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Portimao Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Thursday notebook ahead of the 8 Hours of Portimao WEC round…

Photo: FIA WEC

***Algarve International Circuit near the southern Portuguese town of Portimao is the 12th different track to host a round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. This weekend marks the WEC’s first time visiting a new circuit for a race since Mexico City in 2016, as well as the series’ first European eight-hour race after Sebring and Bahrain.

***Portimao may be new to the WEC, but several teams will be familiar with its layout having taken part in European Le Mans Series races and private testing there in the past. One of last year’s ELMS 4 Hours of Portimao winners, Mikkel Jensen, is here driving in GTE-Am.

***Antonio Felix da Costa is the only Portuguese ‘home’ driver out of the 94 participating this weekend. Filipe Albuquerque’s clashing IMSA commitments in Detroit have rendered the 2018 ELMS Portimao winner absent from WEC round two.

***Two teams – Glickenhaus Racing and Kessel Racing – are making their WEC debuts in Portugal. Over at Kessel, WEC rookie Scott Andrews is set for his fifth different series drive in a fifth different car this year So far in 2021, the Florida-based Australian has already piloted LMP3 cars in IMSA and Michelin Le Mans Cup, a Mercedes-AMG GT4 and a Toyota GR Supra GT4 in IMSA and a Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo Evo.

***Come Ledogar has been named as the third driver in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ledogar, who captured the Le Mans GTE-Am pole last year, will team up with 2019 winners Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado.

***Ledogar was included in an updated version of the 62-car Le Mans entry list released on Thursday. Of note, GTE-Pro outfit HubAuto Racing has Audi factory driver Dries Vanthoor shown alongside former Super GT champions Nick Cassidy and Heikki Kovalainen. However, the HubAuto organization has yet to officially announce its crew. It’s understood that further confirmations are needed behind the scenes before an announcement can be made.

***Both of the Bronze-rated drivers who have appeared in the No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 so far this season are set to contest the GTE-Am class at Le Mans. Dominque Bastien, who is at Portimao, will drive the No. 88 in France while Spa competitor Andrew Haryanto is in the Proton-supported No. 18 Absolute Racing entry.

***Absolute Racing announced today that Marco Seefried will partner Haryanto and Alessio Picariello at Le Mans.

***Goodyear has brought its ‘C’ specification slick LMP2 tire compound to Portimao, repeating its choice for the Total 6 Hours of Spa and the last two ELMS rounds at the Red Bull Ring and Paul Ricard.

***Goodyear’s Endurance Racing Program Manager Mike McGregor suggested that previous work at the track should pay dividends this weekend: “Portimao is one of the tracks we tested the new tire specification on so that gives us useful information heading into the race, in terms of how the tire will perform and what setups we can recommend to teams.”

***Cars running on Michelin tires will have ‘Medium’ and ‘Medium Hot’ slicks at their disposal. “Tires are subjected to high lateral forces – notably through the long final corner where the cars constantly accelerate – and high longitudinal forces under braking for Turns 1 and 5,” said Michelin’s WEC program manager Pierre Alves. “This presents us with several challenges but it should make for a great show.”

***Alves added that Michelin’s WEC team has engaged in “discussions” with its MotoGP sister department to gain an understanding of the track’s characteristics, considering its endurance racing range is new to Portimao.

***Toyota’s Le Mans Hypercar test at Portimao next week will be a 30-hour endurance run, according to team director Rob Leupen. All of Toyota’s full-time WEC drivers will be present in addition to Ryo Hirakawa, who is due to turn his first laps in the GR010 Hybrid.

***Toyota is celebrating its 100th race at the top level of world championship endurance racing. Special ‘100’ logos can be seen on the Japanese manufacturer’s cars and in the garages. Toyota’s first race was the 1983 Fuji 1000km where the 83C made its debut.

***Toyota team president Hisatake Murata commented: “Everyone in the Toyota Gazoo Racing team today is proud to be part of these 100 races. This anniversary gives us the chance to enjoy that history and remember the great names, the exciting races and the big sacrifices which are part of this fascinating story.”

***As was the case at Spa, the WEC has made the 8 Hours of Portimao official program available for download. It can be viewed here. The WEC’s first race in Portugal is being held without spectator access.

***Portimao’s status as an eight-hour race means it carries more championship points than the Spa season-opener. Points worth one and a half times the standard rate for a six-hour contest will be distributed, starting with 38 for a win and 27 for second place.

***Official track action begins on Friday afternoon with a 90-minute Free Practice 1 session starting a 3:15 p.m. local time (10:15 a.m. EST).

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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