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Spa Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Thursday notebook from the WEC paddock at Spa-Francorchamps…

Photo: Jan Patrick Wagner/WEC

***Pipo Derani turned his first laps behind the wheel of the Glickenhaus 007 Pipo since last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans during Thursday’s first Free Practice session. Derani told Sportscar365 that he hasn’t done any other running in the 007 since he finished fourth at Le Mans with Franck Mailleux and Olivier Pla.

***The Brazilian has never finished lower than fourth at Spa since he made his WEC debut in 2015. He took an LMP2 class victory with G-Drive Racing in his first start, followed by a second-place finish with Extreme Speed Motorsports a year later. In 2017 he joined the Ford pairing of Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell to finish fourth in GTE Pro.

***Christina Nielsen and Doriane Pin had their first full day in the paddock, coming in as late replacements for Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting aboard the Iron Dames No. 85 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.

***According to co-driver Rahel Frey, Nielsen and Pin arrived at Spa on Wednesday night and had seats fitted ahead of FP1. “We definitely made some phone calls, but in the end we managed everything well,” Frey said. “We have good people in the background, who helped us organize everything quite quickly.”

***There have been some changes to the Michelin GTE tire options since Sebring. In GTE-Pro, Porsche has aligned with Ferrari by taking the medium tire compound in addition to the soft hot option, while Corvette Racing only has the two soft compound types in Belgium after choosing the medium for Sebring. The soft cold is appropriate for track temperatures below approximately 20 degrees Celsius (69 degrees Fahrenheit).

***In GTE-Am, the soft cold option has been removed for all teams at Spa, leaving soft hot and medium for slick conditions.

***According to Michelin Motorsport’s endurance racing program manager Pierre Alves, the off-season track surface work at Spa will pose some new challenges. “Spa-Francorchamps has been resurfaced in places, including through Raidillon/Eau Rouge where safety has been upgraded,” Alves explained. “At this part of the track, the rear tires will be subjected to even bigger vertical loads, and that will put the Michelin Pilot Sport casings to a huge test.”

***The resurfacing has taken place at Eau Rouge and Raidillon, and the section from the long Bruxelles right-hander through to the braking zone for Pouhon.

***Sportscar365 understands that Porsche is planning to take its LMDh car to the Goodwood Festival of Speed on June 23-26. The manufacturer launched its current GTE model at the same event in 2019.

***Eight drivers are known to have tried the Porsche LMDh car to date. Based on information from the company’s factory LMDh director Urs Kuratle, who is at Spa, the test drivers so far have been Felipe Nasr, Dane Cameron, Frederic Makowiecki, Mathieu Jaminet, Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen, Laurens Vanthoor and Andre Lotterer.

***Team Penske is using the same Spa pit box that Porsche Penske Motorsport used for its LMDh test last month. Roger Penske was spotted in the Spa paddock on Thursday, while some of the American team’s crew members are wearing traditional black overalls rather than the yellow ones worn at Sebring.

***Penske’s Oreca 07 Gibson was transported to Porsche Penske Motorsport’s WEC headquarters in Mannheim after the 1000 Miles of Sebring. It will be based there for the European leg of the season, including Le Mans. The team received the car last September and conducted tests at Indianapolis and Sebring before making its WEC debut in March. It is due to return to the U.S after the season.

***Iron Lynx co-founder Deborah Mayer is at Spa in her new role as FIA Women in Motorsport Commission President. Four women are driving in WEC.

***Asked for her assessment of the level of female involvement in the series, Mayer told Sportscar365: “There is already some presence, but the goal is to increase the presence in motorsport. In all the teams you have female representatives, whether they are mechanics, engineers or in marketing. But the share is still low and one of the aims is to increase not only awareness but representativeness as well.”

***ARC Bratislava has purchased a pair of Ligier JS P320 Nissans that it plans to run next year, most likely in the Asian Le Mans Series. The team’s LMP3 stable previously consisted of two Ginettas that were sold. Team principal Miro Konopka also confirmed that he has placed an order for a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2.

***Konopka is unsure about whether ARC will return to the WEC next season, citing the high level of competition in LMP2 as a factor. The Slovakian Bronze-rated driver stated an interest in IMSA where Bronzes are mandatory in LMP2 but stressed that no decision on a 2023 program has been made. An Asian LMS return is expected, making Daytona unlikely. “We need to be realistic,” Konopka told Sportscar365. “We are looking for which series to run.”

***Toyota confirmed that it has introduced a new monocoque for its No. 7 car after the original was written off in Jose Maria Lopez’s accident at Sebring. “We had a spare monocoque but we had to rebuild the car [around it],” said technical director Pascal Vasselon. “A few parts have been saved, but most of the expensive parts [were discarded].”

***Vasselon also clarified that the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid that appeared in a private test at Portimao between the Sebring and Spa events was a test car. The replacement monocoque for the No. 7 race vehicle shook down for the first time during Free Practice 1.

***Alpine tested at Monza between Sebring and Spa, using the ORECA monocoque that the French team is running this weekend’s event and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It is the same one that Alpine used from new during the 2021 WEC campaign, while the car that won at Sebring previously raced as a Rebellion R13.

***For the first time, the WEC held a press conference for team managers after the usual session for drivers. Toyota’s Rob Leupen, Porsche’s Alexander Stehlig, Team WRT’s Vincent Vosse and Alpine Elf Team’s Philippe Sinault attended the management conference.

***During that conference, Stehlig explained that Porsche GT Team does not view Spa as a preparation race for Le Mans, despite being widely considered as such due to its timing before the French enduro. “Le Mans is special and has nothing to do with other WEC races, from the schedule to the track, to car setup,” he said. “We do not prepare for Le Mans at all here. It is a WEC race. From Sunday on, all the focus is on Le Mans.”

***Friday’s track action consists of two Free Practice sessions and qualifying. FP2 is due to get underway at 9:05 a.m. CEST (3:05 a.m. ET) and lasts 90 minutes. A shorter one-hour FP3 starts 2 p.m. (8 a.m. ET). Qualifying is due to begin at 6:20 p.m. (12:20 p.m. ET).

***TV coverage for the 6 Hours of Spa in the U.S. is provided by MotorTrend, which is showing the race live from 6-8:30 a.m. and 12-1:30 p.m ET. Eurosport and are carrying live coverage across Europe while the WEC app has a full-length broadcast available in all territories except the U.S. and Canada. Click here for full TV listings.

Davey Euwema contributed to this report

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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