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Sebring Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s first notebook from Sebring ahead of the FIA WEC Prologue…

Photo: John Dagys

***Memo Gidley is due to turn laps in the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 on Sunday during the FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue pre-season test, with Silver-rated Henrique Chaves added to the No. 98 NorthWest AMR Aston Martin Vantage GTE as well.

***Gidley, who is Bronze rated, took pole in January’s IMSA Prototype Challenge round at Daytona. Sportscar365 understands that Gidley is under evaluation for a possible seat in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Proton-run WeatherTech Racing squad, which will compete in GTE-Am for the first time since 2019.

***Click Here for the Prologue entry list, featuring all 36 cars that are due to take part in next weekend’s 1000 Miles of Sebring.

***Friday saw plenty of WEC drivers visit the paddock as their teams continued to set up equipment for the Prologue. A track walk took place in the afternoon.

***This is the first time that the Prologue has been held at Sebring, although a similar pre-event test was held in 2019 ahead of the inaugural 1000 Miles. Five different circuits have hosted the last five Prologues: Monza, Paul Ricard, Barcelona, Spa-Francorchamps and Sebring.

***David Pittard is due to drive the NorthWest AMR Aston Martin at the Prologue although the space is listed as ‘TBA’ on the latest race entry list. His name is printed above the NorthWest AMR garage alongside those of Paul Dalla Lana and Nicki Thiim and is currently listed as a Silver-rated driver by the FIA.

***Thiim’s fellow two-time GTE champion Marco Sorensen, who is driving for TF Sport, told Sportscar365 that this weekend marks his first time driving a GTE-spec Vantage since the Danish pair clinched the 2019-20 world title in Bahrain. “It’s been a while but I hope the muscle memory will come back quickly!” Sorensen said.

***Rumors of a pending announcement from Lamborghini have made the rounds of the paddock. Sportscar365 understands the Italian manufacturer was due to make a final decision on an LMDh program within the past few weeks.

***Should Lamborghini commit to LMDh, it would debut in 2024 and likely include programs in both the WEC and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

***It comes amid news of Audi pausing its LMDh program for the next 2-3 months, in a Sportscar365 exclusive revealed on Wednesday. Multiple sources have indicated that the program is likely to be called off altogether.

***In addition to an updated GR010 Hybrid, Toyota Gazoo Racing has welcomed two new team partners in Fujitsu and JFE Steel this year.

***On the GTE-Pro Ferraris, Lars Larsen Group and Francorchamps Motors appear with notable branding on the side of each car. Francorchamps Motors was the entry sponsor of the factory-supported AF Corse GT3 Ferraris in the 2021 Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli season. Ferrari also special badges on its cars commemorating its 75th anniversary.

***Ferrari is continuing to distinguish its two GTE-Pro cars by applying a gold-colored front splitter to the No. 52 machine.

***Emmanuel Collard was back in a Team Penske garage at Sebring for the first time in 14 years, carrying out pit stop practice aboard the team’s yellow-liveried Oreca 07 Gibson alongside Porsche factory drivers Dane Cameron and Felipe Nasr.

***Collard won the 2008 edition of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring overall in a Penske-operated Porsche RS Spyder. “It’s always good to come here,” said the veteran Frenchman. “The track is the same as 20 years ago. Always a pleasure to race here and with a lot of people coming to watch, it’s always a good atmosphere.”

***Goodyear has removed the intermediate tire from its WEC LMP2 range, according to multiple sources in the paddock. The American brand, which runs its sports car operation out of Europe, started supplying the class exclusively in 2021. It’s believed that the same specification of slick tire — a medium-plus compound — will continue to be used this season.

***The main change for LMP2 this year is further performance cuts to stratify the class behind Hypercar. Adjustments include new engine mapping giving an 8 kW (11 horsepower) reduction, removal of the front dive planes, a 65-liter fuel tank capacity (10 liters smaller than the Oreca 07’s stated tank size), a 50 mm shortening of diffuser strakes plus the addition of a 10 mm gurney on the rear flap to “compensate aerodynamic balance” according to a WEC bulletin. Cars continue to race in ‘Le Mans style’ low-downforce trim.

***Corvette Racing was denied a private test at Sebring International Raceway on Feb 16-17 due to the WEC’s rule of “no private or special testing” within 30 days of a championship competition. Feb. 13 was the cut-off day for the test to occur under the regulations.

***In an official request, Corvette team manager Marc Maurini argued that the objective of its test would have been to finalize Michelin tire options that would not have been used at the Sebring event and the fact that the Pratt & Miller-run team was unable to move the test earlier due to its participation in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

***Additionally, the test date was already confirmed in mid-2021 for tire development “well prior” to confirmation of Corvette’s full-season participation in the WEC.

***Paul-Loup Chatin tested the 825 horsepower Ligier JS PX at Magny-Cours on Thursday. The special edition prototype was launched in December but is not intended for competition. Ligier will be represented on this year’s Le Mans grid by CD Sport with a single JS P217 Gibson LMP2.

***Sebastien Bourdais said it was a “Cadillac call” to have him focus exclusively on Chip Ganassi Racing’s Cadillac DPi-V.R effort in the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The Frenchman has been replaced in Vector Sport’s lineup by Mike Rockenfeller, who ironically will be pulling double-duty between the LMP2 entry and his No. 48 Action Express Racing Cadillac.

***Bourdais told Sportscar365: “If the 1000 miles was after the 12 hours, that would have been a different story. The team was basically not super comfortable with me doing a 1000-mile race before the 12 hours.”

***Steven Thomas, who has helped keep Algarve Pro Racing on the grid after G-Drive Racing’s withdrawal, revealed that he was due to line up in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in an LMP2 entry under the Keating Motorsports banner.

***The Bronze-rated driver told Sportscar365 that he was to utilize Keating’s auto-entry from IMSA for the Texan winning the Trueman Award and had been speaking to four different teams to run the effort prior to getting a call from APR team co-owner Stewart Cox to join the team’s full-season WEC effort.

***It means that there was likely one additional team confirmed in the race following the re-opening of entry requests by the ACO earlier this week.

***The first of Saturday’s two Prologue track sessions is due to start at 9:35 a.m. ET, lasting three hours. A second three-hour session is scheduled for 2:50 p.m. Click Here for live timing and scoring.

John Dagys and Davey Euwema contributed to this report

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

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