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Spa Monday Notebook

Sportscar365’s notebook from Spa after first day of Prologue testing…

Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

***Toyota driver Sebastien Buemi said it was a “bit surprising” to see LMP2 cars take the overall lead in both of Monday’s test sessions. “I think on a one-time lap we could have done a bit better, but the thing is that we didn’t put many sets of tires on,” he said. “We were trying to do a double stint, which is not easy around this high-degradation track.”

***When asked about his on-track interactions with the LMP2s, Buemi said: “I never had an LMP2 car passing around me. Maybe on one lap, one of the guys did a better job. I felt we were a bit quicker, but obviously not enough.”

***The gap between the Hypercar class, consisting of Toyota and Alpine, and the overall pace-setting LMP2s has raised several early questions about approaches to the Prologue and the new season. The Hypercar entries are believed to have been faster than LMP2s when sharing the track during private pre-season tests.

***Despite being slower in the initial Prologue times, the Hypercar entries were joint-fastest in a line. Alpine’s A480 Gibson LMP1 and the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid each clocked 308.7 km/h in the speed trap, compared to 301 km/h from the top LMP2.

***This year LMP2 cars are running with a reduced 400 kW (536 hp) output and heavier 950 kg minimum weight designed to keep them in check with the top category’s new breed of slower LMH machinery. Last season’s LMP2s produced around 600 hp with the same Gibson V8 engine.

***The fastest LMP2 lap from Monday was a 2:04.822, while dry practice sessions at Spa in previous years have seen the category’s quickest cars run in the high 2m 03s. The fastest lap from 2020 qualifying was three seconds quicker than today’s best set by Filipe Albuquerque.

***JOTA brought in a new chassis this afternoon to replace its No. 28 Oreca 07 Gibson following a heavy crash for Sean Gelael at the top of Raidillon. JOTA team co-owner Sam Hignett reported that Gelael was uninjured.

***Several drivers and team members in the paddock have described the adjusted LMP2 cars as being harder to drive under the low-downforce aero configuration that is now mandatory as part of the new restricted rules.

***Robin Frijns admitted that he “missed every apex” on his opening laps driving the Team WRT Oreca 07 Gibson in low-downforce trim for the first time. The Dutch star had only previously driven the car in high-downforce mode during a two-day private test at Barcelona a few weeks ago.

***After his early drama, Frijns soon found a rhythm and posted the third-fastest lap of anyone on Monday. The WRT car then stopped to bring out the red flags late in the afternoon session. This was caused by it running out of fuel.

***Racing Team Nederland’s second-placed Oreca also ran out of fuel during session two, which led to a Full Course Yellow period to facilitate its retrieval.

***Oliver Gavin said he had a “big smile” on his face during his first laps in the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R around Spa. “I think we’re quietly confident after what’s happened today, in what we can do and where we can go with the car,” he said. “We’ll find if that’s enough Saturday. But so far, so good.” Seven-tenths separated the three GTE-Pro brands.

***Former Corvette Racing team manager Ben Johnson is now in the role of technical director, which involves working with IMSA and the WEC on technical matters. Johnson has moved into the position formerly held by Doug Louth, who is now VP of Technology. Marc Maurini has been the team manager of Corvette Racing since the start of 2021.

***A change to the sporting regulations has seen the WEC give teams the freedom to choose from a wider range of car numbers. Teams could register for any number between 1 and 999, while the No. 1 designation was reserved for last year’s title-winning Toyota crew. Since Toyota chose to continue with Nos. 7 and 8, this left the No. 1 open to the request of Richard Mille Racing. Font choice is also free this year.

***Team Project 1’s No. 46 trio of Dennis Olsen, Anders Buchardt and Axcil Jefferies is set to contest three of the four European WEC races, according to team principal Axel Funke. That crew is expected to be in place for Spa, Monza and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, while further races for Norwegian Bronze driver Buchardt – who is missing Portimao due to a lack of experience there – could come depending on further negotiations.

***Project 1 has yet to decide whether it will source a replacement chassis for its No. 46 Porsche after an accident for Buchardt in the early stages of the afternoon session. “We will make a decision with Porsche once we have all the information,” said Funke.

***According to team principal Sascha Fassbender, Inter Europol Competition is “in discussions with different drivers” to replace Renger van der Zande for the 8 Hours of Portimao, which clashes with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round at Detroit. Van der Zande’s IMSA drive with Chip Ganassi Racing takes priority over his WEC role with the Polish LMP2 squad.

***Fassbender indicated that Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who was due to replace van der Zande at the 1000 Miles of Sebring before its cancelation, won’t be at Portimao. “He has not raced there and we do not have the time to go testing there,” said Fassbender. “For Sebring he knows every single corner, like Belgian drivers knowing Spa. That was the main reason to have him for the Sebring race. But we will have an equal replacement to Renger.”

***The seven WEC drivers who competed in last weekend’s ABB FIA Formula E Championship round at Valencia pooled together for a flight to Belgium on Sunday evening. All except Tom Blomqvist, whose JOTA car crashed before his turn to drive, registered laps.

***Tuesday’s Prologue running again consists of two sessions, split either side of midday. The almost three-hour morning session is due to start at 9:05 a.m. CEST (3:05 a.m. EST). The afternoon spell gets underway at 2 p.m. (8 a.m. EST) and lasts three hours.

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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