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1000 Miles Of Sebring: Thursday Paddock Notes

News and impressions of the event from the packed Sebring paddock

Media briefing set for tomorrow

Tomorrow morning there’s a briefing with the WEC full-season media, to explain the current position and progress on the new hypercar regulations.

We’ll have news on that as soon as we can bring it.

Kobayashi gives his impressions of Sebring

Toyota’s Kamui Kobayashi is finding Sebring tough, the physicality of the circuit alien to the Japanese driver who has spent much of his career racing on F1-grade circuits.

“Everyone says it’s a very bumpy track, but when I got out there for the first time on a fast lap it was like, ‘Wow, this is REALLY bumpy…!’

So we are trying to manage the car to these track conditions. I want to enjoy it because it’s great coming to Sebring and this historic race, but for me, at the moment it’s not really enjoyable; I have some padding around my body but I am finding it a bit uncomfortable. But this is racing, and I see other cars having trouble in the situation too.”

As an aside, watch out for Toyota’s times in Qualifying later tonight, the TS050 HYBRID set to smash the all-time Sebring lap record. It’s going to be a treat for both fans trackside and at home.

Maldonado upbeat ahead of Sebring challenge

Pastor Maldonado says that the #31 DragonSpeed crew are on ‘full attack’ with three rounds to go. Thus far the team has yet to win a race, coming close and finishing in the top three twice, at Le Mans and Shanghai.

“Actually we’ve been fighting hard just to put the deal together and truly we have a very strong crew,” he admitted. “We approach the second part of this season now as full attack; we feel ready, we feel confident and, for me, this track is legendary. My first day here I had a wonderful feeling, it’s really fantastic.

“Discovering U.S. racing is something I wanted to do in my career, so doing Daytona (and winning the LMP2 class!) and now being here is quite special and we are really looking forward to a great race and doing our best to get the maximum we can.”

Magnussen unsure of Corvette’s prospects in WEC race

Corvette’s Jan Magnussen is highly experienced racing at Sebring, the Dane competing in the 12 Hours every year since 1999. This weekend he’s on double duty with the GM-brand racing in the WEC round also, adding to the already challenging event he knows so well this week!

“1999 was my first year and I’ve been coming to Sebring every year since, it’s one of my favourite races,” he said. “Obviously as a track it’s tough and so unlike anywhere else we race. In the time I’ve done sports cars the cars are a lot stronger now, you can get away with a lot more stuff, but it’s still a big challenge just to get to the finish.

“I think it’s too early to say what our chances are for the WEC race. We hope to go well and we will, of course, do the best we can, but for us, it’s a good opportunity to see where we are compared to the competition to better prepare ourselves for Le Mans. It’s the first chance we’ll get to do this and I’m looking forward to it. First practice was difficult, we had a few issues with the car at first but I think they’re solved now and it wasn’t too bad.”

Bruni ready for GTE Pro fight on the bumps

Porsche’s Gianmaria Bruni is expecting the race at Sebring on Friday to be incredibly tight in the GTE Pro ranks, with a good number of the teams and drivers still getting to grips with the unique challenge the circuit presents.

“It will be a tough race as always in GTE, a very close field and close battles all the way. We did a good two days testing and we collected a lot of data so we have a good basis on which to work through the FP sessions.

“The BoP situation seems stable, they are doing a great job and things didn’t change. The battles we see in the races show that. The race here is very special, many drivers are here for the first time, not for me of course, but it’s going to be tough for everyone.

“Normally you run only two hours in the dark in the 12 Hours, but the extra time in the dark at our race could bring something a bit special.”

Lindsey surprised by Project 1’s Porsche fire

Project 1 driver Patrick Lindsey is incredibly impressed by the team and the third parties involved’s efforts in getting a new Porsche 911 RSR sent to Sebring and ready to race this week.

The German outfit was left scrambling last week after its original car burned to the ground during the pre-event test. But, it’s new car (originally due for use in the ELMS this season) is here and lapping the circuit!

“There has been a huge amount of support from the paddock and especially from Porsche,” he told the media. “I wasn’t here, but it was a big surprise and a shock for everyone. These cars are bulletproof for the most part and to see one have a catastrophic incident is very rare. Fortunately, Jorg was OK and we were able to get the replacement car finished and straight into Atlanta.

“DHL helped tremendously to make that happen; as you know, Customs and Border Protection can be difficult to deal with and they were able to really help in that respect.

“The car arrived here around 8 am and we cleared Tech at 10:30. Everything else has been trying to get a setup on the car; there are a number of FIA sensors that need to be fitted and need to be correct and legal, but it’s looking good for our three night drive times.”

JCDC firmly focused on the title

DSC spoke to Jackie Chan DC Racing/Jota Sport’s Sam Hignett earlier today, to get his thoughts on the #38’s title chances, and the #37’s fresh driver line-up.

Stephane Richelmi, Ho-Pin Tung and Gabriel Aubry lead the LMP2 points standings in the #38 with three races to go, two of which award more than the standard number of points, so this week’s race is a big one for them.

The #37 car meanwhile, will race with a new line-up of Will Stevens, Jordan King and David Heinemeier Hansson after the all-Malaysian crew departed the scene after Shanghai. All three drivers will be keen to impress.

“I think the #38 crew need to stay in the lead of the title race and take no risks, that’s the mindset. The #37 will be all out for wins. They are there to try their best for themselves and the team. We’d love three more 1-2s!

“We’re excited about the new line-up too in the #37. We love having DHH as part of our crew, we’ve wanted to work with him for a long time, he’s amazing, he’s not a fake Silver, he’s just quick. Jordan King too, is a new talent, but a big single-seater driver and Will Stevens has experience with us in the background.”

Hignett did point out though, that at this stage of the season, it’s a relief to be back racing in the WEC as the extended season and lengthy breaks between races have been very hard for much of the paddock

“We’re glad we have other things going on!” he said. “The new winter schedule for this year hasn’t been enough to fulfil a business, we’re lucky we had the Blancpain programme and other bits and pieces we do with Jota. It’s difficult commercially, running out of kilter like this. Next year will be better with more races. But it’s still going to be hard.”