Pre-race notebook for the Six Hours of Silverstone
***The FIA and ACO signed a contract extension for the World Endurance Championship through the end of the 2020 season. FIA President Jean Todt, ACO President Pierre Fillon and WEC CEO Gerard Neveu were in attendance for the signing, along with FIA Endurance Commission President Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones. “When things go up, it’s only rationale to move forward and make things bigger,” Todt said.
***The two governing bodies held another LMP1 manufacturers meeting Saturday afternoon, which saw Peugeot Sport’s Bruno Famin in attendance alongside Fritz Enzinger and Andreas Seidl from Porsche and Toyota’s Pascal Vasselon to discuss the 2020 LMP1 regulations. Seidl told Sportscar365 that “good progress” was made in the meeting.
***ACO President Pierre Fillon confirmed to Sportscar365 on Saturday, prior to the meeting, that news on the 2020 regulations will be released at the annual press conference at Le Mans in June.
***Despite new aero restrictions, LMP1 cars have seen a massive gain in lap times, with Kamui Kobayashi’s 1:36.793 lap nearly three seconds faster than the best time set here last year, by Brendon Hartley in the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid. What’s more, Kobayashi’s lap was just 1.245 seconds slower than Nico Rosberg’s race pace-setting lap from last year’s British Grand Prix.
***Toyota Gazoo Racing team director Rob Leupen admitted he wasn’t expecting this kind of pace. “The cars should have been slower than last year and instead we have gained,” he told Sportscar365. “There are still some questions we have to answer. And the true race pace from Porsche, we’ll find out tomorrow.”
***The pole-sitting No. 7 Toyota of Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez overcame an ECU issue in Free Practice 3, which sidelined the car for nearly the first 30 minutes, prior to a near-miss by the Argentinean, in his LMP1 debut, who made slight contact with the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8. Lopez was reported to the stewards for dangerous driving.
***Saturday’s pole run by Conway and Kobayashi marked Toyota’s first pole in more than two years, dating back to Fuji 2014, and its first front row sweep since Bahrain 2013.
***The No. 4 ByKolles ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO will be allowed to start tomorrow’s race, despite not meeting the minimum qualifying time. James Rossiter and Oliver Webb combined for a best two-lap average of 1:45.235, nearly eight seconds off the Toyota’s pole-sitting time.
***Alex Lynn believes G-Drive Racing’s strategy to utilize only a single set of tires in qualifying will pay dividends in the race, with the majority of the other LMP2 teams using additional tires in qualifying. Lynn and Pierre Thiriet combined for class pole in the TDS Racing-run Oreca 07 Gibson.
***Porsche GT Team, which brought up the rear in GTE-Pro qualifying, also utilized only a single set of tires by design, according to Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser. “With the limited amount of tires, I think it’s difficult for every competitor to judge on the long runs on how it will preform. We just didn’t want to take any risks,” he told Sportscar365.
***Walliser said Andy Priaulx’s pole-winning lap of 1:55.858 in the No. 67 Ford GT was a “quite a statement” and was not in the Porsche’s range.
***The 24 Hours of Le Mans-specific Balance of Performance for GTE-Pro, which was due to be finalized this week, has been delayed. It’s understood the FIA and ACO will be waiting on additional data from this weekend’s race before confirming the BoP.
***While it makes its WEC debut, Porsche’s mid-engined 911 RSR heads into the race with extensive mileage already under its belt, with 25,000 miles of pre-season testing, including a successful 50-hour continuous test at Sebring, and an additional 50 hours of run time in the season-opening IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races, according to Walliser.
***Toyota Gazoo Racing opted not to field a third TS050 Hybrid this weekend, as it not would have contributed to its preparations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, according to team director Rob Leupen. The Japanese manufacturer will run its additional entry in the next round at Spa in low-downforce configuration, as a test for Le Mans.
***ACO President Pierre Fillon has admitted that hydrogen fuel cell technology in the LMP1 class at Le Mans is years away from coming to fruition. Fillon told Sportscar365 that it’s currently impossible to build a fuel-cell-powered car to match the current performance in the class. He indicated that it will not likely be until 2025, or potentially later, where the technology could be on the same level.
***BMW had been known to have been evaluating fuel cell technology for Le Mans, for as early as 2021. Fillon, however, hasn’t ruled out fuel cell and hybrids running together in LMP1 in the future, via Equivalence of Technology.
***GTE-Am pole-sitter Paul Dalla Lana said it’s been a big change running Aston Martin’s upgraded 2016-spec Vantage, as well as switching back to Dunlop tires for this year. “The car is quicker and more sorted out in the rear end,” he told Sportscar365. “The big diffuser on there helps a lot. The tires are probably not as peaky as the Michelins, so it’s much about consistency this year.”