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Silverstone Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook from the Silverstone WEC paddock…

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

***MTEK team principal Ernest Knoors was in the paddock on Friday, evaluating potential race programs in the WEC. The former DTM squad operated the factory BMW GTE-Pro program last season, before the German manufacturer pulled out of the series.

***Knoors told Sportscar365 that the team is mainly pursuing options in the GT classes, with a GTE-Am customer entry possible. MTEK and BMW’s exclusive contract expires next month.

***Guy Smith says the Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AER feels like “jumping on a treadmill doing a sprint from standstill” after more than a year out of the cockpit. His last race start also came at Silverstone, in his final Blancpain GT Series race with Bentley Team M-Sport in May 2018.

***The 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans winner admits that the Ginetta isn’t as developed as its rival LMP1 cars and is keeping his expectations in check for now. “This weekend, we have to be realistic, and almost treat it like a test session. We want to get through a clean race and learn a lot, and hopefully we’ll get a little bit better as we get closer to Le Mans,” he said.

***Smith’s intended co-driver Chris Dyson, who was ruled out of the 4 Hours of Silverstone at short notice, is expected to be in attendance tomorrow with Team LNT.

***Andrew Watson is set to be with Gulf Racing for the full 2019-20 season, according to the team. Gulf is understood to be keeping in touch with Nico Bastian, who tested with Watson at the Prologue, throughout the campaign.

***It’s believed that Felipe Fraga was in contention for the Silver-rated role with the team, before the Brazilian was recruited to work with Ben Keating at Team Project 1.

***Keating, Fraga and Jeroen Bleekemolen first sampled their Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR at the Papenburg testing facility in northeast Germany last Thursday.

***Jota and Dempsey-Proton Racing were handed €1,000 fines for late driver announcements. Jota’s penalty concerned Antonio Felix da Costa in the team’s No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson, while Proton’s two violations concerned Gianluca Giraudi and Ricardo Sanchez in the No. 88 Porsche.

***Panis-Barthez Competition is eyeing two potential IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship cameos next year in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, according to team co-principal Simon Abadie, who said he has been in discussions with potential program partners.

***The European Le Mans Series LMP2 squad recently purchased the ex-CORE autosport Oreca 07 Gibson that finished second in last year’s WeatherTech Championship standings. This weekend marks the first time that long-time Ligier outfit Panis-Barthez has run the car.

***The team is working on two fronts this weekend, between its two-car European Le Mans Series LMP2 program and its Lexus RC F GT3 (entered without the Panis-Barthez name as Tech 1 Racing) in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe round at the Nürburgring. Both Simon and Sarah Abadie are present at Silverstone.

***High Class Racing’s Oreca was held in its pit box for the first 30 minutes of Free Practice 2 after it emerged that the Danish squad had tested at Silverstone less than 30 days before this weekend’s event.

***Super GT points leader and WEC debutant Kenta Yamashita says integrating into the western paddock atmosphere will be the toughest aspect of his debut international season.

“Driving will be no problem because I have a lot of experience in Japan,” said Yamashita, who is racing the High Class LMP2. “For me, the most important thing here is learning English and communicating with everyone.”

***The new Silverstone track surface has been well received by drivers, with many praising the extra grip provided. AF Corse Ferrari driver James Calado said: “It’s quite a big improvement compared to last year. Bearing in mind we’re already in the 1:55s, I think it will be quicker [in qualifying].”

***The smaller GTE-Pro field will still produce exciting racing, according to Aston Martin Racing’s Alex Lynn. He pointed out that, despite losing BMW and Ford, the six-car class still includes last season’s two most successful brands. 

“In terms of the quality of the field, I wouldn’t say much has changed. We kept the reigning champions (Porsche) and also the team that won Le Mans (Ferrari) so from that side, it’s very strong,” he said.

***Paul Di Resta’s main program remains his DTM entry with R-Motorsport, which United Autosports confirmed last month will take priority over the 6 Hours of Fuji. While the 2020 DTM schedule hasn’t been released yet, Di Resta expects another clash with WEC next year, depending on dates for the German series.

***An accident for the Carlin-entered Dallara P217 Gibson during ELMS Free Practice 1 delayed the start time for both of today’s WEC sessions. An extra 30 minutes of running was added to the end of ELMS FP2 to make up for the lost time, pushing the start of WEC FP2 back half an hour. 

***Eurosport will show a live broadcast of the final 90 minutes of Sunday’s race, with English-language coverage provided by Mark Cole. It will be carried across Eurosport 2 from 3:30 p.m. BST (10:30 a.m. EDT).

Jake Kilshaw 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 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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