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6H Spa: Friday Paddock Notes

Pat Long to compete at Le Mans in 2018

Le Mans seats filling fast

DSC asked Christian Reid about what Proton Competition’s decision is regarding its final Le Mans seats. He confirmed that Patrick Long will compete in the team’s #99 Porsche and that the team is close to announcing the other two drivers. Reid also confirmed that the Monza ELMS entry will see the #77 car revived with the replacement chassis after the intial car was badly damaged at Paul Ricard during the Prologue.

With the ELMS Monza race clashing with the Nurburgring 24 Hours, Proton’s two-car entry at Monza will see a pair of championship-winning drivers take part, head of Porsche customer racing and ex-FIA WEC champion Marc Lieb and two-time FIA WEC Drivers’ Champion Gianmaria Bruni.

David Cheng meanwhile, also on TBAs for the Le Mans 24 Hours, says that one of Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Ligier JS P217 line-ups for the race is complete, with the other very close. There will be an announcement in the coming days.

Kanaan on the road ahead

Tony Kanaan, racing this weekend in the #67 Ford GT alongside Andy Priaulx, and Harry Tincknell, has a busy schedule ahead, racing every weekend for the next three months.

He will be going from this weekend in Spa, then back to Indianapolis for the May festivities there, then back to Le Mans in June for test day and for the 86th running of the endurance classic, before returning again to the states to rejoin the Indycar action.

When asked about the transition between the two cars he said: “They’re so different…” and that he has to therefore come into each race weekend, “with a different mindset.”

Kanaan completed a full stint yesterday in practice to acclimatised to the car, which he has not driven since Le Mans last year, and the track, which he has not raced at in 25 years. His teammates Priaulx and Tincknell then went on to set Pole earlier today in the class, giving him a good chance to secure some silverware ahead of Le Mans.

Bird on the 488 ‘Evo’ kit and catching Porsche and Ford

It’s not been the best of weekends for the GTE Pro teams and drivers not running Fords or Porsches. DSC was also able to catch up with Sam Bird, back again this season with teammate Davide Rigon, chasing a Le Mans win and the WEC title, with the new Evo-spec 488.

“The car feels really good and its nice to be back for the Super Season. Free Practice was mainly just trying to find the right balance between Qualifying and Race,” he said. “The Evo kit is good, the car feels a lot more balanced and a lot easier to drive. In terms of pace though, I’m not the man to ask as to whether or not the new kit will give us an edge performance wise over the course of the season.”

When asked if they could catch the Fords and Porsches this weekend, Bird simply said “no.”

Rebellion progress

While going toe-to-toe with Toyota in the race may not be a possibility for Rebellion Racing, racing and beating the other privateer runners is more than achievable, despite the car being the newest of the 2018 class.

DSC spoke with Neel Jani back in LMP1 this year with the new Rebellion squad. According to the Swiss there are still “a lot of things to work out with the new car. Which only completed a few kilometres of running during a shakedown prior to the trip to Spa.”

The #1 has however, proven to be both reliable and fast, a remarkable achievement considering how new it is, ending up second on the grid for tomorrow’s race after the pole-sitting #7 Toyota was penalised.

Despite starting second though, Jani still thinks it won’t be much of a contest for the win between Toyota and the other teams. “They have so much in the bag,” he said.

Qualifying highlights

If you missed out on watching the first Qualifying session of the season earlier today, you can catch up with the FIA WEC’s highlights video below:

Duval’s double duty

TDS Racing’s Loic Duval is on double duty this weekend, but not at the same circuit, or even in the same country!

The Frenchman is having to fullfuill his DTM commitments with Audi at Hockenheim as well as race with TDS at Spa. Duval has been in Germany all day today, but will return to Belgium for the race tomorrow.

His teammate Francois Perrodo explained to DSC that: “He’s literally helicoptering between the two race meetings. He did most of FP1 with us, then went to Germany and missed all of today’s action while taking part in DTM Free Practice. Tomorrow he’ll have to balance DTM Qualifying and our race.”

DTM Qualifying tomorrow starts at 11:25, before the WEC race at 13:10.

Power steering issues for RTN

The Racing Team Nederland squad had a troubled practice for the opening round of the WEC Superseason. They experienced power steering issues and went the wrong way on their setup for a session.

Driver, Jan Lammers explained that “Yesterday the car was really nice to all out liking, but we made a setup change overnight. Both Guide [van der Garde] and myself really didn’t like that change. The performance was so different but over a distance the fronts locked up, the change of direction was difficult. So we tried to put it back to what we learned.

“So far we have had a 100% run in terms of reliability and fine tune the setup. We never had any issues until now with the power steering – we have used the same system since 2001 – with the Domes also and we never had an issue. That was a surprise. Other than that, it is running like clockwork.”

Tough sledding for Ferrari teams in Am

While the Ferraris are struggling this weekend in GTE Pro, with the fastest 488 being 1.4 seconds off the pace, the gap is even larger in Am, where the 488s are three-seconds off.

As a result of the disparity in performance levels, Clearwater Racing’s Matt Griffin feels that the three Ferraris in GTE Am are now battling for seventh in class.

“The issue from what I see is that last year we all ran on Dunlops where this year the Porsches are on Michelin which is a much faster tyre. On top of that you have the new Porsche which is very good, also much faster.

“The thing is we have gone quicker than we did last year – considerably so. I am a second faster than I went in qualifying last year. My single lap would have gone ahead of the Porsches last year and the Porsche have gone 4-5 seconds quicker. It is ridiculous for that to happen.

“It was clear from the Prologue that would happen and they have allowed that happen. It is going to be a long day tomorrow.”