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Sebring WEC Wednesday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Wednesday notebook from the WEC paddock at Sebring…

Photo: Porsche

***Former 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE-Am class winner Charlie Eastwood is on-site working with NorthWest AMR, supporting Bronze-rated driver Paul Dalla Lana in a coaching capacity. Eastwood drives for Racing Team Turkey in the European Le Mans Series.

***Each WEC manufacturer was required to send a car to an FIA dynamometer test in Switzerland last month, where cars were fired up on the championship’s new TotalEnergies Racing Excellium 100 sustainable fuel. TF Sport sent the representative Aston Martin Vantage GTE, with the team nominating its No. 95 ELMS car for the task.

***TF boss Tom Ferrier added that the team converted one of its Vantage GT3s to GTE spec for its expansion to a two-car European Le Mans Series program with an entry involving Ahmad Al Harthy and Sam De Haan.

***Porsche’s head of WEC operations Alex Stehlig confirmed that the two GTE-Pro Porsche 911 RSR-19s tested with the new bioethanol-based fuel at Barcelona last month. The session coincided with a test at the same venue for the Porsche LMDh car.

***Corvette Racing has used a combination of its Le Mans setup as well as new shipping cases for its first full-season WEC effort, which is being assisted by several crew members from Larbre Competition. 

***Corvette’s WEC car chief Tim Kavanagh told Sportscar365 that its European headquarters will be set up at Larbre’s workshop at Circuit du Val de Vienne in Le Vigeant, France, where it will have access to the full-service shop between European races. As was the case last year, Larbre will also loan out one of its transporters.

***The same two C8.R chassis that took part in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will again be used in the French endurance classic, with the team’s regular-season WEC car set to serve as a spare for Le Mans.

***United Autosports has announced a new partnership with AI solutions company Valkyrie. The deal makes the American company the ‘official AI technology partner’ of the LMP2 team. This season Valkyrie will be involved in United’s race program by “building a race car maintenance optimization algorithm and assisting with in-race strategy decisions.”

***Valkyrie also plans to use machine learning to analyze timing and scoring from years of endurance races, identify patterns for events such as safety cars and transforming those into predictions for future events.

***The 1000 Miles of Sebring marks the first WEC race without GR Racing on the grid in seven years. After returning to the series at the start of the 2016 season, the British team formerly known as Gulf Racing contested an unbroken streak of 40 WEC rounds. Ben Barker was part of the driver lineup for each of those.

***GR Racing team manager Owen Daley flew in from the UK last night to be with the No. 56 Team Project 1 crew, which is using the GR chassis after its original was damaged in a Prologue accident. Daley affirmed that his team’s GTE-Am entry led by Mike Wainwright will return for the TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa.

***Ben Barnicoat said that Inception Racing/Team Project 1’s borrowed Porsche 911 RSR-19 chassis has “some differences” to the original car. “We did our two days of testing with the one car and we got settled with that car and now we’re not quite in the place we want to be but we’re here and racing and that’s the main thing,” he told Sportscar365. “We’ve got some great engineers so I’m sure it’s not going to be an issue and we’ll be dialed in by race day.”

***Goodyear has started exploring directions for a future tire product in LMP2 when the new regulations arrive in 2024, according to the company’s endurance program manager Mike McGregor. Current work is preliminary and based on existing products because technical info on the category’s future is scant, however McGregor indicated that Goodyear envisages an “all-new size kit for the new cars.” A sole tire manufacturer has not been confirmed.

“It’s so hard for us right now to dictate what work we’re going to have to undertake,” he told Sportscar365. “That’s why we did some of the work we did in Barcelona on the current product: what directions do we need to go in? It’s trying to give ourselves more options upfront, so when we get a regulation we know which direction to take.”

***TF Sport drivers Marco Sorensen and Charlie Fagg visited Epcot near Orlando on Tuesday, as documented in a video that the team posted to social media.

***The 36 cars entered for Sebring marks a record for the most cars competing in a WEC season-opener. The figure exceeds the high of 34 cars at Spa for the 2018-19 curtain-raiser. Additionally, this is the second-largest WEC field ever assembled, excluding the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It is beaten only by the 2012 Spa race which had 40 entries.

***Sebring joins Silverstone (six races) and Spa (two races) as circuits to have hosted the opening round of a WEC season more than once.

***Toyota is looking to win a fifth consecutive season-opener this weekend. The No. 8 entry has won three of the last four, while the No. 7 won the first round in 2019-20.

***The impending series debut of Seb Priaulx will herald the 10th time that a father and son have lined up in the WEC. Priaulx’s father Andy has 26 appearances to his name.

***The other father-son combinations are: Martin and Alex Brundle, Jacques and Pierre Nicolet, Gianluca and Giorgio Roda, Philippe and Louis Prette, Jean-Denis and Louis Deletraz, Jan and Kevin Magnussen, Patrice and Charles Milesi, Peter and Simon Mann and Miro and Matej Konopka.

***Thursday’s WEC track action begins with Free Practice 3 starting at 11:55 a.m. ET. Like the two sessions held on Wednesday, this will also last one hour. Typically, FP1 and FP2 are 90 minutes in length and had that duration for the 2019 visit to Sebring.

***Qualifying for the 1000 Miles of Sebring is due to take place at 7 p.m. ET with a GTE session followed by a Hypercar and LMP2 session.

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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