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Sebring WEC Tuesday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Tuesday FIA World Endurance Championship notebook from Sebring…

Photo: John Dagys

***The No. 11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 AER has been repaired after its crash in Sunday afternoon’s test session at Sebring International Raceway. Both of the Russian team’s LMP1 cars passed through scrutineering on Tuesday.

***Team Project 1’s replacement Porsche 911 RSR is being transported to Sebring after the German team’s primary chassis was destroyed in a testing fire two days ago. The car will need to clear U.S. customs before receiving the final go-ahead tomorrow morning in time for Free Practice 1 in the afternoon.

***Jackie Chan DC Racing elected not to take part in last weekend’s pre-event test because it felt it had accumulated enough Sebring mileage during an open session hosted by Toyota five weeks ago, according to team co-owner David Cheng.

***David Heinemeier Hansson makes his WEC return, as part of a revised lineup in the team’s No. 37 Oreca 07 Gibson. The Dane, who last raced at Sebring in an LMP2 car in 2015 for Tequila Patron ESM, told Sportscar365 that he’s only confirmed with the Jota Sport-run squad through the season-ending 24 Hours of Le Mans, with his post-Le Mans plans still undetermined.

***Signatech Alpine is preparing for its first WEC race on Michelin tires having switched over from Dunlop for the remainder of the season.

***Andre Negrao, who shares the No. 47 Alpine A470 Gibson with Nicolas Lapierre and Pierre Thiriet, told Sportscar365 that the team “broke a lot of parts” over the Sebring bumps during the weekend test as it adjusted to the lower ride height required to operate the Michelins.

***Lapierre is relishing the prospect of a WEC race on the “specific” Sebring course: “The tracks in Europe are all very slick and smooth with a lot of safety, but here is a bit different,” he said. “It can make more of a difference [between the best drivers] for sure because here if you make a mistake, you are in the wall. That’s not the case in Europe, so for sure it makes it harder to get close to the limit.”

***Darren Turner revealed that he was originally down to race full-time in Super GT this year with D’Station Racing, which is running a new Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in the Japanese series. Turner will instead contest the Fuji 500 Miles only and the first two rounds of the Super Taikyu championship which begins the weekend after Sebring.

“Before Christmas I was supposed to do the full season,” Turner told Sportscar365. “I raced with [Tomonobu] Fuji in Dubai [in 2014] and the deal was all sort of happening. But things changed with the tire supplier and Joao Paolo [de Oliveira] came along, and that was it really. But it’s cool because maybe there’s a chance to do something there in the future.”

***Turner is making his first WEC start with Aston Martin Racing since the 24 Hours of Le Mans last June. “Le Mans was the last time I drove [the Vantage], but I got enough laps on Saturday and Sunday to feel my way in,” he said. “It was nice that they gave me a bit more time.”

***No further changes will be made to SMP Racing’s lineup for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, according to a team spokesperson. Jenson Button is set to return to the No. 11 BR1 alongside Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov, with Stephane Sarrazin, Matevos Isaakyan and Sergey Sirotkin in the No. 17 car.

***Brendon Hartley, who is making his LMP1 return this weekend as a substitute for Button, is only confirmed for Sebring and the penultimate round of the season at Spa.

***SMP looks set to continue in the WEC for the 2019-20 season, although according to the spokesperson there are no plans to build a car for the FIA and ACO’s proposed ‘Hypercar’ platform, which looks set to be expanded to production-based machinery. It’s understood current LMP1 machinery will be eligible at least through the 2020-21 season.

***Further clarity on the new  top-class regulations is expected to come later this week from WEC CEO Gerard Neveu and ACO President Pierre Fillon.

***Ford Chip Ganassi Racing has yet to confirm its driver lineup for the penultimate round of the season at Spa, although Billy Johnson is expected to rejoin Olivier Pla and Stefan Muecke in the No. 66 Ford GT. Jonathan Bomarito, who is making his team debut at Sebring, is unavailable due to his IMSA commitments at Mid-Ohio that weekend.

***Johnson told Sportscar365 there’s a larger crossover in data between the IMSA and WEC teams this week, although he admitted each series’ unique Balance of Performance tables doesn’t make it a seamless transition. IMSA’s GT Le Mans class, however, has recently adopted the WEC-spec Michelin tire options.

***Multimatic’s foray into the British GT Championship, which will be run out of the same shop as Ford’s WEC program, will feature Andy Priaulx’s son, Seb, sharing a Ford Mustang GT4 with Scott Maxwell for the full season. Johnson is expected to be in the mix of drivers to be in the second entry.

***The British GT program is being headed up by Multimatic Motorsports manager Sean Mason.

***The ACO, in a Tweet on Tuesday, confirmed that its selection of the Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GTE for the 24 Hours of Le Mans was directly influenced by the all-female lineup’s endorsement from the FIA Women in Motorsport commission. The response came in question to why Meyer Shank Racing’s LMP2 effort, which was due to feature Katherine Legge, Ana Beatriz and Christina Nielsen, was not accepted.

***For the first time this season, coverage of the 1000 Miles of Sebring will be available on the WEC App with no geo-restrictions. It means North American viewers will be able to purchase access and watch the race on the official app, or follow it on Motor Trend (formerly Velocity), which has confirmed flag-to-flag TV coverage.

John Dagys contributed to this report

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

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