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Spa Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook from the WEC paddock at Spa-Francorchamps…

Photo: Porsche

***Ryan Cullen officially joined Jackie Chan DC Racing’s driver lineup for the Total 6 Hours of Spa after providing a negative COVID-19 test this morning. The Irishman is replacing Gabriel Aubry who was ruled out after twice testing positive. Aubry has since returned to his home in Paris to isolate.

***Cullen has never driven in the WEC outside the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which he contested for the first time last year with United Autosports. His first laps aboard the No. 37 Oreca 07 Gibson came during Free Practice 2, while he and Will Stevens qualified fourth in class for tomorrow’s race.

***The WEC is not routinely testing its competitors at Spa, but it required Cullen to take a PCR evaluation before the 29-year-old integrated himself into the Jackie Chan DC Racing/Jota Sport bubble.

***Toyota Gazoo Racing team director Rob Leupen said the organization needed to “react very quickly” to get Kazuki Nakajima and Kenta Yamashita – who drives for High Class Racing as a Toyota junior – from Japan to Belgium. Both flew to Europe on July 31 to observe a 14-day quarantine.

***Leupen added that Toyota is looking at keeping those two drivers in Europe ahead of Le Mans. The team’s other drivers have residences on the continent. “We have to be extremely alert on how the regulations of countries are changing in the time of COVID,” said Leupen. “Normally the drivers would go back to Japan, but we are screening if this is a good idea or not.”

***Toyota LMP1 driver Jose Maria Lopez is set to drive a Ring Racing Toyota GR Supra GT4 in next weekend’s DTM Trophy round at EuroSpeedway Lausitz. Lopez has been a key part of the testing and development program for Toyota’s new customer-based product.

***With garage access not allowed this weekend, Team Project 1 team principal Axel Funke has shown the special protocols that his team his adhering to inside its two pit boxes. Watch the video here.

***Aston Martin Racing’s Nicki Thiim has a special helmet design for Spa. The Danish driver’s new grey minimalist scheme is a reference to the lid his father Kurt Thiim wore as a DTM competitor.

***Masters Historic Racing, which was due to appear on the Spa support bill, is not present this weekend due to concerns over a quarantine requirement for arrivals from Belgium to the UK, where the series is based.

***It remains to be seen how a recently-announced quarantine on arrivals to the UK from France, coming into effect on Saturday, will affect the travel of those heading across the English Channel after the race. Aston Martin Racing team principal Paul Howarth said his crew is working to see what the terms are for each member of staff.

***Aston Martin’s one-two in GTE-Pro qualifying ticked the box of all three manufacturers clinching a front-row lockout this season. Friday’s result followed one-twos from Ferrari at Silverstone and Porsche in Bahrain.

***Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen’s No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 was originally classified on pole before Estre had his best lap deleted for abusing track limits. Several drivers had lap times deleted across both qualifying sessions, including Toyota’s Brendon Hartley and Rebellion’s Norman Nato.

***Aston Martin’s inherited front-row lockout was the manufacturer’s first in GTE-Pro since the 2016 6 Hours of Bahrain, when it was using its previous-gen V8 Vantage GTE.

***Nobuya Yamanaka was ordered to serve a 10-minute stop and hold penalty during Free Practice 2 for causing a collision. The Eurasia Motorsport LMP2 driver ran wide at La Source before rejoining int he path of the Cool Racing Oreca, which led to contact.

***There was also a 20-minute stop and hold penalty in FP2 for the Cetilar Racing Dallara P217 Gibson, which was found to have the “metallic parts of [its] refueling installation not connected to the ground” according to a WEC bulletin.

***Antonio Felix da Costa, Alex Lynn and Sebastien Buemi arranged a flight from Berlin to Liege yesterday and arrived in the WEC paddock this morning having wrapped up the 2019-20 Formula E season yesterday. Nick Foster, who was competing in the Jaguar I-PACE eTrophy at Berlin Tempelhof, elected to make the 425-mile road trip to be at Spa with Eurasia.

***Recently crowned Formula E champion da Costa said he was pleased to be continuing his racing after a hectic week in Berlin, but added that he’s equally keen for some rest time. “I was really looking forward to seeing my teammates,” he said. “On the other hand, I really want to see my family and friends at home, but I’m enjoying the moment here.”

***Buemi confirmed that he has driven Toyota’s Le Mans Hypercar in its simulator. While describing it as slower and heavier than the manufacturer’s LMP1 car, Buemi felt the car had more of an “old school” feel: “It’s very much rear-wheel-drive until more than 120 km/h so you feel that the rear of the car is moving a lot more,” he said.

***Toyota is still planning to roll out its Hypercar in October, ahead of its anticipated race debut in the 2021 WEC opener next March.

***The WEC pledged its support for the FIA’s End Racism campaign with a group photograph of all cars and drivers before FP2.

***The Total 6 Hours of Spa will be broadcast on MotorTrend to North American audiences, while BT Sport will carry full race coverage in the UK. Eurosport 1 is also showing the first hour and final two hours of the race. Click here for full broadcast details.

***Tomorrow’s race is set to geet underway at 1:30 p.m. CEST (7:30 a.m. EST).

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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