***Almost six months on from its last round, the FIA World Endurance Championship returns this weekend for the Total 6 Hours of Spa. Like most other motorsport events, the traditional lead-in for the 24 Hours of Le Mans is being held without public access.
***Various sanitation protocols are in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Temperature checks are being taken at the circuit entrance, while teams must stay within their own bubbles and cannot enter the garages and hospitality units of other teams.
***Social distancing at five feet is also being strongly advised, while face coverings must be worn on the circuit premises.
***Teams are limited in their access passes to 25 per car, while the manufacturers involved – Toyota, Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin – have an additional 10 credentials.
***Algarve Pro Racing missed Free Practice 1 after Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Gabriel Aubry, who raced with the APR team in the European Le Mans Series last week, was identified as “suspected positive” for COVID-19. The entire APR crew and Aubry are now self-isolating. It’s understood that Aubry obtained a COVID-19 test himself after feeling unwell.
***Antonio Felix da Costa, Sebastien Buemi and Alex Lynn missed FP1 because of a clash with the Formula E finale in Berlin. Additionally, Eurasia Motorsport’s Nick Foster was absent on Thursday because of his role driving in the Jaguar I-PACE eTrophy.
***Rebellion Racing had a strong start to the event as its drivers finished first, second and third in the FP1 order. While Norman Nato set the overall best time, Gustavo Menezes’ and Bruno Senna’s efforts would also have been good enough to top the field.
***Goodyear is rolling out its ‘B-spec’ medium tire compound for the first time in WEC, along with its soft ‘A’ specification. At all previous rounds, Goodyear teams had soft and medium-plus compounds available to them. The B-spec medium made its competition debut in the ELMS opener at Paul Ricard last month.
“Even though Spa is aggressive, we saw at Shanghai that you can still get the performance out of the softer A-spec compound if you manage the tire right,” said Goodyear’s manager of race sales, Mike McGregor. “That’s something we’re working closely with teams on, and the learnings from Sunday’s ELMS race will help more.”
***Michelin has its soft hot and medium compounds active in LMP1, while hards and mediums are being used in LMP2. Soft and medium tires will be used across both GTE classes, although Porsche GTE-Am competitors have mediums rather than softs.
***High Class Racing is running on Michelin tires this weekend, despite the provisional entry list showing the Danish LMP2 team as a Goodyear carrier. Prototype teams are allowed one tire change per season, while High Class used up its allocated switch when it contested the 6 Hours of COTA with Michelins having started the season on Goodyears.
***Team Project 1 has a new livery for its No. 56 Porsche 911 RSR being driven by Egidio Perfetti, Laurents Hoerr and Matteo Cairoli. The white and blue Mentos design (pictured above) refers to one of the brands produced by Perfetti Van Melle, the confectionary manufacturer of which Perfetti is vice-chairman.
***One of TF Sport’s trucks and eight of its crew came in from Hungary where the team contested an International GT Open round last weekend. They will then leave for France on Sunday, to prepare for more GT Open next week at Paul Ricard. Team boss Tom Ferrier said there were no major COVID-19 specifications to adhere to for the staff arriving in Belgium from Hungary.
***Porsche’s head of factory motorsport Pascal Zurlinden is not as Spa this weekend, owing to his on-site involvement in Formula E. But he nonetheless believes Porsche’s GTE-Pro team can bounce back from the technical issues it encountered in Bahrain and Austin.
“We used the six-month break and the races in IMSA to make sure all the boxes are ticked,” Zurlinden told Sportscar365. “You can never say everything was found because the car is still young, but we are quite confident.”
***All of the WEC’s North and South American drivers made it to Spa without any hitches, courtesy of support from the ACO.
***Ben Keating said he was helped by the fact he had already been to Spa for a test several weeks ago, and so knew the process of gaining entry into Belgium. Paul Dalla Lana, who came over from Canada, spent the days between last week’s ELMS race and this weekend in Berlin, after his plans to stay in London were scuppered by the UK’s new 14-day quarantine on arrivals from Belgium.
***Dalla Lana said the coronavirus lockdown had some impact on his recovery from an Achilles’ tendon injury sustained in January which ruled him out of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“Walking around the hills of Spa, I could feel it again!” the Aston Martin driver told Sportscar365. “I’ve needed a bit more physio, but it’s been hard to get that during lockdown, so I didn’t do as much as I should have. The recovery is straightforward, but it’s directly tied to how much physio you do.”
***Rebellion’s Menezes added that his travel to Europe from California went smoothly, but he will stay this side of the Atlantic through Le Mans to avoid any potential border hiccups for the 24-hour race. The American driver opened his Spa race week by doing a 13,000 ft skydive over the circuit on Monday.
***Toyota’s Jose Maria Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi head into Spa with a five-point lead over their teammates Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley in the drivers’ world championship. In GTE, Aston Martin’s Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim are 26 points clear of Ferrari drivers Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado.
***The WEC has made the 6 Hours of Spa official program free to view online.
****Friday’s track action begins with Free Practice 2 at 9:30 a.m. CEST (3:30 a.m. EST) while FP3 is set for 2 p.m. (8 a.m. EST) and qualifying for 6 p.m. (12 p.m. EST).