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Barcelona Prologue: Tuesday Paddock Notes

News and notes from the first day of running in Spain

Group shot

The majority of the cars that have been turning laps at Barcelona this week in the WEC Prologue were assembled yesterday for the annual pre-season group shot.

Vaxiviere in the running for an Aston seat?

DSC understands that Mathieu Vaxiviere, who is here with Aston Martin Racing at the Prologue, is in contention for a seat alongside Paul Dalla Lana in the team’s GTE Am Vantage AMR.

In addition to the Frenchman, Mathias Lauda, Ross Gunn, Pedro and Darren Turner are down to test the #98 too as part of a process to decide who will drive the car this season.

Originally, Vaxiviere was also due to test with Rebellion Racing and is believed to have had a seat fit with the Swiss LMP1 team prior to this week. He will not test with the team though; it made a late decision to remove him from its run plan because his time in Barcelona is limited by his need to travel to Spa for the 24 Hours this weekend.

Vaxiviere is one of multiple Aston drivers heading to Spa mid-way through the Prologue. Jonny Adam, Nicki Thiim, Ross Gunn, Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin will also leave Spain later today to ensure they are at Spa in time to take part in the build-up to the 24 Hours.

RTN to make a decision on tyres in the next 24 hours

Racing Team Nederland is the only LMP2 team sampling both the 2019 Michelin and Goodyear tyres at the WEC Prologue. The Dutch team, which will run four drivers this week (the fourth being new signee Job van Uitert), has been trying both sets of tyres today and is set to make a decision either tonight or tomorrow morning which brand it will use in the 2019/20 season.

Should RTN choose Goodyear, the American brand will almost certainly supply four cars this season, with High Class Racing and Jota/JCDC already confirmed as customers.

Van Utiert spoke to DSC earlier today and confirmed that he will only drive the RTN ORECA tomorrow, and complete a small sample of laps. He is due to drive for the team at select rounds this year when clashes prevent either Nyck de Vries or Frits van Eerd from racing. He is confirmed to race at Silverstone and Shanghai.

United makes late livery change

United Autosports co-owner Richard Dean told DSC that the team made a significant change to its original livery here at Barcelona. The original livery which the team posted a shot of on social media featured a lot more white.

But, Dean didn’t think it looked up to standard in-person so opted for a late change to the design, the final colour scheme featuring a lot more dark blue!

TF’s Vantage is brand spanking!

The Vantage AMR which TF Sport will campaign in the 2019/20 season is a brand new chassis which the team received only days before the trip to Spain. As a result, Jonny Adam told DSC, Charlie Eastwood was tasked with completing a very short shakedown before it was transported to Catalunya, meaning it had just a handful of kms on the clock before the first session of running today.

Adam, who is in the for the full season this time around, is the only TF driver present to test the car as Salih Yoluc and Charlie Eastwood are busy in the build-up to the Spa 24 Hours this weekend. Nevertheless, the team and its new car are being put through their paces.

Old meets young!

There was a nice moment yesterday evening in the Barcelona pit lane. Mark Patterson, back from injury at Monza to take his seat in the #33 High Class Racing ORECA stopped to chat to 16-year-old Gustas Grinbergas, currently the youngest driver in the ELMS as part of the Oregon Team LMP3 effort.

That puts Gustas as something less than 25% the age of Mark!

Four Le Mans Ferraris Running Here

The fleet of AF Corse-supported GTE Am Ferraris has some interesting history.

Both the #70 and #54 cars have been returned to the teams from last season.

The #83 AF Corse car though, is the ex-#57 Car Guy Ferrari from Le Mans, while the #62 Red River Sport 488 GTE was the 2018/19 ‘Super Season’ #51 GTE Pro car, the Le Mans-winning car for James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra.

As is always the case the #51 and #71, running with AF Corse in GTE Pro are brand new cars for the coming season.

Long Weekend for double duty teams!

No fewer than six teams have stayed on in one shape and form or another from the weekend’s ELMS action.

United Autosports, Cool Racing and High Class Racing are all here in LMP2, the latter two teams testing here with the same cars that raced in the 4 Hours of Barcelona.

Then there are the AF Corse, Dempsey Proton Racing and Project 1 efforts, again the latter two teams running with a car apiece that raced at the weekend.

A mix of previous and current spec Michelins in GTE Pro

Some of the GTE Pro cars are not running the new specification 2019 Michelin rubber at the Prologue test, the required tyres are still in production and not available here.

Porsche is believed to be without an allocation of 2019 rubber, while Aston Martin Racing has told DSC that it has only a limited selection of the 2019 compounds for its Vantage AMRs. That was a late change, as prior to the test AMR told DSC that it would have no 2019 Michelins for its run in Barcelona.

Thiriet Backing for Signatech Alpine

Pierre Thiriet may not be racing at Signatech Alpine this season, but his name, and the Thiriet family’s Europe-wide grocery business, is represented on the #36 car as a sponsor.

Its driver line-up for this week features Andre Negaro, Pierre Ragues and Thomas Laurent. Nicolas Lapierre has moved over from Signatech Alpine and for the first time since Le Mans 2017 will be driving with another team in a WEC event. He told DSC he felt that with Cool Racing’s rapid expansion from LMP3 to a multi-series LMP2 programme, it was the right time to make the move.

“I need to thank Alpine for everything. Le Mans was special as it was my last race with the team,” he said. “There was extra pressure because we’d been together for over three years, and I wanted to leave in a good way. It was great to finish my team with the team with a Le Mans win and a world championship title. I felt it was the right time to go after achieving so much.

“The maturity of Alpine was strong and my role was only driving. Now I enjoy driving as much as the stuff I can do with teams away from the track, so for me, it’s important to be involved deeper with a team.

“At Cool Racing, we are making big steps. I joined the team last year when they were just doing LMP3 and wanted help from me to step up to LMP2. It was a good challenge to take, with nice people who are motivated. We aren’t starting from zero, because they have prototype experience in LMP3, but almost zero.

“We are in the ELMS this year, now we are in WEC and are focused on Le Mans in 2020. I’m very happy, there’s a lot of fun. It’s hard work, but I’m enjoying it.”