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Spa Wednesday Notebook

John Dagys’ Wednesday FIA WEC notebook from Spa-Francorchamps…

Photo: John Dagys

***A total of 37 cars are slated to take part in this weekend’s Total Six Hours of Spa, in the new-look FIA World Endurance Championship. It’s poised to include a ten-car LMP1 grid, the largest-ever field of top-level prototypes since the 2015 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***Questions have surrounded the status of the No. 6 CEFC TRSM Racing Ginetta G60-LT-P1 Mecachrome, which missed its scrutineering appointment this morning, originally scheduled for 9:25 a.m., and did not surface until late afternoon as the last prototype to go through the administrative checks.

***While the team has yet to make an official statement, it’s understood both cars are being prepped for tomorrow, in anticipation of track activity. Rumors have indicated potential funding issues with title sponsor CEFC, which is under investigation by the Chinese government.

***Andrea Pizzitola and Jean-Eric Vergne have been confirmed alongside Roman Rusinov in the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 Gibson, in an expected one-off entry for the TDS Racing-run effort. With Rusinov focusing on the European Le Mans Series this year, it will mark the first time since the championship’s inception in 2012 that the Russian driver will not feature for the full season.

***Tony Kanaan, who makes his first start in a regular-season WEC race, as well as his debut appearance at Spa, is not scheduled to arrive until late in the morning on Thursday, due to Indy 500 testing. The Brazilian is understood to have received special dispensation for his late arrival and is not expected to take part in Free Practice 1.

***DragonSpeed is coming off a three-day test at Motorland Aragon last week with both its BR Engineering BR1 Gibson and Oreca 07 Gibson prototypes.

***Team principal Elton Julian told Sportscar365 they’ve elected to utilize the high-downforce package for the BR1 this weekend, as the American team has more mileage under its belt in that configuration. Both of the SMP Racing BR1 AERs, meanwhile, are in low-downforce trim.

***Julian said they haven’t determined a possible reserve driver once Toyota LMP1 test and reserve driver Anthony Davidson joins its LMP2 race lineup post-Le Mans. Nathanael Berthon, who will drive DragonSpeed’s Oreca this weekend at Le Mans next month, could be an option to fill in for Davidson, should the Englishman be needed for race action in LMP1 later this season.

***Davidson’s Toyota race duties will likely depend on whether the 2019 races at Sebring and Spa will conflict with the Formula One schedule, which has yet to be released. Fernando Alonso, however, is hopeful there will be no clashes, which would allow the Spaniard to contest two full FIA World Championship seasons concurrently.

***Alonso has an extremely busy schedule this year, juggling 26 race weekends alongside other off-track obligations. “I was in Baku on Sunday, and yesterday morning I was at Toyota.” he said. “Finish here Sunday, Monday I have a commercial filming in England for a McLaren sponsor, and then Wednesday we go to Barcelona. It’s one or two days free per week.”

***Alonso’s arrival has sparked interest from other current Formula One drivers in Le Mans, including Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman, who took part in the 2010 race in a Matech-built Ford GT, has expressed interest in mounting an attack in LMP1 or LMP2. “I clearly want to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans one day,” Grosjean told Endurance-Info. “I want to return before the end of my career with the firm desire to play the leading role.”

***The driver lineups for the two Jackie Chan DC Racing Ligier JS P217 Gibsons for Le Mans are “90 percent there” according to team co-owner David Cheng, who told Sportscar365 that one car is already confirmed and the second lineup will be finalized and announced within the next two weeks.

***A number of drivers, including reigning Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 champions Guy Cosmo and Patrick Byrne, have been positioning themselves for the seats, although it’s understood another high-profile American driver could be in line for one of the seats, in a surprise last-minute development.

***Cheng said he hasn’t determined if he will drive himself, having decided to step out of a full-season seat in the two-car Jota Sport-run operation in the WEC to focus on his growing business commitments. The two Ligiers auto-invites will be run under the leadership of Philippe Dumas and OAK Racing at Le Mans.

***Developments, meanwhile, continue to be made on the team’s LMP1 aspirations according to Cheng, who said they now have two “very interested” Chinese OEMs, with radical fuel concepts also being floated around for the future.

***It’s unclear what affect, if any, a recent shakeup in management at Volkswagen Group will have on its motorsports programs. Herbert Diess was named last month the new CEO, replacing Matthias Mueller. Mueller, the former Porsche CEO, had been a major proponent of the German manufacturer’s motorsports activities.

***While Porsche has pulled out of LMP1 competition, the manufacturer has an increased effort in GT racing this year, including fielding a four-car factory GTE-Pro effort in the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month, as well as a works-backed program in the Intercontinental GT Challenge and Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup.

***BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt has revealed that it could have entered the WEC earlier had the proposed GT convergence materialized. The German manufacturer was represented in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup in 2011, prior to the launch of the BMW Z4 GTE, which was focused on the North American market.

“If convergence had happened, we would have had a car with the M6 that could have run as a GT3 and a GTE and for sure our program would’ve looked very different,” Marquardt said.

Laurent Mercier contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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