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Sebring Sunday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Sunday notebook from Sebring on the final day of Prologue testing…

Photo: MPS Agency

***With Ferdinand Habsburg and Filipe Albuquerque pacing sessions three and four, LMP2 cars led three out of four Prologue sessions at Sebring. This matched the outcome of last year’s Prologue at Spa-Francorchamps where LMP2 cars topped the first three sessions before a Hypercar went fastest in session four.

***The circumstances surrounding the two Prologues are different, however, as the LMP2s have reduced performance levels compared to the 2021 season and the Hypercar Balance of Performance is also different. The LMP2 changes were outlined in Friday’s Notebook.

***Spirit of Race driver Gabriel Aubry told Sportscar365 that the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo suffered “lots of bodywork damage” as a result of Franck Dezoteux’s crash in the Sunday morning session, but that the chassis remained intact.

***The car was repaired in time to rejoin proceedings for the final half-hour of running on Sunday, with both Aubry and Dezoteux heading out on track.

***Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon declared that Toyota had “absolutely no reliability issues” during the Prologue, as it racked up more laps than any other team. The No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid turned 247 laps while the No. 8 ran 281 laps, around 958 and 1047 miles respectively.

***Alpine Elf Team also had a trouble-free Prologue with its A480 Gibson, according to team principal Philippe Sinault. Commenting on the relative pace of Hypercar and LMP2, he said: “I am confident with the FIA and ACO to find a good way to refine something more logical. The Prologue is there for that. It’s to have a first view, a first picture, of the global view. After, we have less than one week all together to find the best way to manage all of the cars on the track.”

***Alpine has not yet signed a reserve driver and will not have one in place for the 1000 Miles of Sebring, according to Sinault. However, the Hypercar outfit does plan to recruit someone later in the season. Gabriel Aubry is no longer Alpine’s backup after securing a full-time ride with Spirit of Race in GTE-Am.

***Roger Penske arrived on Sunday to oversee his team’s foray into the FIA World Endurance Championship with its Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 entry. Both Jim Glickenhaus and GM sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser were also on-site for the final day of pre-season testing. 

***Tommy Milner said the GTE-spec Chevrolet Corvette C8.R is “way better” than the specification Corvette Racing has been mandated to run in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Pro class. “The confidential [Michelin] tire makes a big difference,” Milner told Sportscar365. “We’re now 85 kg lighter than the IMSA car. I’m pretty sure it’s more power. Yeah, it’s a much better experience.”

***Jim Glickenhaus told Sportscar365 that he’s ruled out running a second LMH car in the TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa due to the Nürburgring 24 Qualifers occurring on the same weekend. Richard Westbrook and Franck Mailleux will be part of the team’s lineup at the ‘Ring that weekend, with the same trio of Olivier Pla, Romain Dumas and Ryan Briscoe confirmed in the No. 708 car for Spa.

***It’s unclear if the WEC will open up Spa to race-by-race entries due to Peugeot’s withdrawal from the event, which could feasibly allow two additional entries on the grid. WEC CEO Frederic Lequien previously ruled out one-off entries in any regular-season races this year due to space constraints.

***Sebring marks the first American race for Iron Dames program, which was established in 2019. Driver Rahel Frey told Sportscar365: “We are very happy to be here and finally race in the States. It’s a big step for the Iron Dames to be even more international and global.”

***Michael Christensen has been reinstated as a Porsche factory driver upon his return to the manufacturer’s GTE-Pro lineup. The Dane was not a member of the works roster last year but remained close to the Porsche family, driving in major races with customer teams.

***Christensen holds fond memories of racing at Sebring, stemming from one of his first appearances as a factory driver at the 2014 Twelve Hours: “It was the first time I did qualifying for Porsche as a works driver and I put it on pole. That really sticks in my mind. Together with Patrick Long and Joerg Bergmeister, we won the race. That was a special moment for me.”

***Former Duqueine Automotive director Yann Belhomme is on-site working with Ultimate, which receives support from the Tech 1 Racing organization that also runs the Panis LMP2 effort in the European Le Mans Series. Belhomme was recently named as the new managing director of Panis.

***Eduardo Freitas was at Sebring this weekend overseeing the track sessions and is expected to continue in his WEC race director capacity at all events this season in parallel with his new role as one of the rotating race directors in Formula 1. There has been not yet been any official confirmation regarding Freitas’ WEC role in 2022.

***Team Penske has been bolstered by veteran team manager Francis Schammo, who has joined the organization from WEC campaigns with Porsche and other teams. Schammo previously worked as a manager on Porsche’s LMP1 program before stints with Manthey, Team Project 1 and CORE autosport’s factory effort at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***Three-time Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring winner Pipo Derani visited the WEC paddock on Sunday. The Brazilian is driving for Glickenhaus at Le Mans.

***United Autosports has gone from “detailed discussions” in 2021 to “casual conversations” this year with LMDh manufacturers according to team co-owner and managing director Richard Dean, who told Sportscar365 that they remain open to a program but want to put their focus back on achieving results on the track to “create opportunities.”

***Dean said he wouldn’t rule out a potential joint effort with Andretti Autosport, which has been evaluating a program with Alpine, although admitted that it would not likely combine forces for a program in IMSA given Andretti’s experience in North America. The two teams currently run joint programs in Extreme E and Australian Supercars.

***Glickenhaus will be providing behind-the-scenes videos throughout the event on its YouTube page, with a number of videos already online.

***WEC drivers will be at the circuit tomorrow for a group photoshoot, but track action does not resume until Wednesday when the first Free Practice session takes place at 11:05 a.m. ET (4:05 p.m. CET).

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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