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Spa Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday notebook from Spa-Francorchamps…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

***Audi has debuted its Le Mans-spec low downforce aero kit on both of its R18s this weekend at Spa. The biggest change comes with the distinctive box-shaped nose, as well as some revised elements at the rear.

***LMP1 rival Porsche has rolled out elements of its low-downforce kit, including new headlights, while Toyota has opted to keep both of its TS050 Hybrids in high-downforce configuration for the second round of the season.

***The No. 8 Audi of Loic Duval, Lucas Di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis missed Free Practice 2 due to a front axle drivetrain failure. The same car retired from last month’s season-opener at Silverstone due to hybrid failure involving the MGU. Both issues appear to be unrelated.

***There was also trouble for the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, which had its hybrid battery changed between sessions for precautionary measures after receiving a hybrid system warning in FP1. The car was also battling issues with the FIA-mandated telemetry system in the opening session.

***Tequila Patron ESM topped the time sheets in Free Practice 1 for the first time since its WEC debut weekend in 2014 at Circuit of The Americas. Pipo Derani’s 2:08.974 lap in the No. 31 Ligier JS P2 Nissan was good enough for fifth quickest of the day.

***Rebellion Racing’s Nelson Piquet Jr. makes his first start at Spa since 2009 in Formula One. The Brazilian driver made his WEC debut at Silverstone, ten years after his Le Mans debut in a Team Modena Aston Martin DBR9. “Now with all of the years of experience and maturity… Everything I’ve been through from NASCAR to Rallycross, is a whole different scenario for me now,” he said.

***While his contract with Rebellion is currently only a three-race program through Le Mans, Piquet said he’d be open to additional WEC races later in the season. Mathias Beche, on loan to Thiriet by TDS Racing for Le Mans, was due to return to the No. 12 Rebellion R-One AER this season.

***Unlike previous years, Audi’s garages are not at the end of pit lane, with Porsche having taken the places for this weekend. “The defending champion chooses the [pit] location for all the races,” said LMEM Operations Director Pascal Dimitri.

***Jota Sport is likely to campaign two of the new Oreca 07 LMP2 cars next year, according to team principal Sam Hignett. Hignett told Sportscar365 they plan to retire its open-top Gibson 015S in favor of a new 2017-spec car, while upgrading its new-for-2016 Oreca 05.

***Hignett said they have not yet defined the team’s 2017 program, with options ranging from a two-car WEC program or a single entry in both the WEC and European Le Mans Series, as is the case this year with the G-Drive-branded effort.

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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