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Spa Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s notebook on the eve of the WEC season-opener at Spa…

Photo: MPS Agency

***View the starting grid for the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener here. Mike Conway and Sebastien Buemi will take the start in the Nos. 7 and 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrids. Andre Negrao will run the opening stint for Toyota’s Hypercar competitor Alpine Endurance Team.

***Team Project 1 and Dempsey-Proton Racing are working to repair their Porsche 911 RSR-19s after separate accidents at Raidillon during qualifying. A Project 1 spokesperson said: “Guys working hard – update will come tomorrow morning.”

***Toyota is aiming for its fifth straight 6 Hours of Spa win tomorrow. The manufacturer has won every WEC race in Belgium since 2017 with its retired TS050 Hybrid LMP1 car.

***There is a chance for a fifth different GTE-Pro brand to win at Spa in as many years, if Corvette Racing beats Ferrari and Porsche on Saturday. Porsche’s Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen triumphed in 2020. Corvette qualified fifth out of five on Friday.

***Estre’s new co-driver Neel Jani, one of Porsche’s 2016 world champions, is enjoying the “different challenge” of tackling Spa in a GTE car as opposed to an LMP1. Jani gave the Eau Rouge ascent as an example: “At the time I used nearly no steering because you killed the aero,” he told Sportscar365. “Now it’s the opposite. Now I’m turning Eau Rouge as much as I would turn a 90-degree corner.”

***Gabriel Aubry has been named as Alpine’s Hypercar reserve driver. The Frenchman is set to be on-site at all WEC events supporting the French team. Aubry has yet to drive the A480 Gibson LMP1 car, but plans are afoot for him to take part in an upcoming test. “Gaby must be comfortable with the car and all processes,” team boss Philippe Sinault told Sportscar365.

***Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon identified a potential issue with increasing Hypercar performance levels to widen the stratification of the class from LMP2. “It is indeed possible, but if it happens, we would no longer be on the rails of convergence between LMH and LMDh,” he said. “If we go faster, it will be more difficult to obtain.” LMDh and LMH performance levels were aligned around this time last year.

***Marcos Gomes’ GTE-Am drive with NorthWest AMR will have “full priority” over the Brazilian’s concurrent program in Stock Car Brasil, according to his co-driver Paul Dalla Lana. Stock Car Brasil clashes with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 8 Hours of Bahrain.

***Gomes made it to the second day of the Prologue test for his first laps in the Aston Martin Vantage GTE, straight from the Stock Car Brasil round at Goiania two days prior. Serra, who won a race at Goiania, did not take part in WEC testing after taking a different flight itinerary.

***Serra will drive for Ferrari at Le Mans, while the Bahrain clash depends on several factors such as championship positions and COVID-19 situations. It’s understood that Serra and Gomes are part of a group of drivers trying to get Stock Car Brasil to move its August 21-22 round, which also affects one of Tony Kanaan’s 2021 IndyCar outings.

***Team WRT has struggled over the last couple of days with a lack of power that has caused its Oreca 07 Gibson to lose significant time, particularly in the first sector where it ran seven-tenths off the class pace. Robin Frijns suggested the only option left available to the team would be an engine change:

“We checked the car twice and three times and it all seems legit, and there’s one piece we haven’t changed yet,” he said. “It’s not easy to change. You need permission. But if we have permission and suddenly we are the quickest car tomorrow, you will know why.”

***WRT’s LMP2 sporting director Thierry Tassin and his opposite number on the outfit’s GT3 front, Pierre Dieudonne, are set to supplement their respective teams at two of the biggest 24-hour races this year. Tassin explained that the plan is for him to join WRT for the Total 24 Hours of Spa, while Dieudonne will be on board for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***Driveshaft-mounted torque meters have been introduced to the GTE technical regulations for this year in addition to their rollout in Hypercar. “It’s a help to avoid sandbagging or to make the performance of the car more transparent,” said Porsche’s Pascal Zurlinden. “The manufacturers asked for it because sometimes if you bring a new car to Le Mans, as we did last year, you have no reference before and you don’t know where you are.”

***The “future of GTE” will be announced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, according to ACO President Pierre Fillon who said today that the WEC promoter is “completely open” to the option of keeping the formula alive into 2023 with Pro-Am lineups only. 2023 is when the WEC’s only brands with factory teams – Ferrari and Porsche – are due to launch top-level prototype programs.

***Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland, Porsche Carrera Cup Benelux and Spanish F4 form the support bill at Spa, putting 110 cars in action across the four championships present. Double 8 Hours of Bahrain GTE-Am winner Larry ten Voorde is on the Carrera Cup Deutschland grid and won a race on Friday.

***Qualifying saw the first points awarded for the 2021 WEC season, as single scores were handed out to the teams and lineups associated with each category’s fastest driver.

***The Total 6 Hours of Spa is due to get underway at 1:30 p.m. local time (7:30 a.m. EST).

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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