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Spa Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday WEC notebook from Spa…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

***WEC Six Hours of Spa pole-sitter Neel Jani was surprised by his 1:53.756 lap in qualifying, which smashed the LMP1 track qualifying record, set in 2015, by more than one-second. “I thought the delta lap was not correct on the screen; there was 2.5-second gap to our best lap so far,” he said. “To do a [1:]53, I could never have imagined we could do, even a [1:]54-low. We were surprised by ourselves.”

***Andre Lotterer’s 1:54.439 lap time set in the pole-sitting No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid was only less than four-tenths slower than his quickest lap in his first-and-only Formula One start, also at the circuit. The German with Belgian roots replaced Kamui Kobayashi at Caterham for the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix and put in a 1:54.093 time in FP2 that weekend.

***Lotterer became the first driver to have scored poles for two different LMP1 manufacturers in the modern era of the WEC. He had six poles to his credit with Audi, dating back to 2012.

***Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl is confident in the competitiveness of the No. 2 Porsche, despite it qualifying behind all three of the Toyotas in fifth. Seidl said the car got “out of rhythm” with the hybrid settings in the stop-start-session. “It shows again how complex this is,” he told Sportscar365. “As soon as one thing is not at the point, the competition is so high, you are simply not there in the top position.”

***Both the No. 34 Tockwith Motorsport Ligier JS P217 Gibson and No. 28 TDS Racing Oreca 07 Gibson will have to serve drive-through penalties in the first ten laps of tomorrow’s race after officials found the teams operating laser ride height sensors in Free Practice 2. The sensors, which are mounted to the cars to check ground clearance, are prohibited during official sessions.

***Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Pascal Vasselon explained that Jose Maria Lopez’s recovery is different from Kazuki Nakajima’s vertebrae fracture in 2015, which saw the Japanese driver undergo a special injection for rapid healing. Lopez’s injury, which Vasselon described as a “very small crack on the vertebrae,” requires natural healing. His injury was discovered in the days following Silverstone.

***Vasselon is confident the Argentinean will be fit for the Le Mans Test Day, with Lopez set to test the Toyota TS050 Hybrid at Spa later this month during a pre-Le Mans car shakedown. “It’s really matter of weeks and we went for the medical advise. We were missing two weeks,” Vasselon said.

***There had been questions how Lopez was allowed to return to the pits following the activation of the FIA’s new-for-2017 medical light system. A FIA representative told Sportscar365 that it’s ultimately still the responsibility of a trackside doctor to determine a driver’s ability to continue. A doctor was on-site at the Lopez crash scene.

***According to the FIA, the F1-developed system, which has been been installed on all cars, is currently only for testing and evaluation purposes. It’s understood a protocol for the system’s application in endurance racing is still being determined, given the differences between F1 and multi-driver endurance racing.

***Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser revealed that the fire that ended the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR’s day at Silverstone has been traced to a fuel line failure. Walliser told Sportscar365 they’ve adjusted the mounting of the line to prevent any further issues. Remarkably, the car had completed more than 40,000 kms of testing without any related issues prior to the fire.

***Porsche isn’t the only manufacturer to have had fuel line issues to its GTE contender, as Corvette Racing has had no fewer than three fuel-related fires with its Corvette C7.R in IMSA competition this year, including a pit lane fire on Thursday at Circuit of The Americas.

***WEC CEO Gerard Neveu reiterated that this year’s Mexico City race will go ahead as planned, despite some initial concerns. Neveu said he made a recent visit to meet with the local promoters to “find the solution” but would not elaborate any further on specifics.

***It’s understood that the Mexico race, as well as events at Circuit of The Americas and Bahrain, are among the events up for renewal at the end of this year. Neveu confirmed Fuji Speedway is on a new three-year contract that runs through 2019. Talk has mounted on the calendar amid a possible reduction to eight rounds and revised race formats for next year.

***Despite there being only 28 full-season cars, Neveu expects additional one-off entries post-Le Mans, with interest in from teams to take part in the rounds in Mexico, Japan and China. Tockwith Motorsport, which makes its WEC debut this weekend as the only Ligier JS P217 Gibson entry in LMP2, is understood to be among the teams planning additional races.

***Neveu denied rumors that he could leave his position in the WEC to become the promoter of the upcoming French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard, a circuit he previously held the CEO position at.

***2018 could be the final year of Alpine’s LMP2 program, according to Bernard Ollivier, who admitted the French manufacturer is in the closing stages of confirming a GT4 car based on the new A110. “We will ask ourselves whether the two programs could be carried out [in parallel] on the day we have decided on the A110’s race program, Ollivier told Endurance-Info.

***It’s understood longtime partner Signatech would be involved with the GT4 program, should it get the green light. Alpine has no current interest to enter the LMP1 non-hybrid ranks. 

***Andreas Wirth has been named test and reserve driver for CEFC Manor TRS Racing, the Chinese-badged, UK-based team has confirmed. The German, who took part in the European Le Mans Series with SMP Racing last year, said he has a “long-term” plan with the Graeme Lowdon-led operation, which is planning a step up to LMP1 competition next year.

***Watch Saturday’s race across the FOX Sports family of networks, beginning at 8:30 a.m. ET on FS1 and switching to FS2 from 11:30 a.m. through the checkered flag. Bob Varsha and Calvin Fish will be on the call. Eurosport will cover the final three hours live, with Mark Cole and Tom Gaymor in the booth, beginning at 4:30 p.m. BST. Click Here for the full worldwide TV coverage

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John


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