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Sebring WEC Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-qualifying notebook from the WEC paddock at Sebring…

Photo: Jamey Price/Toyota

***While Glickenhaus driver Olivier Pla thought the gap between himself and 1000 Miles of Sebring pole-sitter Nico Lapierre could have been smaller, he reckoned beating Alpine would have been unlikely for the American squad: “It’s the first time for us here with this car,” Pla told Sportscar365. “We still have a lot of work to do. The car is difficult on the bumps at the moment and we are working on it.”

***The previous-largest gap between first and second in FIA World Endurance Championship single-driver qualifying, which was introduced last year, was the 0.519 seconds between the two Toyotas at Spa-Francorchamps. Lapierre scored his first outright WEC pole since Shanghai 2013.

***Tomorrow’s grid will be led by the first WEC front-row not to include a Toyota since the 2019 running of the 8 Hours of Bahrain, when Rebellion Racing took pole and Ginetta squad Team LNT qualified second. A Toyota has been on the front row in each of the last ten races.

***Toyota’s WEC technical director Pascal Vasselon declared “it was not a surprise” to see the Japanese marque struggle to match its Hypercar rivals in qualifying. “What we have seen in quali is exactly in line with what we have seen in the sessions,” he said.

***Vasselon added that both Toyotas were on strong laps when the red flag came out with seconds remaining. He estimated that the Toyotas could have gone down to the 1:49.0 range to beat the LMP2 field but still would have ranked no higher than third.

***Dempsey-Proton Racing’s Julien Andlauer was fined €2,500 for taking the checkered flag three times at the end of Free Practice 3. In a stewards’ report, the Frenchman reportedly explained that “dashboard and radio were not working and he was busy trying to reconnect the radio.” The session was red-flagged after its conclusion while Andlauer continued to circulate.

***Unlike IMSA’s confirmed schedule that will see two sanctioned tests for LMDh and eligible LMH machinery at the end of this year, ACO competition director Thierry Bouvet said there are no official WEC tests planned outside of the typical Prologue will likely again fall the week before Sebring next year.

***The policy that any LMDh manufacturer competing in the WEC needs to undergo wind tunnel validation testing at the FIA-commissioned Sauber wind tunnel, and IMSA-bound LMH cars visiting the Windshear facility in North Carolina, still applies according to Bouvet. “We have some data in both,” he said. “Eventually, we worked at some point to converging on one wind tunnel. But we felt that having two sets of data would make us stronger. That’s the idea why we kept it.”

***Bouvet has confirmed that LMH regulations for road car-based hypercars are still written in the regulations, which would allow a manufacturer like Aston Martin to restart its Valkyrie LMH program, as has been hinted by Aston Martin Formula 1 team owner Lawrence Stroll in recent weeks.

***An extension of the LMH regulations, which are currently confirmed through the 2025 WEC season would “make sense” according to Bouvet, particularly with LMDh confirmed on a five-year timeline starting in 2023 and ending in 2027.

***Porsche will have two-driver lineups in the GTE-Pro class for the 8 Hours of Bahrain, rather than three drivers as was the case for the eight-hour races at Portimao and Bahrain last year.

***Explaining the decision, Porsche’s head of WEC operations Alex Stehlig told Sportscar365: “We had the feeling in Portimao that it was not optimal for the run-time per driver. We got it a bit confirmed in Bahrain, but it was compensated because the regular drivers were doing a six-hour race the weekend before. But then we said in the winter break, let’s stick to the two drivers per race.”

***In a pre-season change to the sporting regulations, drive times in LMP2 have been altered for six and eight-hour races. For the former, Silver and Bronze drivers will need to race for one hour rather than 1 hour and 15 minutes and 1 hour and 45 minutes as proposed in the rulebook. For eight-hour races including the 1000 Miles of Sebring, their minimum will be 1 hour 40 minutes rather than two hours.

***WRT’s Ferdinand Habsburg was enthusiastic after his first qualifying appearance at Sebring, where he finished fifth in class. The defending LMP2 champion even suggested that the track’s fearsome reputation for bumpiness might be slightly exaggerated. “It’s really not that bad! It looked worse than it is. Yeah, it’s bouncy, but it makes you feel in tune with the car.”

***While Goodyear has removed the intermediate option from its LMP2 tire range, Michelin has kept inters in its Hypercar range for this season. Toyota and Glickenhaus both have the French company’s ‘soft hot’ and ‘medium’ slick tire specs, while Alpine has the ‘soft cold’ and ‘soft hot’ available.

***Several drivers noted that the race week track conditions have evolved since the Prologue. “The Prologue was much cooler so it wasn’t a fair test on the tires,” said Glickenhaus’ Ryan Briscoe. “We’ll have to double stint the tires. I think tomorrow in the race we’re going to keep learning what we haven’t been able to simulate in practice so far, because of the limited laps.”

***Tommy Milner said Corvette Racing is “learning as we go” with regards to WEC tire limitations. “Having to double stint tires is something we’re not so used to,” he said. “At Sebring IMSA, we’d change tires every stop and that’s not an option in WEC. We’ve done as much testing to understand what the tires will do on a long run, but [Prologue] conditions were quite a bit different.”

***The fastest lap from GTE-Pro qualifying, Michael Christensen’s 1:57.233 for Porsche, was marginally quicker than the category pole from the WEC’s last visit to Sebring, set by Antonio Garcia in a Chevrolet Corvette C7.R. Garcia mustered a 1:57.257.

***Details on the ACO’s implementation of the GT3 platform for 2024 in the WEC and ELMS has not yet been finalized according to Bouvet, who indicated that it would need to be determined by the middle of this year.

***Bouvet indicated there will “probably” be no drastic technical changes to the cars from the current GT3 technical specifications. The DTM received pushback from GT3 manufacturers when it had proposed a so-called ‘GT3 Plus’ set of regulations that would have seen increased power and modified aero.

***ACO President Pierre Fillon told Sportscar365 that details of the class will be announced at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, reiterating that GT3-spec cars will be eligible in only a single Pro-Am category as originally announced last August.

***Fillon said plans for a new pit building at Le Mans is still on track for 2024 despite the current climate that has seen various supply-chain delays impact many industries.

***MotorTrend is broadcasting the entire race live to subscribers in the U.S and Canada. In a new deal for 2022, Canadian automotive specialist broadcaster REV TV will host a one-hour highlights package after all WEC rounds.

***Eurosport and Motorsport are showing the full race live in Europe. The FIA WEC app is also broadcasting the 1000 Miles of Sebring in all territories except the U.S and Canada where the content is geo-blocked. Click here for full broadcast details.

***Unlike the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the WEC is not holding a race day morning warmup session for its race at Sebring. The opening round of the WEC season is due to get underway at 12 p.m. ET (5 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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