, Chris Parsons, Damien Faulkner and Terry Rymer. Click Here for the full worldwide TV and streaming listings.

***Radio Le Mans will also have full, uninterrupted coverage, both online and at 91.2 FM trackside.

***Qualifying 1 gets underway at 10 p.m. local time and runs through midnight. An additional two sessions are on tap for Thursday (7-9 p.m. and 10-12 a.m.).

Jake Kilshaw and Daniel Lloyd 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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