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Nürburgring Saturday Notebook

John Dagys’ Saturday notebook from the Nürburgring…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

***Two senior-level members of Vaillante Rebellion have been suspended internally by the team in the wake of the No. 13 Oreca 07 Gibson’s exclusion from the 24 Hours of Le Mans due to bodywork modifications. Team manager Bart Hayden has taken an increased role this weekend in race operations as a result. 

***Nelson Panciatici has been given a 30-second stop-and-hold penalty for the race as a result of dangerous driving during qualifying. He blocked the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid on the Signatech Alpine Matmut driver’s out lap, forcing the LMP1 car to drive off-track to avoid a collision.

***It is the third LMP2 car to face in-race penalties tomorrow, joining the No. 24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing Oreca 07 Gibson, which has a seven-minute stop-and-hold for an incident in Friday’s Free Practice 2 involving Jonathan Hirschi and a three-minute penalty given to the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca for Roman Rusinov’s incident at Le Mans.

***Despite having the fastest single lap in qualifying, with a 1:37:886 by Andre Lotterer, Porsche lost out on the pole due to the Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi’s two-lap average of 1:38.118 in the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid. “We just didn’t get it together with all the drivers, for different reasons with traffic or not getting the perfect lap in,” Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl told Sportscar365.

***It marked Lopez’s first career WEC pole in his first attempt, in what came as a bit of redemption for the Argentinean, who crashed at Silverstone and was moved to Toyota’s third entry at Le Mans due to lack of experience after missing the Six Hours of Spa due to a back injury.

“This is racing, this is sport, and sometimes you can be the king and sometimes you can be the worst in the world,” Lopez told Sportscar365. “The team supports me all the time and they showed it today. They put me in qualifying even if it was my first attempt, and they trust[ed] me 100 percent, and I’m glad that I delivered and showed them that they were right.”

***Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon admitted they weren’t expecting to get pole, as the Nürburgring has historically been one of the the Japanese manufacturer’s worst tracks, because its double KERS system produces “far too much” energy. 

“It means we have to detune it and it has negative effect on the car balance and on the brake temperature,” Vasselon explained. “Basically we have to drop recovery and our car is designed, and our systems need to have the recovery work well. Our brakes have a hard time when we do it. The success of recovery hurts us.”

***Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy claimed their eighth consecutive GTE-Am WEC points-scoring class pole in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, a streak dating back to Circuit of The Americas last year. The No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R claimed outright GTE-Am pole honors but was not a full-season WEC entrant.

***After showing promising pace at Le Mans, the No. 4 ByKolles ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO has struggled this weekend, with handling issues plaguing the lone LMP1 Privateer entry. Marco Bonanomi and Dominik Kraihamer qualified 14th overall, nearly ten seconds from the overall pole-sitting Toyota.

***ByKolles team director Boris Bermes told Sportscar365 they will not be present at the next two rounds in Mexico and Circuit of The Americas, although would not absolutely rule out entering the season finale in Bahrain in November. Bermes said further updates to the car are planned for 2018, although it will not be an all-new chassis.

***Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser expects that the proposal for GTE qualifying races to be approved for next year. Walliser told Sportscar365 that there’s been “very positive” discussions between manufacturers on the concept. “We have to work on the final things: how many points you will get, and if it’s only grid position or points, because then the motivation is higher. How you handle the tires, how is the parc ferme, what you do if you crash the car, there’s a lot to be figured out. The experts are working on it, but the proposal that we have now is fine.”

***Walliser said it’s “difficult to judge” how the GTE-Pro class could evolve in the WEC, in the wake of questions surrounding the future of LMP1 amid Porsche’s potential exit at the end of this year. “Every racing series needs the heroes at the top,” Walliser said. “I cannot really judge it and nobody knows.”

***Aston Martin’s all-new Vantage GTE car is set to begin testing within the next month. The initial build of the car, believed to feature an AMG-based twin-turbo V8 engine, is understood to have been in the works since June. An official launch, alongside the British manufacturer’s new production car, is set for later this summer.

***One of the Porsche 917Ks used in the filming of the movie “Le Mans” will be going up for auction next month at the Monterey Car Week. The chassis, 917-024, was entered by John Wyler Automotive for the 1970 Le Mans Test Day with drivers Mike Hailwood and Brian Redman, but did not take part in the race. It is estimated to be worth between $13-16 million by Gooding offerings.

***Watch the Six Hours of Nürburgring on Sunday beginning at 7 a.m. ET on FS1, hosted by Calvin Fish and featuring the international commentary feed led by Toby Moody. British Eurosport will show highlights and the final hour from 5:25 p.m. BST, with coverage provided by Mark Cole and Tom Gaymor. Check your local listings for the Eurosport International schedule. Click Here for the full international TV listing.

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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