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Spa Wednesday Notebook

Daniel Lloyd’s notebook from set up day at Spa-Francorchamps…

Photo: Toyota

***The No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson has a new livery this weekend. The yellow and black scheme replaces the team’s traditional red and black livery that has been retained on its sister No. 37 car.

***Renowned Belgian engineer Jacky Eeckelaert is working with ByKolles Racing this weekend and will also help the team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, having left his role with the Venturi ABB FIA Formula E Championship squad.

***The former Honda, Prost and Sauber Formula 1 engineer is returning to the team that he worked for during the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship, when the Kolles operation ran the Lotus-badged LMP2 program.

***ByKolles’ new signing Paolo Ruberti is the only driver to have sampled the No. 4 ENSO CLM P1/01 under both Gibson and Nissan power, having given the V8 Gibson unit a shakedown in Germany last week. Ruberti also tested with the Nissan engine in Spain last year, but has never raced the LMP1 contender. Spa marks his prototype debut.

***Clearwater Racing is using a new Ferrari 488 GTE chassis after its previous example was heavily damaged in a crash during qualifying for the 1000 Miles of Sebring.

***The Singaporean team is using the same gearbox, engine and other components from its previous car while the chassis is brand new and will turn its first laps in Thursday practice.

***Team principal Arj Kulasegaram told Sportscar365 that the time constraints posed by the championship’s sea freight schedule, combined with the repair time, led to Clearwater’s request for a new chassis. “[The previous] chassis will be repaired,” he confirmed. “There’s no time to do it between now and Le Mans, but it will be repaired.”

***Dunlop is bringing back its ‘C’ spec LMP2 tire that took Jackie Chan DC Racing’s No. 37 crew to victory at Sebring, along with its ‘A’ spec model, for Spa. The class features a four-car split in the number of entries using Dunlop and Michelin rubber.

***Tire temperatures could be a talking point this weekend with Spa set to be the coldest race of the 2018-19 ‘Super Season’ so far. Highs of between 7 and 10 degrees C (45 and 50 F) are forecast for the competitive track sessions on Friday and Saturday, along with lows of 2 and -1 degrees C (30-32 F) respectively.

***TF Sport driver Euan Hankey admitted he’ll “probably be a bit rusty” for his first race appearance of 2019, but is nonetheless “really looking forward” to his first WEC appearance since last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***Hankey drove the No. 90 Aston Martin Vantage GTE in a two-day test at Spa in March ahead of his return to the wheel after being replaced by AMR factory driver Jonny Adam for the middle stretch of the season.

***Fernando Alonso feels he has “improved as a driver” during his first 12 months racing in sports cars. The two-time Formula 1 world champion is returning to the site of his first sports car victory with Toyota Gazoo Racing in the opening round of the 2018-19 season.

***Alonso told reporters at Spa that racing in WEC has made him a more rounded competitor: “The teamwork needed in this type of racing… there are many things that when you are enclosed in a bubble in Formula 1 that you don’t see, and you need to touch it with your hands one day,” he said.

***Rebellion Racing looks set to return to the LMP1 class next season, with team manager Bart Hayden telling Sportscar365 that a repeat campaign “makes sense”.

“We haven’t made any announcement yet. It makes sense [to continue] because we’ve got the equipment and the infrastructure. I think that it has to be under the right circumstances as well. We can’t take anything for granted, but that’s not to say that it’s not where we want to be,” he said.

 ***Racing Team Nederland will present its 2019-20 WEC program on May 14. The Dutch team is set for a return to the LMP2 class for its sophomore season, while details of a new junior team are set to be unveiled. A “special collaboration” with a “Formula 1 legend” will also be launched.

***Entry applications for next season close on May 21.

***Nick Boulle is “hoping” to drive for Larbre Competition in the 24 Hours of Le Mans after his WEC six-hour race debut this weekend. The 30-year-old American made his debut in the French endurance classic last year with Jackie Chan DC Racing.

“I recognize a few of the guys from Onroak, the guys we had at Le Mans last year,” Boulle told Sportscar365 regarding his Spa drive. “I’ve met them in passing through that same relationship, then [Larbre team principal] Jack [Leconte] reached out. He’s straight to the point and so we put something together.”

***Cetilar Villorba Corse has released a 50-minute documentary charting its journey to the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year. The film takes a behind-the-scenes look at the operations of the Italian team, which is stepping up the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 ranks next season.

***Track action gets underway tomorrow with a 90-minute Free Practice session booked for 12:00 p.m. local time (6:00 a.m. eastern).

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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