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Spa Friday Notebook

Daniel Lloyd’s notebook from qualifying day at Spa-Francorchamps…

Photo: Porsche

***MR Racing’s Ferrari 488 GTE will start from the back of the grid tomorrow after Motoaki Ishikawa crashed on his first lap in qualifying. The Japanese driver lost the tail of the car through Raidillon before sliding into the barriers at the top of the hill. Ishikawa managed to return to the pits but did not set a time.

***Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon explained that the team’s improvement in Spa qualifying from last year came down it electing not to use turbo boost in 2018. “Last year it was the very first race [of the season]. It was important to allow the EoT to converge quickly,” said Vasselon. “In order not to confuse the EoT last year we had an agreement with the ACO and FIA to run the quali lap like a race lap.”

***Mike Conway’s fastest lap of 1:53.683 was 1.098 seconds quicker than Kazuki Nakajima’s qualifying pace-setter from 12 months ago.

***Conway suggested that LMP1 teams are adopting “a different way of thinking” regarding aero kit selection this time around at Spa, with the drivers’ world championship on the line. “You maybe approach it a bit differently,” he said. “Normally Spa is the build-up to Le Mans so you’re generally comfier with not having the optimized package.”

***Rebellion Racing switched to its high-downforce aero kit for FP3 and qualifying, after starting the weekend on its Le Mans-style low-downforce configuration. The Anglo-Swiss squad posted the fourth-best time with its No. 3 machine driven by Thomas Laurent and Gustavo Menezes.

***Jean-Eric Vergne broke his own Spa LMP2 lap record with the Frenchman’s 2:00.003 flyer contributing to G-Drive Racing’s second pole in as many races this year. The Russian outfit also started from the front in the European Le Mans Series opener at Paul Ricard.

***G-Drive has also now taken two straight poles at the Belgian circuit, and three consecutive front-row starts, with Vergne claiming his maiden ELMS pole for the 4 Hours of Spa race last September.

***The vast majority of GTE teams elected to change tires midway through qualifying to make the most of their slick tire allocations, with wet weather conditions forecast for tomorrow’s race.

***Alex Lynn reckons Aston Martin will be in the thick of the lead battle in GTE-Pro tomorrow: “We were in the fight for pole, where we thought we would be. The car does seem consistently good in the rain, so I think we can be optimistic for a result tomorrow,” he told Sportscar365.

***Charlie Eastwood was full of praise after sealing TF Sport’s first WEC pole with Salih Yoluc in GTE-Am: “It was probably one of the best that I’ve done in the GTE car, so I timed that pretty well for my first qualifying session. We’ve been very close to it a lot of times this year, and Salih at the end just done a mega lap to go as the quickest Am driver.”

***The WEC fan zone has been condensed and moved from its original location at Eau Rouge to accommodate the new FIA World Rallycross track. The fan zone is now located along the pit straight, next to the main grandstands on the outside of the circuit.

***Sportscar365 understands that Racing Team Nederland is planning to test its Dallara P217 Gibson at Zandvoort soon, in preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***TDS Racing elected not to take part in select ELMS races with its WEC crew this year because its string of 2018 cameos at Paul Ricard, Monza and the Red Bull Ring came early in the ‘Super Season’ schedule, at a time when the team wanted more track time for its bronze-rated driver Francois Perrodo. This approach was deemed unnecessary for 2019.

***The French squad is “working to come back in the 2019-20 season” in LMP2, according to team principal Xavier Combet, who said that a return for Perrodo “is part of the discussions”.

***Combet also confirmed that TDS and the G-Drive entry that the French team runs will continue on Dunlop tires for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, after their tire allocations were left blank on the most recent edition of the entry list.

***There are few familiar names in the Porsche Carrera Cup France & Benelux field that is supporting the WEC this weekend. 2016 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup champion Come Ledogar is racing, as is LMP2 competitor Enzo Guibbert. Prolific French GT racer David Hallyday is also in the field.

***Full live coverage of the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps will be available on BT Sport, Eurosport in the UK and the official FIA WEC App. The race gets underway at 1:30 p.m. local time (7:30 a.m. EDT).

***The WEC app will once again be freed from geo-blocking restrictions, as was the case at Sebring, although it’s understood the measure is unlikely to be in place for Le Mans. MotorTrend will also have live TV coverage of the opening and closing stages of the race. Click here for full international viewing options.

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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