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FIA WEC: Paul Ricard Prologue, Friday AM Notes From The Paddock

Bright sunshine and (very) high wind speeds will greet 30 cars on track over the next couple of days with 29 of the 37 car full season entry for the FIA WEC plus the JMW Motorsport Ferrari from the ELMS which features Kuba Giermaziak (as reported by DSC earlier in the week) plus GB Autosport boss Michael Avenatti, Tim Sugden confirming that the pair are testing with a view to “perhaps do something with us at Le Mans.

From the full season 35 car entry for the WEC we are missing the Nissan GT-R LMs (the car passed its crash test earlier this week and is continuing to test in the USA, the pair of Rebellion R-One AERs (the cars delayed now until Le Mans with engine installation work continuing apace at Oreca), and two of the full season five LMGTE Aston Martins.

2011 FIA GT3 Drivers Champion Francesco Castellacci is confirmed as the third full season FIA WEC driver in the Gulf Racing Aston Martin alongside Roald Goethe and Stuart Hall

Friday’s running is behind closed doors to the public at least but tomorrow’s sessions are set to see the traditionally large crowds that Paul Ricard can attract. Promotion in the region (concentrating on the area between Toulon and Marseille) has already achieved over 8,000 pre-registrations for (free) tickets with DSC aware of substantial numbers of WEC fans travelling from much further afield. If the weather holds it is likely we’ll see crowds of above 10,000!

Amongst the surprises in the paddock this week have been the SMP Racing branding on the flanks of the LMGTE Pro AF Corse Ferraris, AF Corse will take on responsibility for the race preparation and logistics of the SMP Racing LM GTE Am Ferrari (though Steve (Doc) Bunkhall stays as Race Engineer with the car he took to the ELMS GTE title in 2014.

In the ELMS meanwhile the SMP Racing BR01 LMP2 coupes will be fielded and prepped by the in-house team, a change form the 2014 programme which saw AF Corse responsible for the team’s Oreca 03.Rs

Tequila Patron ESM have mounted a mighty effort to ship their pair of HPD ARX-03b cars to the Prologue but will field only Ed Brown and Scott Sharp from their full season driver line-up.

As reported by DSC earlier this week the team expect to receive their new Ligier Hondas in time for the Spa WEC race in May and Oak Racing are set to offer both drivers the opportunity to get some track time over the next couple of days in the team’s #35 Ligier Nissan.

On the 2017 LMP2 regulations front Paul Ricard has seen a series of meetings between the ACO and the tams and manufacturers. We expect a substantial communication in the coming days with DSC set to see a full interview with the ACO’s Vincent Beaumesnil next week.