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Sebring Saturday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Saturday notebook from the FIA WEC paddock at Sebring…

Photo: MPS Agency

***The No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid completed the most laps of the 11 Hypercar entries on day one of the FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue at Sebring. Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez – who holds the fastest lap so far – put 140 laps or 523 miles on their car.

***Toyota’s No. 8 car went the second-furthest with 138 laps, followed by the No. 51 Ferrari 499P on 126 laps and the No. 5 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 on 110.

***The greatest distance outright went to the No. 41 Team WRT Oreca 07 Gibson, which banked 150 laps. The No. 57 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GTE Evo covered the most ground in GTE-Am.

***The No. 93 Peugeot 9X8 only completed a dozen laps in the second session after incurring damage in an altercation with the Vector Sport Oreca along the IMSA pit straight. The Peugeot sustained right-side damage, as well as damage to the splitter.

***An important part of the Prologue for Toyota is gaining mileage on Michelin’s MHT (medium high temperature) compound. “We have been testing in Europe in winter conditions, so there was no point to test the medium,” said technical director Pascal Vasselon. “Really we have to understand the two tire working windows during the Prologue, and the Free Practice sessions of the race.”

***Ryo Hirakawa drove last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning Toyota during an event at Suzuka last week. Hirakawa went for a lap of the Japanese circuit with the Honda CBR 1000RR-R that won the Endurance World Championship for motorcycles.

***Hypercar entries for Ferrari and Cadillac bookend each side of the WEC paddock, which is again located along the Ullman Straight. While Ferrari’s pair of 499Ps occupy the final garage slots, the No. 2 Cadillac V-Series.R sits only behind the No. 33 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R at the front end of the pit lane.

***Discussing Cadillac’s pit placement, CGR driver Alex Lynn told Sportscar365: “Definitely for things like qualifying, it’s nice because you get to be the first car out and get to dictate your own out-lap. For that, it’ll be a nice advantage. We’ve got a clear run into the box as well with not many prototypes behind us.”

***Glickenhaus hasn’t tested since its last WEC appearance since Monza, with the Glickenhaus 007 Pipo only running occasionally in the hands of American customer Jason McCarthy. Team principal Luca Ciancetti told Sportscar365 that the team has a “big list” of things to work through for its most extensive running in eight months.

***The No. 708 Glickenhaus was four seconds off the pace on day one of the Prologue. Ciancetti said: “I would be more concerned by not having issues and doing the times we are doing. We have big stuff to sort out, and we will try our best to sort them out and find some performance.”

***He added that Glickenhaus’ project partner Podium Advanced Technologies has carried out some minor updates since Monza. “We worked a bit on some items of the car to reduce the weight and to be able to get to a better performance. Not major stuff.”

***Esteban Muth was in the paddock today working with Floyd Vanwall Racing Team. The Belgian, who has recently raced in DTM, is Vanwall’s official reserve for the season.

***Nico Varrone admitted that it took time for him to get fully acquainted with the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. “I was trying to use all my experience with the Ferrari and put it in the Corvette, and it wasn’t working on the first outing I did,” he said. “I was really struggling with [oversteer in] low-speed corners. The engineers… told me it was a completely different way of driving. Once I started working on it through the laps and over the runs, I really improved on it.”

***Ulysse de Pauw feels he’s made a “super upgrade” to be leading a GTE-Am lineup in the WEC. The 21-year-old Belgian won last year’s Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Sprint Cup Silver class title with AF Corse and is now the Gold-rated member of the team’s No. 21 Ferrari lineup.

***De Pauw told Sportscar365: “I’m the Pro driver in the car so it adds a bit of pressure. But if the team gives me that, then they believe in me, and I have to believe in myself.” The WEC will be De Pauw’s focus this year, with a return to GTWC Europe off the cards.

***Axcil Jefferies drove the NorthWest AMR Aston Martin Vantage GTE on Saturday and Thomas Merrill will get behind the wheel tomorrow. One of the two Silver-rated drivers is set to join Nicki Thiim and Paul Dalla Lana for Sebring, while Dalla Lana told Sportscar365 that the intention is to keep the same lineup for the full season.

***Merrill and Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Kevin Estre were the only drivers not to turn any laps on Saturday.

***Ahmad Al Harthy described it as a “dream come true” to be making his WEC debut with TF Sport. The Omani driver has raced with the British team in various series including British GT, GTWC Europe and the European Le Mans Series. He launched the program at an event in his home country a couple of weeks ago.

***While Al Harthy is new to the WEC, he feels he is ready to tackle the series after a long time preparing: “It’s the same people I’ve been working with all these years, so nothing feels new in that sense. For me, personally, that made everything a bit smoother to go ahead with this program. It feels like it is a new project, but with the right foundation.”

***Andre Lotterer downplayed the impact of a lack of prior LMDh race time for his No. 6 Porsche crew, considering their No. 5 teammates all did the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the Porsche 963. “We’ll see,” Lotterer told Sportscar365. “For sure it’s better to have some racing under your belt in a new program like that, but the aim is to arrive here well prepared and so we’re doing everything to be at that level.”

***Iron Dames driver Doriane Pin completed 40 laps in the No. 63 Prema Oreca, recording a best time of 1:52.240. Co-driver Mirko Bortolotti, who set the car’s fastest time, praised his Silver-rated co-driver. “She’s a really young driver but you can straight away feel that she has the right mindset,” he said. “She knows that she has to work, she knows that nothing grows on trees, as we say in Italy.”

***The Prologue continues on Sunday with two more sessions. The first is due to last three and a half hours and gets underway at 9 a.m. EST. The last session starts at 2:30 p.m.

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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