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Daytona Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s first notebook from IMSA’s return to racing at Daytona…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

***IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams were greeted to the ‘new normal’ on Friday as competitors arrived and unloaded at Daytona International Speedway ahead of this evening’s opening practice session at 6:15 p.m. ET.

***Per IMSA’s COVID-19 operations protocol, personnel arrived via a staggered schedule, which began at 6 a.m., and involved a medical screening at Gate 70 adjacent to the backstretch (pictured above), prior to entry into the infield. Crews were then instructed to wait in their vehicles until hearing air horn blasts, for their respective entry group, that signaled garage access was open.

***The 36-page event operations protocol was distributed to teams last month, which outlines event procedures, including the mandatory use of PPE (face masks) at all times while on DIS property. All participants were also required to fill out a COVID-19 medical screening document as well as sign waivers and HIPAA release forms.

***Gabby Chaves received the last-minute call-up to replace Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. after Nasr tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. While having trained together in Miami early in their quarantine period, it’s understood Pipo Derani had not been in contact with his usual co-driver for the last two weeks.

***It will mark Chaves’ first start with the team since the 2018 Motul Petit Le Mans. “I got the call from Gary Nelson around noon yesterday at my place in Indianapolis,” the Colombian said. “He asked how soon I could get myself to Daytona. The only available flight was at 3 p.m. that afternoon into Orlando. I scrambled to get my things together and went to the airport.

“The only thing I had going on the weekend was some pool time with my family and the fireworks on Saturday. I am not complaining about having to change my plans.”

***Porsche factory drivers Earl Bamber, Fred Makowiecki, Nick Tandy and Laurens Vanthoor as well as IMSA program manager Steffen Hollwarth spent the quarantine period in rented Florida homes. Bamber and Vanthoor housed together with Vanthoor’s wife and daughter in Dunedin, Fla. while Makowiecki, Tandy and Hollwarth stayed near Clearwater.

***Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and Antonio Garcia, meanwhile also shared a house in Clearwater, which saw Gavin get into a friendly biking competition with Toni Vilander and Jesse Krohn, who all regularly logged more than 100 km (60 miles) in the Florida heat to prepare for the weekend.

***Juan Pablo Montoya, who lives in Miami, told reporters that he completed more than 3,000 miles on his bike since the lockdown. 

***Rolex 24 winner and DPi points leader Renger van der Zande spent his time trying to beat segment times on Strava while biking in The Netherlands.

***Jordan Taylor, who recently moved houses in Apopka Fla., admitted he’s happy to be back racing after spending quality time with his father, Wayne. “I live next door to him,” Jordan explained. “He was visiting so often that he actually put a gate in between our two houses so he had easier access to get over here. I think I’m going to put a padlock on it and not give him the key!”

***Townsend Bell will be attempting to pull double duty between his NBC Sports IndyCar commentary commitments at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and driving the No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 this weekend.

***The Californian will take part in tonight’s practice before jetting from Orlando to Cincinnati to be at IMS in time to call the NTT IndyCar Series race. He will then join AVS co-owners Jimmy Vasser and James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan on a private plane back to Daytona on Saturday afternoon.

“I am pulling off something I’ve never tried before, which is commentating and racing on the same day in two different locations,” said Bell. “I’m not sure if anybody has ever done that type of double, but we’re going to give it our best shot.”

***Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank will also be making the trip from Indy to Daytona on Saturday, while Team Penske President Tim Cindric is currently undecided whether he will make it for the IMSA race, depending on the outcome of the GMR Grand Prix for the three-car IndyCar squad.

***Travel restrictions to Canada prevented Mazda drivers from utilizing Multimatic’s Driver-in-the-Loop sim in Toronto, although both Harry Tincknell and Oliver Jarvis had seat time in the company’s sim in the UK prior to their arrival into the U.S. 

***Jarvis told reporter that he’s “pretty sure” his lap record of 1:33.685 set in qualifying for the 2019 Rolex 24 will remain intact this weekend due to the high temperatures forecasted this weekend, which also calls for typical summer afternoon thunderstorms. 

***A number of manufacturers, including Porsche and McLaren, will be utilizing remote radio and data connections to keep its staff in Europe and elsewhere plugged into setup and telemetry data.

***IMSA has made available a new broadband satellite connection, initially planned for TV transmission, for teams to utilize for those crew and engineers working remotely. This weekend, each entry is limited to 15 personnel, including drivers, which has seen a significantly reduced presence of engineering staff within some teams.

***Compass Racing team principal Karl Thomson, whose McLaren 720S GT3 is making its first start of the year, has likened it to Formula 1. “We’ve figured out a good way of getting them the telemetry, the information to them. It feels kinda like Formula 1, which is exciting,” he told Sportscar365.

***The majority of the CORE autosport technicians and support personnel who have traveled to Daytona will remain in Florida through the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring on July 18.

***Tandy managed to take part in a track day with his Ford Ka race car following the recent resumption of private testing at British circuits. “I thought it would be good to get a bit of experience before I get back to the racetrack; any sort of driving I could do on the limit,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter what car it’s in.”

***Similarly, Tandy’s Porsche teammate Bamber got behind the wheel of a Porsche GT3 Cup car in New Zealand and completed some media work for the manufacturer. New Zealand lifted all of its coronavirus restrictions in early June.

***Cooper MacNeil took the downtime to log air-time towards earning his helicopter license, with the reigning Ferrari Challenge champion having also been able to get some laps behind the wheel of the Scuderia Corsa-run Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca a few weeks ago.

***Acura Team Penske’s Dane Cameron got a handful of laps in an Acura NSX GT3 Evo during last week’s HPD GT3 Academy at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, while MSR Acura driver Matt McMurry graduated from the University of California Irvine with a degree in aerospace engineering.

***Hardpoint Racing and Wright Motorsports both took advantage of IMSA’s lifting of its testing ban for WeatherTech Championship competitors on July 1 by testing at Sebring ahead of this weekend. It marked the first outing for Hardpoint’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo, while Patrick Long and Ryan Hardwick turned laps in Wright’s Porsche 911 GT3 R.

***LMP2 squads Era Motorsport and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports are slated to test later this month ahead of the category’s return at Sebring in two weeks’ time. Sportscar365 understands that travel issues have forced Simon Trummer out of PR1/Mathiasen’s lineup, despite the Swiss driver initially planned to prioritize Sebring over the European Le Mans Series season-opener at Paul Ricard.

***BMW Team RLL is racing in support of Alex Zanardi, who was part of its team in the 2019 Rolex 24. The Italian remains in an indued coma following a serious handcylcing accident in Italy last month. “Alex is loved worldwide,” said team principal Bobby Rahal. “Whichever discipline he competes in, he goes after it with an indomitable spirit. His time with us at Daytona last year was something we will always remember.”

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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