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Daytona December Test Notebook

John Dagys’ notebook from Michelin On-Track Opportunity at Daytona…

Photo: John Dagys

***Nearly 40 cars are taking in Tuesday’s Michelin ‘On Track Opportunity’ at Daytona International Speedway, with DPi, LMP2, LMP3, GTLM, GT3, GT4 and TCR machinery all represented for the single-day of running in advance of the 2019 IMSA seasons.

***The on-track session runs until 8 p.m. ET, to provide teams with night-time running.

***Wayne Taylor Racing and Juncos Racing are present with its Cadillac DPi-V.Rs, with Performance Tech running its Oreca 07 Gibson, alongside GTLM teams Porsche GT Team and Risi Competizione.

***More than a dozen GTD cars are taking part, including the U.S. debut of the 2019-spec Porsche 911 GT3 R, run by Park Place Motorsports, four Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evos, featuring entries from Magnus Racing and Grasser Racing Team as well as Moorespeed, which has made the switch to an Audi R8 LMS Evo from its originally announced Porsche.

***A total of 18 Michelin Motorsport Tire Specialists are on-site to support the teams, including North America motorsports director Chris Baker, technical director Ken Payne and operations manager Robbie Holley.

***Teams were welcomed to mid-40-degree temperatures this morning, making for faster-than-expected lap times in the cool conditions. “While we prefer it to be sunny and warm in Florida, this is much better in representation of the weather we’ll expect like in the [Rolex] 24,” Michelin’s Payne told Sportscar365.

***Grasser Racing Team principal Gottfried Grasser told Sportscar365 their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo was two seconds quicker this morning compared to the best lap laid down, in non-Evo spec, from this year’s race, which was won by the Austrian squad.

***While having lost Toni Vilander to Scuderia Corsa, Risi appears set to return for the opening two rounds of the season with its Ferrari 488 GTE, although plans beyond the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring still up in the air. The Houston-based team has ruled out a GTD entry alongside its GTLM effort.

***Miguel Molina is handling testing duties in Risi’s entry today, while Nick Tandy is at the wheel of the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR, which is still in its Motul Petit Le Mans class-winning retro livery.

***AIM Vasser Sullivan is using Tuesday’s running to evaluate livery options for its Lexus RC F GT3 entries. The right side of the DayGlo yellow-colored car is painted in black, with the left side silver.

***Mike Lemay has become the new Lexus Motorsports manager, taking the place of Mark Egger, who has been reassigned to a new production car-related project within Toyota. Lemay had previously served as the assistant general manager of the Toyota Chicago regional office.

***P1 Motorsports is expecting to confirm the full-season lineup for its Mercedes-AMG GT3 within the next few days, according to team manager Gary Cummings. Mercedes-AMG factory driver Maxi Buhk, who drove for the team at Motul Petit Le Mans, has been rumored to join owner/driver JC Perez.

***Perez and Daniel Morad are testing today, although the Canadian, who has remained Silver-rated for 2019 following a successful appeal to the FIA, is understood to be part of Montaplast by Land Motorsport’s lineup for the Rolex 24.

***Cummings told Sportscar365 that P1 expects to take delivery of a brand-new Mercedes GT3 chassis later this month that will become its primary car. 

***Brazilian ace Sergio Jimenez was on-site with the team on Tuesday, prior to traveling to Saudi Arabia for the opening round of the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY in Riyadh, where he will represent Jaguar Brazil Racing in the new single-make all-electric championship.

***Bryan Sellers and Katherine Legge will also take part in the eTROPHY, driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. A total of 11 vehicles are set for Saturday’s race.

***Moorespeed’s newly confirmed season-long Audi GTD program will feature star power not only at the wheel but on the pit box, with John Horton joining the Texas-based team as engineer and Jürgen Zürn as chief strategist and data engineer. Horton has joined the team from Park Place Motorsports.

***Chris Mower has joined Mazda Team Joest as its new team coordinator. Mower, who served as team manager for the ill-fated Nissan LMP1 program, is understood to be one of several high-profile hires to the team next year, including the potential of Brad Kettler, who has departed Audi Sport customer racing.

***While not present today, Mazda is set to return to Daytona for a two-day private test this weekend, which is poised to see Timo Bernhard turn his first laps in the Multimatic-built Mazda RT24-P. BMW Team RLL, Montaplast by Land Motorsport and Starworks Motorsport are also slated to test on Saturday and Sunday, with Acura Team Penske on Dec. 18-19.

***Despite being initially announced as a Michelin Endurance Cup-only driver, Starworks team principal Peter Baron indicated that the intention is for Parker Chase to complete the entire season alongside Dalziel. An Audi factory driver is set to join the duo, along with a yet-to-be-announced Silver-rated pilot for the Rolex 24.

***Baron said they remain open to the possibility of running a second Audi for the WeatherTech Sprint Cup races, in the place of Land’s Audi effort, which is confirmed for the Endurance Cup only races.

***While Land’s lineup has yet to be announced, Morad, Christopher Mies, Dries Vanthoor and Ricardo Feller’s names are on the side of the car, with Mies and Feller on testing duty today.

***Meyer Shank Racing is set to take delivery of two brand-new Acura NSX GT3 Evos later this month according to team co-owner Mike Shank. The Ohio-based team is utilizing its No. 93 car, upgraded to Evo-spec, today with AJ Allmendinger and Jackie Heinricher at the wheel.

***Paul Holton and Kuno Wittmer turned laps in Compass Racing’s McLaren 570S GT4, with the team expecting to announce its driver lineup for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season in the coming days, according to team principal Karl Thomson.

***Thomson told Sportscar365 it’s their goal to run as a two-car McLaren squad in GS next year, with the British manufacturer having provided increased support since McLaren Automotive’s takeover of the program. Two McLaren engineers are on-site for today’s test.

***The McLaren GT4 update package will be made available following January’s Pilot Challenge season-opener, with the Canadian squad having worked with McLaren Automotive on 22 different areas of improvement, from a-arms to brakes and exhaust updates.

***Thomson said they expect to take delivery of their new McLaren 720S GT3 in February but has ruled out a debut in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Sportscar365 understands McLaren’s IMSA manufacturer agreement is for the WeatherTech Sprint Cup races only.

***It’s understood McLaren will make an initial batch of 12 cars available to customers next year, with Compass having been the first officially announced order.

***Rebel Rock Racing is set to field at least one Camaro GT4.R for the full Pilot Challenge season, according to Robin Liddell, who will be joined by Frank DePew at the wheel. A second car, budget permitting, hasn’t been ruled out and could feature Andrew Davis, who paired with Liddell in the final three rounds of last season.

***Muehlner Motorsports has expanded into IMSA Prototype Challenge with a pair of Norma M30 Nissans that will be run under the Robillard Racing banner. Stevan McAleer and Joe Robillard will drive the cars solo in the 1 hour and 45-minute races and team up in a single entry for the pair of three-hour races at Daytona and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

***Team principal Bernhard Muehlner told Sportscar365 they are still planning to run a GT4 program, likely in the SRO-run GT4 America championship, next year alongside its new customer operation.

***Dawson Racing, the team behind the D3 Transformers operation, is also present with a Ligier JS P3 Nissan for Theodore Olson and Nelson Mason ahead of a planned full-season IPC effort and potential second entry next year.

***Ian Dawson told Sportscar365 that a LMP2 program, as initially announced in October 2017, remains a “moving target” with a final decision for a possible 2019 entry needing to be made within the next two weeks. Dawson indicated that the recent bankruptcy of Toys “R” Us affected the sponsorship of its planned Ligier JS P217 Gibson program for 2018.

***A celebration of life for renowned motorsports photographer John Thawley has been set for next month following the Roar Before the 24 weekend. Services for Thawley, who passed way in October, will be held at  Joanne’s House at Hope Hospice in Bonita Springs, Fla. on Mon. Jan. 7 at 4 p.m. 

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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