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De Oliveira eyeing WEC GT3 opportunity after Monza debut

Joao Paulo de Oliveira says he sees an "opportunity" to participate in more international races next season with the World Endurance Championship's switch to GT3 cars, after making his Hypercar bow last month at Monza.

#4 Floyd Vanwall Racing Team Vanwall Vandervell 680: João Paulo de Oliveira

Formula Nippon and SUPER GT champion de Oliveira was drafted in to join the Vanwall team for the fifth round of the WEC season alongside Esteban Guerrieri and Tristan Vautier when Tom Dillmann elected to quit the ByKolles-run outfit.

De Oliveira said last year after winning his second title in SUPER GT's GT300 class for Kondo Racing that he hoped to be able to participate in more races outside of Japan in a bid to escape his "comfort zone".

And now, having whet his appetite for international competition at Monza, the 42-year-old says that the arrival of the LMGT3 class in the WEC next year could provide more chances to test himself against world-class opposition.

"Honestly speaking, the level I see there [in WEC] is quite high," de Oliveira told Motorsport.com. "And that’s also in LMP2 and GTE, not only Hypercar.

"I like that, and it makes me want to be sharper and work harder, to improve myself. I like to have that challenge.

"For next year, the arrival of GT3 cars creates another window of opportunity, to do big events like Le Mans and Daytona. That’s the direction I’m looking at. Hypercar will be difficult to find a seat, but to race in GT3 I think is realistic."

De Oliveira explained that his first race outing for Vanwall was marred by braking issues in the hot conditions at Monza, which required the Vandervell 680 LMH's brake ducts to be cleared during pitstops.

 

The time lost in the process restricted the Brazilian and his team-mates to 20th overall, behind eight of the LMP2 runners.

"It’s very tough jumping into a car you are not familiar with mid-season," recalled de Oliveira. "I did one test last year [at Barcelona] but I didn't run much, and the car has changed since then. I didn’t know the track either.

"There was an issue with the car in FP2 so we didn’t run in that session, so we only had two sessions to divide between three drivers. Before the race I had probably done less than 20 laps, and never with a full tank.

"My goal was to just not do anything silly and help the team. I was on the same pace as Tristan and Esteban, so I was happy with the job I did and I had fun."

De Oliveira has already been confirmed to be taking part in next month's Fuji WEC round with Vanwall, but will not be available for the Bahrain season finale due to a clash with his SUPER GT commitments.

On his prospects for Fuji, a track where he has already raced twice this year, de Oliveira said: "I always had in my mind that Monza would be a learning weekend, and that the goal would be to utilise some of that at Fuji.

"I don’t expect we are going to be suddenly fighting the other Hypercars, because we were two or three seconds off the pace at Monza, but I should be much more adapted and comfortable."

 

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