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Sebring WEC Wednesday Notebook

News and notes from the WEC paddock as track activity gets underway at Sebring…

Photo: John Dagys

***Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon believes the Toyota TS050 Hybrid is capable of becoming the first sports car to break the 1-minute 40-second barrier at Sebring. Vasselon said “there is a possibility to do a 1:39. It looks visible to us,” when asked if a Toyota could improve on the record 1:41.211 time set by Mike Conway last weekend.

***Free Practice 1 saw five LMP1 cars eclipse Marcel Fassler’s 2013 Sebring qualifying lap record in an Audi R18 e-tron quattro. Both pairs of Toyotas and Rebellions, along with the No. 11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 AER, dipped under Fassler’s time of 1:43.886 that clinched pole for the 12 Hours six years ago.

***The cause of the fire that destroyed Team Project 1’s original Porsche 911 RSR chassis has yet to be determined. The team’s car has been transported to the Porsche factory at Weissach for further investigation, while its replacement went through scrutineering today but skipped the first Free Practice session.

***ABB FIA Formula E race director Scot Elkins is serving as an FIA steward this weekend. Elkins and a group of six Formula E drivers are fresh off last weekend’s Hong Kong E-Prix and will head directly back to Asia for the Sanya E-Prix next week.

***Out of all the debuting LMP1 machinery at Sebring, the Toyota has appeared to handle the circuit’s bumpy nature the best. It’s understood to be due to the car’s interlinked suspension setup, which the leading LMP1 non-hybrids developed by BR Engineering/Dallara and Rebellion/ORECA do not have.

***It’s still undecided whether Jonny Adam will return to TF Sport for the remaining two WEC rounds at Spa and Le Mans, or if the Aston Martin factory driver will be brought back into one of the GTE-Pro cars. TF Sport Director Tom Ferrier told Sportscar365 that a decision will be made following this weekend’s race, and could be influenced by the team’s performance.

***The team is still considering a return to WEC next season, depending on interest from its customers. Ferrier indicated that the Red River Sport drivers, whose car TF ran in the Asian Le Mans Series, could be looking at a WEC program, as could Salih Yoluc. “It could be two [cars], it’s more likely to be one, but I don’t know which one yet. Definitely, the plan is to do it.”

***Sebring debutant Nyck de Vries admitted that he underestimated how severe the circuit’s bumps would be. “I heard everyone talking about the bumps but honestly I was a bit skeptical about it,” said the 24-year-old Dutchman. “I’ve driven longer tracks before but honestly, it is a completely different story to anything I’ve driven. It’s a cool track, it’s different, and I like it.”

***Ferrari’s Alessandro Pier Guidi said the ‘Super Sebring’ double-duty weekend would have required compromise in preparation for the WEC and IMSA races. “It’s difficult for many drivers to do both races,” said the Italian. “It’s almost impossible to be well prepared for both races. If you want to go there, you need to be prepared in both the championships, and you cannot do it like that. Maybe they could avoid this ‘clash’ – maybe one week afterwards would be better.”

***Gustavo Menezes told Sportscar365 that he remains safe within Rebellion Racing’s lineup for the remainder of the season, despite rumors of a potential future change for Spa and the season-ending 24 Hours of Le Mans. Menezes indicated that Mathias Beche is not currently confirmed with a race seat for the final two races, due to Andre Lotterer’s expected return.

***Menezes said he hopes to announce his plans for the 2019-20 season soon but hinted that it’s “nothing too much of a surprise.”

***The extra two hours of racing afforded by the Sebring 1000-mile format will present GTE-Pro teams with “a chance to be a bit creative” on tire strategy, according to Alex Lynn.

“I think it’s more exciting for the GT category when we open up the tires because it creates an opportunity for people to take different routes at the fastest way to the end of the race,” said the Aston Martin driver. “I think from where we are, it’s going to be seven and a bit stints, so if we have any safety cars or Full Course Yellows then there’s a chance to be creative.”

***Aston Martin’s GTE-Pro drivers recently took some time out to visit Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, which included taking a ride in a ‘microgravity’ simulator. Watch how they got on here.

***Thursday sees a third Free Practice session for the WEC, starting a 4:15 p.m., ahead of night-time qualifying at 9:30 p.m. EST (1:30 a.m. GMT). Live coverage is available on the WEC App.

Jake Kilshaw and John Dagys contributed to this report.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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