Paul Holton has shifted his entire focus to Compass Racing’s McLaren 720S GT3 program, having relinquished his IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge duties on the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup weekends, according to team principal Karl Thomson.
Holton, who pulled double duty between the team’s GT Daytona and GS class operations at Mid-Ohio, has been replaced by McLaren driver coach Paul Rees in the No. 75 McLaren 570S GT4 this weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
According to Thomson, it was always the plan for Holton, a McLaren Automotive factory driver, to focus on the team’s new-for-2019 GT3 program.
“The idea was to always run Paul [in some Pilot Challenge races] because we weren’t able to get the [McLaren 720S GT3] until March,” Thomson told Sportscar365.
“We didn’t want Paul out of the car from the end of October last year to May [this year]. It was always the intent for him to run GT4 for the non-sprint rounds.
“Then we won Daytona, so we decided to keep him in for Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen and then transition over.”
Rees, a former Porsche Supercup driver who also has connections within the McLaren Automotive group, makes his IMSA debut this weekend alongside Compass’ full-season Pilot Challenge driver Kuno Wittmer.
Thomson said the 33-year-old Englishman is committed for a “handful” of more races this season but is hoping to see other drivers in the car as well alongside Wittmer.
“What we’re trying to do with [Paul] Rees is that we have a British car, we have people in England that are running the [McLaren] GT4 and have aspirations of running in the bigger show,” he said.
“Paul is a good representative for us back in the UK [to help get others] in the car.
“In the same way a lot of our guys are going to Europe to try those tracks, the European guys want to come here and race.
“I think this is a really good opportunity for us because there is a lot of interest in the UK and Europe in the McLaren platform that we have guys that are interested in doing it.”
Holton, meanwhile, is “very likely” to return to GS program for the season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta should the team not opt to enter its GT3 car in the Motul Petit Le Mans.
Currently, Compass is only committed to the WeatherTech Sprint Cup rounds with the car, although have laid out plans for a full-season program in 2020.
“This is an important project for us,” Thomson said. “[Paul Holton] is our factory driver in this. Kuno [Wittmer] is our factory driver in [the GT4 car]. This was always the plan.”
Thomson: “Early Days” for McLaren GT3 Program
The Compass Racing team boss said it’s unclear how much a difference the recent Balance of Performance adjustment to the McLaren GT3 car will have this weekend.
The 25 kg weight break and increase in turbo boost, estimated at 14 horsepower, came after the car’s second race at Detroit last month, and during the car’s probationary period in IMSA’s new BoP procedure.
“With IMSA, you’re not getting huge chucks,” Thomson said. “Mosport is probably the track where this car will perform the best.
“We know the changes are in the right direction. Are they enough? I think that’s hard to say.
“One of the things we like about IMSA is that they look at the weekend as a whole and don’t change anything in the middle of the weekend.
“We know what we get coming in and at the end of the weekend, we’ll have a discussion on what our performance was like and how we head into Lime Rock.”