Spa Sunday Notebook – Sportscar365
*** This week’s visit to Spa marks the start of the ninth season of the FIA World Endurance Championship. This is the second time that the Belgian circuit has organized the opening of the season, after 2018-19. Spa has never before organized the official pre-season Prologue test which has visited Paul Ricard, Monza and Barcelona in the past.
*** The teams brought their cars and racing gear to the circuit on Saturday before the Prologue, which takes place on Monday and Tuesday. Preparations continued on Sunday as some pilots took part in an afternoon track walk. A group photo was taken at La Source in the evening.
*** There are some differences in the registrations for the Prologue and the Total 6 Hours of Spa next weekend. Oliver Webb is set to drive the ARC Bratislava Ligier JS P217 Gibson and will be replaced by Darren Burke after testing. Diego Menchaca, who drives for Algarve Pro Racing in the European Le Mans Series, is about to test one of the Algarve G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 Gibsons.
*** Daniel Serra is absent from the AF Corse Ferrari factory lineup at the Prologue due to his role as driver in this weekend’s Stock Car Brasil round at Goiania. Serra is due to travel to Belgium in order to be with AF Corse for the start of her new full-time program.
*** Toyota Gazoo Racing reserve driver Nyck de Vries was featured as one of the # 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid drivers on an early version of the Prologue entry list, but is no longer obliged to participate. Toyota’s hybrid-powered Le Mans Hypercar prototype has garnered a lot of interest in the paddock as it marks the dawn of a whole new era for endurance racing.
*** Axcil Jefferies will drive the # 46 Porsche 911 RSR-19 from Team Project 1 at Spa. Jefferies is set for his WEC debut and his first racing appearance in a GTE-spec Porsche, having won the Dubai 24 Hours in January in a Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by GPX Racing.
*** The two G-Drive Racing LMP2 entries are in Spa under the flag-less designation “RAF” due to the ban for athletes from the Russian Federation to participate as such in the world championships. G-Drive was able to compete under the Russian flag in the 4 Hours of European Le Mans Series in Barcelona last weekend, as it was not classified as an FIA world championship event. Pilot Roman Rusinov is also under the neutral “RAF” categorization.
*** The WEC has updated its COVID-19 protocol for the opening of the 2021 season by introducing a mandatory PCR test for all non-Belgian arrivals as soon as they arrive on the track after their arrival in the country. All personnel tested should then isolate until they receive their PCR result, which is valid for five days. A second batch of PCR tests will then take place during the week.
*** The final calendar for the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship released last week includes an August clash between the Berlin E-Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans test day. Nine drivers should currently be affected: Nyck de Vries, Antonio Felix da Costa, Stoffel Vandoorne, Robin Frijns, Tom Blomqvist, Sébastien Buemi, Alexander Sims, Norman Nato and Alex Lynn.
*** Sharp-eared WEC fans will be eager to hear the release of the Porsche 911 RSR-19, which sports a new rear-mounted exhaust configuration for its second season. The car previously worked with side exhausts. “This car is now running at 110 DB but still with a very nice flat-six sound,” said Alexander Stehlig, WEC operations manager at Porsche.
*** Ben Keating, Dylan Pereira and Felipe Fraga drive TF Sport’s Aston Martin Vantage GTE which competed in the second half of the 2019-20 season. Team manager Tom Ferrier told Sportscar365 that the team only had one GT3 chassis left in their team, after converting two of their GT3s to GTE specs for D’station Racing and a program. GTE separated into ELMS.
*** Although he represented TF Sport in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Keating considers this week his first real integration into the British squad setup. Keating said his dual role as driver of LMP2 and GT3 machines at Daytona meant he was “so busy” that he “couldn’t spend time with anyone”.
*** Garage 59 could use one of last year’s Aston Martin Vantage GTE GTE-Pro if its reserve entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans is promoted into the main peloton, according to team manager Andrew Kirkaldy. “There’s always a car there,” he told Sportscar365 after last weekend’s 3 Hours of Monza where Garage 59 raced. “Obviously they are not doing the WEC, there is a car available.
*** Whether Garage 59 enters the main Le Mans field is another question, with no withdrawals announced so far. “This year it looks pretty stable, frustrating,” said Kirkaldy, whose team is the third replacement. “There haven’t been a lot of races, so until there have been races and seen who’s doing what, we don’t know.”
*** Absolute Racing team members came to work on the # 88 Dempsey-Proton Racing GTE-Am Porsche, which is owned and driven by Absolute customer Andrew Haryanto.
*** General Motors Sports Car Program Manager Laura Wontrop Klauser was on hand in Spa this afternoon to watch the Corvette Racing team prepare for their first WEC appearance in little more than one year. Corvette receives logistical support from the French team Larbre Competition, but most of its team have come from the United States.
*** According to team manager Ben Johnson, Corvette has yet to decide whether it will use the headquarters in Larbre as a satellite base for its candidacy for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team’s transatlantic logistics for Spa appear to have gone well so far, although freight trips are taking longer than usual.
*** Each day of the Prologue will consist of two sessions. Monday’s track action consists of a two-hour morning session starting at 10 a.m. (4 a.m. EST) followed by a three-hour, 55-minute afternoon session from a 2 p.m. (8 a.m. EST) green flag.