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Webb: ByKolles Using Spa for Le Mans Preparation

Oliver Webb says completing the full six hours is Bykolles’ Spa priority, but a podium isn’t impossible…

Photo: MPS Agency

ByKolles Racing driver Oliver Webb says the privateer LMP1 squad’s priority is to run the full six hours at Spa to maximize its preparations for next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The German-based team’s ENSO CLM P1/01 Gibson has not raced in more than a year, but it has undertaken several tests recently at Monza, Paul Ricard and the Nürburgring.

ByKolles arrived at Spa with optimized bodywork and is set to contest Saturday’s six-hour FIA World Endurance Championship round with what Webb described as a higher downforce version of its Le Mans-style low-downforce aero kit.

The ENSO CLM qualified above the LMP2 field courtesy of Webb and Tom Dillmann’s 2:01.907 average, which put the pair 2.3 seconds off the pace set by Rebellion Racing.

“We actually thought we’d be more in the middle of the pack, but if we can just have a clear one second a lap in race pace from them then we’ll be happy with that and see what we can do with strategy and everything else,” Webb told Sportscar365.

“We know what the strength of Rebellion is, so they’re not really in our minds. We want to finish the full six hours and use this as testing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“The middle sector is our weak point at the moment. We need more grip, and a lot more downforce if it rains. It’s a 70 percent chance, up from 40 percent.

“I originally wanted it to rain because this car is good in the wet, but we only have medium and low-downforce with us.”

Webb said that it’s been challenging adapting to the 1.58s per lap handicap that ByKolles inherited for its first race of the 2019-20 season.

As a race-by-race entry, the ENSO CLM assumes the handicap of the least-penalized car in the field, which on this occasion is the No. 1 Rebellion R13 Gibson.

But Webb added that the team still has one of its best chances of an overall podium if any of the three LMP1 cars ahead falter. The ENSO CLM improved from an 8.5s qualifying deficit to pole last year, to less than three seconds this time around.

“We put a bit more fuel in to act as weight [during testing] to give us a more realistic feel, but it’s hard to compare,” he said.

“When we tested at Monza we were four seconds quicker than the LMP2s there, and now we’re only about half a second quicker here.

“[Before qualifying] we had not done a true qualifying run at all, even on Thursday when we were P2. That was just a clear lap on new tires.

“In the back of my head, I’d like to get a podium. If we can finish and something unfortunate happens ahead, we’re in a prime position to pick up a podium spot overall.

“But our minimum focus has got to be making sure we’re well clear of the LMP2s and that we get consistent mileage, not risking anything.”

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

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