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Charlotte Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s first notebook from Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval ahead of practice…

Photo: Charlotte Motor Speedway

***This weekend’s Motul 100% Synthetic Grand Prix at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval is set to be the most compact IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event of the season. Two practice sessions, qualifying and the 100-minute race will occur over a 26-hour period, with teams having only unloaded at 9 a.m. this morning.

***The GT-only event, which replaces Lime Rock Park on the schedule, marks the first major sports car race at the facility since the 2000 American Le Mans Series race, which ran a 2 hour and 45-minute all-class round that was won by JJ Lehto and Joerg Mueller in a Schnitzer Motorsport-run BMW V12 LMR.

***Bill Auberlen and Ian James are the only two active drivers competing this weekend from that race, which oddly enough saw now-McLaren Racing CEO and United Autosports co-owner Zak Brown finish second in the GTS class in a Porsche 911 Turbo. Eleven of the 23 entries in the 2000 ALMS race were Porsche 911-based cars.

***IMSA’s history with Charlotte Motor Speedway dates back to 1971, with a three-hour GT race run as part of the Coca-Cola 600 weekend.

***The majority of drivers and teams sampled the recently configured 2.28-mile, 17-turn ‘Roval’ last month during a two-day Michelin tire test, with many walking away with rave reviews although predict it could be the most physically challenging race of the season. Earl Bamber explained that Porsche has had to go “NASCAR-spec” and pad up the side of the seat due to the level of g-forces. 

***A number of cars found the concrete walls during the test, most notably Bamber in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR-19, which reportedly had a sizable impact that damaged the chassis. Bamber also scraped the wall in the second day of the test while in the team’s sister car.

***Several key members of the CORE autosport-run factory Porsche squad have departed since the last race including team manager Michael Harvey and No. 911 race engineer Gary Davies. Team manager duties will be performed by a combination of CORE’s Chief Operating Officer Morgan Brady and Phil Reinhard for the remainder of the season, with Jacques Hendricks set to serve as engineer on the No. 911 car.

***Saturday night’s race will mark the first time since the program’s formation in 2014 that Davies will not be on the radio to Nick Tandy. “It will be a new situation,” he said. “But luckily the people we’ve got to look after the 911 [car]. We’ll also be sharing a lot more from both sides of the garage with the crew from the 912 on a pre-race setup point of view going into the race.”

***The team returns to action after having missed the Mid-Ohio race due to Porsche’s decision to quarantine all of its drivers and crew from the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which also impacted its multi-car effort in the Nürburgring 24 that weekend.

***Tandy explained that he, along with Romain Dumas and Patrick Pilet — who were all not driving for Porsche at Le Mans — were quarantined as well due to having been inside the German manufacturer’s bubble during the event. “Porsche as a group took a decision that anybody linked with Porsche was going to have to stay on the safe side,” he said.

***Porsche is one of the few active GT teams to have tested at Charlotte prior to track’s facelift in 2018, with CORE having conducted a test on the previous version of the infield road course in 2016. GM, meanwhile, utilized the track for a 24-hour endurance test with its Cadillac DPi.V.R in late 2016, which saw Jeff Gordon get his first laps in the DPi.

***Tandy feels that the recent Balance of Performance break to the Porsche 911 RSR-19 will help them this weekend. “The biggest issue we have with weight on our car is tire performance and tire longevity,” he said. “There’s certain tracks that are very hard on tires and Charlotte is one of those. Fifteen kilos will make a difference of course. Will it make that much of a difference for us to be able to complete a stint flat out on a set of tires? I’m not sure. We’ll have to see.”

***Oliver Gavin is set to make his 200th start with Corvette Racing this weekend. The Englishman is the all-time leader in race wins with the Pratt & Miller-run factory squad with 51 victories. Gavin made his team debut in the 2002 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

***Gavin, who missed the test, took to the circuit virtually on Friday morning in Chevrolet’s Driver-in-the-Loop simulator, located just outside of Charlotte, with Tommy Milner also getting seat time ahead of this evening’s opening practice session. GTLM points leaders Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia gained seat time in the sim on Thursday.

***Taylor said: “It’s nice to get a little refresher course right before the weekend as a driver. I think that’s kind of been a big part of our whole season this year is having the Chevy simulator to use. It’s a brand-new car. In going to a lot of these tracks that we’ve never been to for testing and having a shortened weekend with less practice really puts a lot of emphasis on preparation leading into these weekends well-prepared.”

***BMW Team RLL’s John Edwards and Connor De Phillippi will be having a home race for the first time, with both drivers being Charlotte residents. 

***Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced plans earlier this week for a new “global” headquarters in Zionsville, Ind., which will see its IMSA and NTT IndyCar Series programs run under a single roof for the first time. The 100,000 sq. ft. facility will occupy 13 acres of the downtown area and will feature office and event space as well as automotive R&D and light manufacturing operations.

***The company expects to break ground on the new facility later this year with it being operational by spring 2022. The team’s BMW entries have been based at its shop in Hilliard, Ohio.

***The FIA has opened up a tender for the promotion of a new electric-powered GT series. Confirmed in Friday’s World Motor Sport Council meeting, “interested parties” are invited to submit proposals to the FIA GT Commission. A similar tender has been established by the FIA Touring Car Commission. Timelines for the potential launch of the two series have not been disclosed.

***A one-hour practice session will kick off on-track action this evening at 7:30 p.m. EDT, followed by final practice Saturday morning at 9:45 a.m. and qualifying at 2 p.m. The Motul 100% Synthetic Grand Prix takes the green flag Saturday at 8:05 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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