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Spa Sunday Notebook

Sportscar365’s notebook ahead of WEC’s pre-season testing at Spa…

Photo: FIA WEC

***This week’s visit to Spa marks the start of the ninth FIA World Endurance Championship season. It is the second time that the Belgian circuit has held the season-opener, after 2018-19. Spa has never previously staged the Prologue official pre-season test which has visited Paul Ricard, Monza and Barcelona in the past.

***Teams brought their cars and race equipment to the circuit on Saturday in advance of the Prologue, which takes place on Monday and Tuesday. Preparations continued on Sunday whilst some drivers took part in a track walk during the afternoon. A group photograph was taken at La Source in the evening.

***There are some differences in the entries for the Prologue and the Total 6 Hours of Spa next weekend. Oliver Webb is set to drive the ARC Bratislava Ligier JS P217 Gibson and will swap out for Darren Burke after testing. Diego Menchaca, who drives for Algarve Pro Racing in the European Le Mans Series, is set to test one of the Algarve-run G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 Gibsons.

***Daniel Serra is absent from the factory AF Corse Ferrari lineup at the Prologue due to his role driving in this weekend’s Stock Car Brasil round at Goiania. Serra is due to travel to Belgium in order to be with AF Corse for the start of his new full-time program.

***Toyota Gazoo Racing reserve driver Nyck de Vries was shown as one of the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid’s drivers on an early version of the Prologue entry list but is no longer slatted to take part. Toyota’s hybrid-powered Le Mans Hypercar prototype has generated plenty of interest in the paddock, as it marks the dawn of a brand-new era for endurance racing.

***Axcil Jefferies will drive Team Project 1’s No. 46 Porsche 911 RSR-19 at Spa. Jefferies is set for his WEC debut and his maiden race appearance in a GTE-spec Porsche, having won January’s 24 Hours of Dubai in a Porsche 911 GT3 R run by GPX Racing.

***The two G-Drive Racing LMP2 entries are at Spa under the flagless ‘RAF’ designation due to a ban on Russian Federation athletes from competing as such in world championships. G-Drive was able to compete under the Russian flag in last weekend’s European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Barcelona due to that not being classified as an FIA world championship event. Driver Roman Rusinov is also under ‘RAF’ neutral categorization.

***The WEC has updated its COVID-19 protocol for the 2021 season-opener by introducing a mandatory PCR test for all non-Belgian arrivals as soon as they get to the track after arriving in the country. All tested personnel must then isolate until receiving their PCR result, which is valid for five days. A second batch of PCR testing will then take place during the week.

***The final ABB FIA Formula E World Championship schedule released last week includes an August date clash between the Berlin E-Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans test day. Nine drivers are currently set to be affected: Nyck de Vries, Antonio Felix da Costa, Stoffel Vandoorne, Robin Frijns, Tom Blomqvist, Sebastien Buemi, Alexander Sims, Norman Nato and Alex Lynn.

***Sharp-eared WEC fans will be keen to hear the output of the Porsche 911 RSR-19, which is sporting a new rear-mounted exhaust configuration for its second season. The car previously ran with side-mounted exhausts. “This car now runs to 110 DB but still with a very nice flat-six sound,” said Porsche’s head of WEC operations Alexander Stehlig.

***Ben Keating, Dylan Pereira and Felipe Fraga are driving TF Sport’s Aston Martin Vantage GTE that contested the second half of the 2019-20 season. Team principal Tom Ferrier told Sportscar365 that the team now only has one GT3 chassis in its stable, having converted two of its GT3s over to GTE spec for D’station Racing and a separate GTE program in ELMS.

***Despite representing TF Sport in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Keating considers this week to be his first proper integration into the British team’s setup. Keating said that his double-duty role driving LMP2 and GT3 machinery at Daytona meant he was “so busy” that he “didn’t get to spend time with anyone”.

***Garage 59 could use one of last year’s GTE-Pro Aston Martin Vantage GTEs if its reserve entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans gets promoted to the main field, according to team principal Andrew Kirkaldy. “There’s always a car there,” he told Sportscar365 after last weekend’s 3 Hours of Monza where Garage 59 raced. “Obviously with them not doing WEC there’s a car available.”

***Whether Garage 59 gets into the main Le Mans field is another question, with no announced withdrawals so far. “This year it looks pretty stable, frustratingly,” said Kirkaldy, whose team is the third backup. “There haven’t been many races, so until there have been some races and seen who does what, we don’t know.”

***Team members from Absolute Racing have come over to work on the No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Racing GTE-Am Porsche, which is owned and driven by Absolute client Andrew Haryanto.

***The head of the General Motors sports car program, Laura Wontrop Klauser, was on-site at Spa this afternoon watching the Corvette Racing squad prepare for its first WEC appearance in just over a year. Corvette is receiving logistical support from French squad Larbre Competition, but most of its team members have traveled from the U.S.

***According to team manager Ben Johnson, Corvette has yet to decide on whether it will utilize Larbre’s headquarters as a satellite base for its 24 Hours of Le Mans bid. The team’s transatlantic logistics for Spa appear to have run smoothly to this point, despite cargo travel taking longer than usual.

***Each day of the Prologue will consist of two sessions. Monday’s track action is made up of a two-hour morning session starting at 10 a.m. (4 a.m. EST) followed by an afternoon session lasting three hours, 55 minutes from a 2 p.m. green flag (8 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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