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6H CoTA: Pre-Race Paddock Notes

GTE Pro tyres, Sarrazin's call-up and familiar paddock faces

Thiim & Makowiecki on the new tyre compounds

DSC was able to speak with Aston Martin Racing’s Nicki Thiim on the topic of the new hard compound tyres that Dunlop has brought to the Circuit of The Americas for this weekend’s race.

The tyres which, according to Thiim, utilise data the team gathered at last year’s race which was extremely hot with temperatures nearing 40 degrees and are designed specifically for this race in mind.

Both of the Pro Aston Martin’s the #95 and #97 used the new compounds in Qualifying, with the #95 getting the best of the two with a third place starting spot. Thiim believes though that Aston’s cars are much better on longer runs, rather than the shorter qualifying runs.

Aston Martin, as well Porsche GT who have also brought new tyres to accommodate for the weather will be looking for high temperatures, with the higher the better for both teams.

DSC also spoke to Fred Makoweicki about the new hard-compound Michelin tyres for the new Porsche 911 RSR (featured). While the team has yet to try a full double stint on them here at CoTA prior to the race in practice, the Frenchman believes it should be an improvement over the hard compound which the team started the season with.

“We needed to make the change, because when we tested during the winter, both options, we didn’t get the right conditions, and couldn’t get a clear reading about which one should be best,” he explained. “The move to go from the old hard to the new hard is important for us. We didn’t chose the other one on purpose so we could change now.

“The drop should be ok, we maybe will see a drop in pace at the end of the first stint of maximum one second, but at the end of a double stint we don’t know, it could be big.

“In qualifying, we didn’t do so well (finishing up seventh and eighth in GTE Pro), because we were in full race mode, we used the hard compound to qualify the cars, while some of our competitors used a softer tyre.

“We should be more competitive in the race, especially if our competitors used the medium tyres in Qualifying because they are struggling with the hard tyres. If that’s the case then in the race it could be very beneficial for us.”

CEFC Manor dealing with electrical issues

The #25 CEFC Manor Oreca suffered issues in qualifying, the team unable to set a time.

The issue was with the car’s electrical system, specifically the wiring loom, which wasn’t immediately diagnosable by the team. Manor told DSC that its mechanics had to complete a full strip-down of the car to solve the issue, and work until 4:30am to get the issue solved. Following the long night of work, the team is confident that the car will be fine for today’s race.

The sister car meanwhile, qualified 10th overall and sixth in class with a time of 1:55.186.

Sarrazin on his CoTA call-up

Stephane Sarrazin, who is driving the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid this weekend in place of Anthony Davidson, told DSC that his call-up to drive was made just last week, leaving him little time to prepare.

“I found out last week, it was a very late call!” Sarrazin told DSC. “I spoke with Pascal (Vasselon) last week, and he decided to give me a drive here, replacing Anthony, it’s a good opportunity.

“I’m happy to be back, it’s an amazing car, even if we are behind Porsche, we need to improve but I’m happy, I just hope Anthony will be ok soon.”

This weekend will mark his third WEC race of 2017, and in a third TS050, after he drove the #9 at Spa and the #7 at Le Mans. Swapping teammates though, he says, isn’t a problem.

“We are used to being all together, we are one team,” he explained. “So if I drive one car or another car, it’s not an issue for me. We’ve worked together for six seasons, I know all the drivers. I’m very friendly with Sebastien (Buemi) and also with Kazuki (Nakajima) so it’s going to be fine.”

Looking ahead to today’s race, Sarrazin believes Toyota can compete for the win, as its level of tyre degradation in the Texas heat has promising over long runs.

“The 919 is a very impressive car, the lap time they did in Qualifying today was very impressive,” he said. But on Friday, in the long runs we did, and yesterday in practice, we were ok (with tyre degradation in the heat), but we still need to improve the balance.

“The car (TS050) is very good in general though on tyre wear, very impressive, not much degradation. The team do really well at managing it, Michelin have also done a very good job. The drop off in pace over long stints not going to be an issue for us.”

Familiar faces in the paddock

Amongst the visitors to the FIA WEC paddock today were ex F1, Nascar, IndyCar, ChampCar and sportscar racer Max Papis here to support nephew Pietro Fittipaldi in the Formula V8 support race.

Rubens Barrichello is also here for the weekend as a guest of Rebellion Racing, the ex F1 star making a second trip to the WEC paddock after competing in the Le Mans 24 Hours as part of the Racing Team Nederland outfit in their Dallara P217 Gibson LMP2

The media hot lap session saw Porsche field Brendon Hartley in a Porsche 911, with the Ferrari Challenge providing a 488 in the hands of Hollywood star and now one-make Ferrari racer Michael Fassbender.

DSC new boy Ryan Kish got the opportunity to take a first ever lap of CoTA at speed in the rapid company of the ex-FIA World Endurance Champion and reigning Le Mans 24 Hours Champion. You can read his impressions later in the weekend!

Drive time regulations in the heat

Temperatures today in Austin are forecasted to be both extremely hot and humid, similar to, but not quite as bad as last year’s race. Because of this the limits and regulations on both drive time for LMP2 drivers, and cockpit ambient temperatures have been put in place for this race.

The regulations state that the LMP2 cars must maintain an ambient temperature below 32 degrees celsius inside the cockpit. This limit though is only in effect when the outside air temperature is forecasted to be at or below 25 degrees.

If the outside air temperature is forecast to be above 25 degrees, which it most likely will be, than LMP2 cars will fall under the same regulations as non-air conditioned cars, even though they will still have air con equipped. This means that an 80-minute limit on driver time in the LMP2 cars will most likely be enforced for today’s race.

If the temperature is declared to be above 25 degrees then teams have a seven-degree breathing room above the outside air temperature. For example if the outside temperature is 35, the maximum tempature allowed in the car is 42 degrees. If they go over, teams have eight minutes to get the temperature back down to within limit.

How to watch

This weekend’s FIA WEC 6 Hours of Circuit of The Americas is set to be streamed live time on the FIA WEC official app with commentary from Martin Haven, and Allan McNish – with input from DSC’s editor Graham Goodwin, (it starts at midday local time), you can also listen to the Race live for free over on radiolemans.com.