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Spa Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday FIA WEC notebook from Spa-Francorchamps…

Photo: MPS Agency

***DragonSpeed appears unlikely to race in LMP1 tomorrow, with its BR Engineering BR1 Gibson having sustained tub damage from Pietro Fittipaldi’s heavy accident in qualifying that resulted in multiple leg fractures for the Brazilian. As of 8 p.m. local time, the American team has yet to receive the car back from the FIA following a post-crash investigation.

***Both team owner Elton Julian and co-driver Henrik Hedman traveled with Fittipaldi to Centre Hospitalier de la Citadelle de Liege to be by the 21-year-old’s side. Per the FIA, Fittipaldi did not lose consciousness and is in stable condition. 

***The official cause of the accident has not been communicated, although it’s suspected to be a power steering-related issue. It is the second bone-breaking accident for the Dallara-built BR1, which makes its competition debut tomorrow, with Mikhail Aleshin having sustained a broken arm in a testing accident at Motorland Aragon in November.

***With DragonSpeed’s LMP1 entry likely out of action, it will result in an expected 34-car entry for the FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener, following the official withdrawals of the pair of CEFC TRSM Racing Ginetta G60-LT-P1 Mecachromes.

***Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon said he was not necessarily surprised by their increased pace in qualifying, admitting there’s “always a step” made from the free practice sessions. “You have many things that come together and make the qually lap always a little bit exceptional than what you will expect,” he said.

***Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi’s pole-winning two-lap average of 1:54.583 was four-tenths slower than last year’s pole-sitting No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani. By comparison, this year’s quickest non-hybrid was some 6.5 seconds quicker than last year, although still nearly 2 seconds off the ultimate pace laid down by Toyota.

***Vasselon said he has no idea what to expect tomorrow, but admitted there would likely be bigger headlines if the Japanese manufacturer doesn’t pull off a victory. “If we win it’s normal and if we lose it would be a story. At the end, this is the situation and we accept it,” he said.

***Friday marked Fernando Alonso’s first front-row start since he took pole position for Ferrari at the 2012 German Grand Prix, more than five years ago.

***Matt Griffin says the Ferrari GTE-Am entries are “probably fighting for seventh” after all three 488s struggled in qualifying. Griffin told Sportscar365 said that “It’s the straight-line speed – not just top end speed but the Porsche is really efficient with its aero as well. They [WEC organizers] should do something now. I just hope it’s enough because if we go to Le Mans like this we’ll be six or seven seconds off the pace and that’ll be hard.”

***Porsche filled out four of the top five positions in GTE-Am, while the three Ferraris propped up the class order, with the quickest Prancing Horse, from MR Racing, finishing 2.6 seconds off the pace.

***Ford’s 1-2 in GTE-Pro qualifying was the manufacturer’s first front-row lockout in WEC since the Six Hours of Shanghai in 2016. It also marked the fourth time the Multimatic-run Ford GTs have achieved the feat in WEC. Prior to this weekend, the last GTE-Pro marque to claim the top two spots in qualifying was Aston Martin at Bahrain 2016.

***Julien Andlauer is the only driver at Spa undertaking double duty this weekend. The 18-year-old Frenchman, who is driving the GTE-Am class pole-sitting No. 77 Proton Competition Porsche, finished second in Friday’s Porsche Carrera Cup France & Benelux race. Andlauer was signed as a Junior after winning last year’s Carrera Cup France title at the first attempt and will race again on Saturday morning prior to the WEC race.

***BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt said its teams of engineers are in communication between Mid-Ohio and Spa, where the two factory BMW M8 GTE programs are racing this weekend. “Obviously we are ahead of them [in time],” he said. “If we find the magic bullet here, you can be sure that bullet will shoot across the Atlantic very quickly!”

***Both of the MTEK-run BMWs battled brake issues in Free Practice 3 but rebounded to qualify fifth and ninth in its WEC debut weekend.

***While yet to be published, the Le Mans-specific BoP for GTE-Pro has already been communicated to manufacturers, according to ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil.

***However, BMW’s Marquardt contradicted Beaumesnil’s claims, indicating that data from this weekend would be taken into account for the French endurance classic.  “I think the BoP for Le Mans has to be set,” Marquardt said. “It will for sure be data from this event that will go into this.”

***Proton Competition has finalized the lineup for its third Porsche 911 RSR that’s set to compete in GTE-Am at Le Mans. Ried told Sportscar365 that nominated driver Patrick Long will be joined by a driver with previous Le Mans experience and another who is new to the German squad.

***Ried confirmed that it has already replaced the chassis that was written-off by Joel Camathias in European Le Mans Series pre-season testing at Paul Ricard, that required the use of one of its WEC-entered Porsches for the ELMS season-opener.

Daniel Lloyd and Luke “Alonso” Smith contributed to this report

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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