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6H Fuji: Friday Paddock Notes

Will we see an extra race on the 2020/21 calendar?

LNT Ginetta’s break speed trap record

Team LNT’s #5 Ginetta G60-LT-P1 topped the all-time WEC trap speed at Fuji today with Egor Orudzhev at the wheel in Free Practice 2. The Russian clocked 325.3 kph (203.3 mph).

This came after Ben Hanley, in the same car, broke the record in the opening session of the weekend.

Goodyear to test at Sebring

Goodyear, as it did at Silverstone, has brought its A and C spec tyres to Fuji. The B spec, which is expected to debut later in the season, will be tested along with the other two specifications at Sebring shortly after this weekend, with partner team Jota Sport.

Jota will take a single ORECA 07 Gibson to Sebring to test with Goodyear at the American circuit, following on from its tyre test run at Barcelona after the FIA WEC Prologue.

Last season Dunlop (which Goodyear has taken over from this season) debuted its third tyre specification, its ‘C’ spec, at Sebring for the 1000-mile race weekend.

Kenta on form

It’s been a strong start to the weekend for High Class Racing, one of Goodyear’s teams. The Danish outfit topped the opening practice session of the day, before finishing up second in FP2.

Kenta Yamashita, the team’s Toyota affiliated driver, set the fast times, his 1:29.624 in FP1 the fastest LMP2 time of the day. The Japanese WEC ‘rookie’ comes into his home race fresh from winning his first Super Formula race last weekend with Kondo Racing at Okayama and leading the Super GT GT500 points standings for Lexus.

In the Super Formula standings, he currently sits fourth with one round to go at Suzuka. Yamashita can still win the title, though he has to win the race and hope his title rivals struggle.

Tyre announcement coming soon

DSC expects the outcome of the tyre tender process for the 2020/21 FIA WEC season to be revealed around the time of the championship’s trip to Shanghai next month.

There, the series organisers will reveal which tyre manufacturer has won the contract to supply the ‘Hypercar Prototype’ class. It is understood that going forward each class will be supplied by a single constructor, with two manufacturers likely to be given two classes apiece.

Michelin and Goodyear are in the running, though DSC believes a third tyre manufacturer has also expressed interest. However, it is most unlikely that more than two will feature in total. This decision is likely to have a knock-on effect on the tyre deals for all other ACO series.

Extra race?

With the calendar for Season 9 of the FIA WEC set to be released in provisional form at December’s Bahrain round, rumours of some limited change to the established calendar are circulating the paddock.

What is known is that teams have been polled on their views of the value of a return to a nine-race calendar, last season back in 2017. This season features eight races, plus a pre-season Prologue test.

Old Faces in new places

Multiple drivers affiliated with the FIA WEC have been making announcements regarding new drives elsewhere in the sport.

The most recent is Fernando Alonso, the double Le Mans winner and WEC Driver’s World Champion with Toyota about to tackle the Rallye du Maroc in a Toyota Hilux.

James Calado meanwhile, joins his former AF Corse WEC counterpart Sam Bird in Formula E. The 2019 Le Mans GTE Pro class winner will race with Jaguar in Formula E this upcoming season, in addition to competing in the FIA WEC with AF Corse.

Bird, on the other hand, has shifted his focus to Formula E, his Ferrari seat now filled by Miguel Molina. Calado, on the other hand, will race in both but prioritise his WEC programme.

Currently, there are two calendar clashes between the two FIA championships, though only one is likely to remain, the WEC round Sebring and Formula E trip to Sanya.

It seems Calado has navigated calendar clashes better than his previous teammates, who has been counted out of a full-season drive with Ferrari because his Formula E commitments then, featured three potential clashes, with Sanya alongside a further clash avoided with the WEC Spa race and a December date that which would have clashed with Bahrain but now looks set to be binned by Formula E.

Thomas Preining, another regular to the GTE ranks, will be a test and development driver for the Tag Heuer Formula E team. There he will be involved in simulation work at Weissach, on-site at Formula E racing, and available for in-season testing.

At Fuji, there are multiple adverts for the upcoming DTM x Super GT ‘Dream Race’ set to be held at the Speedway. Familiar names to DSC readers are set to make appearances in that race beyond the regular drivers in both series. Alex Zanardi and Kamui Kobayashi are confirmed to be racing with BMW, Benoit Treluyer will drive with Audi. All three are DTM debutants.

As we’re writing this the return feature is currently taking place at Hockenheim, alongside DTM.