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Weekly Racing Roundup (3.15.21)

News including GT Open calendar changes, United’s GT4 pairings and Gene’s LMP2 test…

Photo: Dirk Bogaerts/SRO

 ***International GT Open has canceled its April 23-25 opening round at Portimao and replaced it with a first visit to Imola in a decade. The Portimao event has been called off in the wake of Formula 1’s confirmation of the Portuguese Grand Prix on May 2. Circuits are not permitted to host race events on the weekend before an F1 visit. The season is now set to start at Paul Ricard on May 14-16, while Imola will host round four on July 23-25. 

***In another development, GT Open has postponed its official pre-season test, which was due to take place at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this Thursday and Friday. Testing has been pushed back to April 19-20 at the same venue. In a statement, the series said travel restrictions affecting personnel from “a number of countries” made the original test dates untenable.

***Lechner Racing will compete in GT Open this year with former Bentley factory driver Andy Soucek as the lead driver. Soucek will share the No. 77 Porsche 911 GT3 R with 2018-19 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East champion Al Faisal Al Zubair.

***Team boss Walter Lechner Jr commented: “We had planned to return to the championship already last year, but due to the difficult circumstances we postponed the commitment by a year. After the big family loss [the death of team founder Walter Lechner Sr in December] we’re sticking together even more and we’re sure we’ll have a spotter looking down from above.”

***Simona de Silvestro and Klaus Bachler have joined Precote Herberth Motorsport’s ADAC GT Masters Porsche setup. The pair drove for KÜS Team75 Bernhard last year. Robert Renauer and Sven Mueller return as the co-drivers of the team’s other Porsche.

Photo: High Class Racing

***Ferrari Formula 1 test driver and 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Marc Gene sampled High Class Racing’s Oreca 07 Gibson last week. The 46-year-old turned laps around Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya during an official Goodyear test session.

***Alpine Endurance Team will unveil its A480 Gibson LMP1 car tomorrow. The French company is making its debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s top category, now known as Hypercar, in a continued partnership with Signatech.

***One of Alpine’s WEC competitors Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus is testing its SCG 007 LMH at Vallelunga this week. The American constructor has also brought its Nürburgring GT race car, the 004C, and its ‘S’-model street-legal variant to the Italian circuit.

***Matt Bell will continue with Cool Racing for a second season of Michelin Le Mans Cup. The Brit will share the team’s No. 69 Ligier JS P320 Nissan with Maurice Smith. The pair won at Paul Ricard last year en route to placing fourth in the LMP3 points.

***Imperiale Racing has locked its driver lineup for the Italian GT Championship endurance races. The team’s No. 63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo will be piloted by Andrea Amici, Alberto di Folco and Stuart Middleton. Di Folco previously drove Lamborghini GT3s for Target Racing while Amici and Middleton were in Super Trofeo North America last year.

***CarBahn with Peregrine Racing completed a shakedown of its new Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo at Thunderhill last week in preparation for its debut in the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup. Jeff Westphal and Richard Heistand will pilot the No. 39 car beginning with the Mid-Ohio round in May.

Photo: United Autosports

***United Autosports has named both driver pairings for its new program in the GT4 European Series. One McLaren 570S GT4 will be shared by Dean MacDonald, who wheeled a GT3 McLaren in British GT last year, and Gus Bowers who was in the series’ GT4 class. Ginetta Junior front-runner Bradley Voisin and Charlie Fagg – who has raced GT4 McLarens in British, Chinese and German national series – form the other duo.

***Erwin Zanotti has been signed to JAS Motorsport’s driver development program and will campaign a JAS-built Honda NSX GT3 Evo this year as part of his new role. Details of the former Italian F4 driver’s maiden sports car program have yet to be announced.

***A field of 56 cars is set to contest this weekend’s five-hour Super Taikyu season-opener at Motegi. The top ST-X category features six GT3 cars with Nissan, Porsche, Lexus, McLaren and Aston Martin represented. Team Hitotsuyama’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo is not on the Motegi entry despite being shown on the full-season list.

***49 entries are currently listed for the Creventic 12 Hours of Mugello on March 26-27. The field is headlined by 14 GT3 cars including entries from 2019 24H Series champion Scuderia Praha and Asian LMS champion Precote Herberth Motorsport.

***The 2021 Nürburgring Nordschleife endurance season will get off the ground this Saturday with the official NLS pre-season test. Round one takes place next weekend.

***Longtime SCCA and SRO America technical official Mike Pasquale passed away last week due to COVID-19-related complications. “All of us at the SRO are gutted at the loss of Mike,” said Greg Gill, president and CEO of SRO America. “Anyone who met Mike became a friend of his. His love of life and service to North American motorsports will be greatly missed. We will strive to continue Mike’s legacy of love, laughter, and service.”

On this weekend: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring), IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, Porsche Carrera Cup North America (Sebring), Super Taikyu (Motegi)

John Dagys contributed to this report.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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