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Daytona Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday notebook from busy day on and off-the-track at Daytona…

Photo: Michelin

***Initial manufacturer reaction from Friday’s historic ACO-IMSA prototype convergence announcement (pictured above) has been encouraging, although with technical regulations yet to be finalized, representatives have been non-committal at this time.

***When asked what the ‘h’ in LMDh stands for during the press conference, IMSA President John Doonan said “historic” while FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu replied with “hopeful” and ACO President Pierre Fillon declaring it “hypercar” and IMSA Chairman Jim France saying “hydrogen/hybrid” with IMSA CEO Ed Bennett admitting it’s “hard to be last” with a laugh.

***Doonan told Sportscar365: “At the moment you heard everybody’s definition. I think when we do the final regulations you’ll get a better sense as to what the h stands for.”  

***The FIA has “warmly welcomed” today’s announcement by the ACO and IMSA that will “strengthen” the WEC according to FIA Endurance Commission President Richard Mille. “For sure this project will bring to the FIA WEC more manufacturers and more competitors. The FIA will support this new class of prototypes with our trusted partner ACO.”

***While set to be embraced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans beginning in 2024, Doonan hasn’t ruled out seeing hydrogen-powered cars in the WeatherTech Championship as part of the new partnership. 

“There’s many manufacturers including my previous manufacturer, Mazda, that have studied hydrogen as a propulsion fuel and opportunity,” Doonan told Sportscar365. “It could be, potentially. We’ve tried to have sports car racing be a technological platform and showcase and who knows what’s possible some day.”

***Fillon confirmed plans for the hydrogen class at Le Mans to be performance balanced to run for the overall victory alongside LMDh and Le Mans Hypercar entries.

***The No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson escaped significant damage in Don Yount’s Practice 4 crash and will make the start of the race. Yount found the inside tire wall at Turn 6 in a bizarre incident and was able to walk away from the scene, with the car not sustaining any chassis damage according to team owner Brent O’Neill.

“He was just going to go for a lap and see where he ended up and just made a small mistake. In this business it happens… we’ll roll it out tomorrow. No tub damage, just some parts, a lot of them,” O’Neill told Sportscar365. 

***Haas F1 Team principal Guenther Steiner was spotted in the paddock.  Steiner, manager of Formula 1’s only current American team, is friends with Mazda Motorsport’s new director of motorsports, Nelson Cosgrove, who is also a former senior manager at Toyota.

***Experienced IMSA racer Jeroen Bleekemolen claimed his first-ever race victory at Daytona in the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge on Friday afternoon.

***The Dutchman is one of seven drivers performing double duty between the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship rounds taking place this weekend. The others are Jeff Westphal, Dillon Machavern, Trent Hindman, Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley and Chris Miller.

***New BMW Team RLL full season signing Bruno Spengler is set to become only the third driver to have raced the three latest GTE/GTLM models from the German manufacturer at Daytona. The other BMW team members to have raced the Z4, M6 and M8 GTEs are John Edwards and Bill Auberlen.

***Spengler cited the Z4 GTE, which he drove to second in the 2015 Rolex 24, as his favorite of the three models: “I was in love with the Z4,” he told Sportscar365. “For me, Daytona with the Z4 was my first ever endurance race so I have this love story with that car.”

***Michelin has confirmed the continuation of several contingency programs for the 2020 IMSA season, including the ‘Michelin Mid-Way Front-Runner’ for GTD, GS, TCR and LMP3 classes, as well as the ‘Michelin All Hands FTW’ for the same classes. 

***IMSA announced Friday the addition of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as a partner in its IMSA Green Racing program. The DOE joins existing program partners – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and SAE International.

***ExxonMobil has extended its sponsorship with Heinricher Racing, reaffirming its commitment with the Mobil 1 brand that is sponsoring the Meyer Shank Racing-run No. 57 Acura NSX GT3 Evo this year.

***Team co-owner Michael Shank will be part of a new monthly podcast with Tim May. The first episode of the ‘At Speed Podcast’ presented by Rocky Fork Company was released this week.

***Despite the absence of former PR guru Sean Heckman, GRT Magnus has announced the continuation of its Daytona 24 webcast, which will be streamed during the race.

***NBC Sports will utilize 17 of its IMSA, NASCAR and IndyCar commentators, analysts and reporters on-site for its coverage of the race, including Meyer Shank Racing’s AJ Allmendinger and AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Townsend Bell, who will be both driving in the race and serving as analysts during their time out of the car.

***Leigh Diffey and Calvin Fish will return to the booth along with Rick Allen, Paul Tracy and Brian Till, with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte and Krista Voda set to return to the ‘Peacock Pit Box’. Marty Snider, Dave Burns, Kelli Stavast and Parker Kligerman, Kevin Lee and Dillon Welch will share pit road duties with Rutledge Wood showcasing “stories” from around the track.

***NBC will have flag-to-flag coverage on its various networks, while all 24 hours of the race will be available on NBC’s TrackPass streaming service.

***The IMSA Radio broadcast lineup has also been locked in, with John Hindhaugh, Jeremy Shaw, Jonny Palmer, Joe Bradley, Shea Adam, Diana Binks and Jamie Howe all set to feature on IMSA Radio and the live video streaming for international viewers.

Slade Perrins & Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report

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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