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Sebring Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook ahead of the FIA WEC Prologue test at Sebring…

Photo: Jonathan Grace

***The FIA World Endurance Championship paddock at Sebring was a hive of activity on Friday as teams and drivers made their final preparations for the start of track action at the Prologue pre-season test.

***All 37 cars that are entered into next Friday’s 1000 Miles of Sebring are due to take part in the Prologue, which will consist of four sessions split between Saturday and Sunday and totaling just over 12 hours of track time. Click Here for the list of cars running.

***The Prologue will mark the first appearances of the Ferrari 499P and the Vanwall Vandervell 680 in an official WEC session. Ferrari’s new hybrid-powered LMH car completed 24,000 km in testing before March, according to the Italian manufacturer. It then did an endurance test at Portimao earlier this month, but the mileage from that outing is not known.

***Porsche Penske Motorsport was also at Portimao in late February, undertaking a three-day session with its pair of WEC-based Porsche 963s.

***Both the Cadillac V-Series.R and Porsche 963 are set to run to the same Balance of Performance numbers in the 1000 Miles of Sebring and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, although the cars will have slight aero differences having undergone wind tunnel testing at the Windshear (IMSA) and Sauber (WEC) facilities.

***CGR’s global director of competition Mike O’Gara said the biggest change is actually the series-specific data logger systems. Additionally, WEC Hypercar teams will be allowed to utilize both Michelin’s SHT (soft high temperature) and MHT (medium-high temperature) compounds, whereas only the SHT will be in the GTP class at the 12 Hours.

***O’Gara told Sportscar365: “We did the IMSA open test with the 01 car and now we’re doing the Prologue with the 2. It’s just another set of data. With running one car in each series, we have to use it as much as a two-car team as possible. Now we just have to do that in two different paddocks.”

***The Cadillac is the only LMDh car that has yet to complete on-track testing in Europe, with CGR hoping to schedule sessions prior to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***Axcil Jefferies is testing for NorthWest AMR under the British flag. The experienced GT driver was born in Slough, just outside London, but was brought up in Zimbabwe before settling in Dubai during his racing career. Jefferies drove in last month’s Asian Le Mans Series under the United Arab Emirates flag.

***The Vanwall Vandervell 680 was air-freighted to Sebring last Thursday, according to the team’s head of operations Boris Bermes who also said that it underwent an FIA homologation test one week before. The Vandervell 680 at Sebring was used in the testing program as the second chassis that came online.

***There are currently two Vanwall LMH cars in existence. The other is back at the constructor’s headquarters in Germany, while the one at Sebring is also set to do the 6 Hours of Portimao.

***The first race between LMH and LMDh marks the “start of a new era” in the sport, according to Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon. Despite Toyota making concessions due to regulation changes, Vasselon told Sportscar365: “We are happy about the process, and especially about the fact that this new ruleset has brought many new competitors and high-level manufacturers. We are looking forward to it.”

***The WEC recently issued a provisional entry list for the 6 Hours of Portimao, however it contains an error in the United Autosports driver lineups. Filipe Albuquerque and Tom Blomqvist will not race in Portugal due to their GTP commitments with Acura. As previously announced, they will be replaced by Ben Hanley and Giedo van der Garde respectively.

***Both of JOTA’s Oreca 07 Gibsons are sporting the ‘Hertz Racing Gold’ livery that was unveiled on the British team’s Porsche 963 last week. The full-season No. 28 Oreca is not entered under the Hertz Team banner, and doesn’t have Hertz stickers, but is carrying the same colors as JOTA’s new primary backer.

***Team WRT has gone to matching color schemes for its pair of Orecas, after the No. 41 car last season ran in a blue livery. Hypercar competitor Glickenhaus, meanwhile, has retained the sky-blue design that it rolled out at Monza last year.

***WRT’s Robin Frijns is excited by the look of this year’s LMP2 field: “I think we have more competitive cars than last year, even though the field is a bit smaller,” he told Sportscar365. “Look at the two Prema cars, United and JOTA. Prema maybe struggled last year because it was the first time for them, but I do think they will have a big jump of performance this year.”

***Frijns is reuniting with his 2021 co-champion Ferdinand Habsburg, who has joined the No. 31 WRT Oreca from the sister No. 41 entry. “He was great in and out of the car,” Frijns said of their previous time together. “And the same for Sean [Gelael] as well. It’s a good team atmosphere within our car.”

***Chip Ganassi Racing is on track to move into its new German LMDh facility next month, before the European leg of the season. The shop is in Wendlingen, near Stuttgart. “It’s been a pretty challenging timeline,” said team manager Stephen Mitas. “It’s a facility that has been used by someone else previously, so it has seen some race cars inside.”

***Business airline VistaJet has joined Ferrari’s LMH program as a sponsor of the No. 50 Ferrari 499P. The company’s owner Thomas Flohr races in the GTE-Am class. Furthermore, 8six400 has signed a deal to be Ferrari AF Corse’s official clothing supplier.

***The No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo racing in GTE-Am has a similar livery to the manufacturer’s LMH cars, with a red base and yellow stripe.

***Damien Augier and Justin Taylor are race engineers on the No. 50 and No. 51 Ferrari 499Ps respectively. Both were recruited from roles outside of Maranello: Augier joined from single-seater team DAMS while Taylor previously worked for AJ Foyt Racing in the NTT IndyCar Series.

***Taylor has also worked extensively in sports cars, engineering the No. 8 Audi R18 that took a 24 Hours of Le Mans podium in 2016, as well as the Mazda DPi and Rebellion Racing LMP1 programs. Both he and Augier have been at Ferrari since early last year.

***Iron Dames has nicknamed its Porsche 911 RSR-19 after the Marvel character Baymax which appears in the movie Big Hero 6. The Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 that races in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup hasn’t been christened yet.

***Prologue track action starts on Saturday, with the opening three-hour session scheduled for 8:45 a.m. ET. The second session is due to start at 1:30 p.m.

John Dagys 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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