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Mexico Saturday Notebook

John Dagys’ Saturday notebook from Saturday…

Photo: WEC/Adrenal Media

***Brendon Hartley’s 1:24.459 lap time helped put the FIA World Endurance Championship-leading Porsche 919 Hybrid on pole for tomorrow’s Six Hours of Mexico, in a strategic move for the German manufacturer, which seeks its third consecutive win. “We just used one set of tires, which was the strategy,” Hartley said. “It’s just to keep options open for tomorrow because we don’t know what the weather’s going to do. All sorts of weather has been forecast this week.”

***Rain nearly impacted the closing minutes of prototype qualifying, with a 70 percent chance of thunderstorms in the forecast for tomorrow. Despite rain in the forecast all day, Saturday’s running, which included 2.5 hours of Free Practice, ran dry.

***Sam Bird claimed GTE-Pro class pole in his return to AF Corse, after missing the Six Hours of Nürburgring due to his Formula E commitments in New York City. “It’s been a long time since I’ve driven the car,” Bird said. “I thought I’d actually be quite rusty coming into this one because the last time I drove was Le Mans. But it wasn’t the case.”

***The No. 13 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson will have to start from the rear of the overall grid tomorrow, due to a pit lane speeding violation from David Heinemeier Hansson in qualifying. The Dane was clocked at 61.08 km/h, over the 60 km/h speed limit and lost all of his qualifying times as a result. 

***The paddock was greeted to large crowds on Saturday, in what appears to have already been an increase in attendance from last year’s inaugural event. 

***WEC CEO Gerard Neveu has revealed that all LMP1 manufacturers wanting to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans must commit to the entire “Super Season” which kicks off at Spa in May and concludes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 2019. “If you want to go Le Mans you have to do the full season,” Neveu said.

***The clause could potentially put Toyota Gazoo Racing’s program in jeopardy, with the Japanese manufacturer rumored to be exploring only a three-race program, with entries at Spa, Le Mans and Fuji. Toyota is expected to make a decision about its WEC future in October.

***Neveu said he’s hopeful of retaining the World Manufacturer’s Championship for 2018-19, which requires a minimum of two LMP1 manufacturers. It’s believed the WEC has approached both Ginetta and BR Engineering to enter, which would require paying a 360,000 Euro fee. “For sure for that, to obtain the world title, you need to have another competitor. But let’s see if there’s another one,” Neveu said.

***Next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will not pay double points, according to Neveu, who indicated a new incremental system will likely be put in place for the longer distance events. “It’s not fair at the end, especially when it’s the last race,” he said. “But it’s unfair to say it has to just be [regular] points because it’s a longer race, a more difficult race. You will probably have a certain level of bonus when you are scoring in the 12 [hour] and another bonus when you are scoring in the 24 [hour races].”

***Porsche has yet to confirm which of its LMP1 drivers will move into GT factory driver roles next year. LMP1 Team Principal Andreas Seidl said that all six of its current drivers are currently under contract through next year. “One thing is clear, they will all get offered the possibility to stay with us, to stay works drivers, which I think is a great sign,” Seidl said. “The detailed program, we’ll have to see.”

***Both Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy who are rumored to be joining the CORE autosport-run Porsche GT Team for next month’s Petit Le Mans, are among the likely drivers to return to GT racing full-time, with Neel Jani moving to Formula E with Dragon Racing and Brendon Hartley linked to an IndyCar drive.

***Seidl has yet to comment on Porsche’s Formula E future, with more news to come on that front following the conclusion of the WEC season. “I think it’s important to respect that we still have a season to finish,” he said. “We have five more races to do. That’s the focus on our side.”

***Ben Hanley and Matt Rao are set to continue in the No. 24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing Oreca 07 Gibson into the next round at Circuit of The Americas. Hanley makes his fourth consecutive WEC start with a fourth different LMP2 team this weekend, having driven for TDS Racing at Spa, DragonSpeed at Le Mans and G-Drive Racing at the Nürburgring.

***Rebellion Racing has yet to decide on its driver lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans. Six of its regular drivers: Nelson Piquet Jr., Nick Heidfeld, Nico Prost, Neel Jani, Sebastien Buemi and Stephane Sarrazin will all be on Formula E pre-season testing duty that week, leaving limited options. 

***Prost shook down the team’s Road Atlanta-bound chassis at Rockingham last month. It will be a quick turnaround for the team, which will compete in the WEC race at Fuji the following week. Team manager Bart Hayden said 13 crew members will fly directly from Atlanta to Japan on the Sunday after the race, with Hayden and three others leaving one day later.

***Custom car and hot rod designer Chip Foose is one of several well-known faces attending the race this weekend. The star of the TV show ‘Overhaulin’ will meet with fans and make several personal appearances in the WEC fan zone.

***Watch the Six Hours of Mexico on FOX Sports 2, with the final two hours broadcast live, beginning Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. will carry the entire race live in France and the UK, with Eurosport airing highlights Monday across its networks.

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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