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Daytona Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook from Daytona International Speedway…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

***The Rolex 24 at Daytona entry list has dropped to 49 cars for now after the withdrawal of Black Swan Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 R due to team owner/driver Tim Pappas contracting COVID-19 following last weekend’s Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai.

***Larry ten Voorde, who was racing in Dubai as well and was due to share the No. 540 Porsche with Pappas, Patrick Pilet and Patrick Lindsey, had also tested positive for the virus.

***Jeroen Bleekemolen, who co-drove a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car with Pappas in Dubai, told Sportscar365 that he’s had three negative tests since arriving in the U.S. for the Roar. The Dutchman revealed he came down with COVID-19 last October, with antibodies likely keeping him immune from the virus threat at the Creventic event.

***The Roar Before the Rolex 24, as well as the race event next week, is being run to strict COVID-19 protocols that has seen a tightening of numbers of personnel in the paddock compared to last year’s season-ending Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The competitor ‘bubble’ includes essential personnel only, with PR reps and team/series photographers allowed in but journalists not granted paddock or pit lane access.

***In a pre-event video presentation to competitors, IMSA President John Doonan stressed the sanctioning body’s zero tolerance policy that could see drivers, crew or other personnel have their access revoked for the remainder of the season for non-compliance to the operations protocol.  

***While the FIA World Endurance Championship officially canceled its Sebring round on Friday, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will run as scheduled on March 20, according to a track statement. All IMSA series will be in action for the event with a revised event schedule to be released shortly. 

***Kenton Koch has been a late addition to the No. 19 Muehlner Motorsports Duqueine D08 Nissan alongside Laurents Hoerr and Moritz Kranz. Sportscar365 understands that the team’s second LMP3 chassis, which is competing in Saturday’s IMSA Prototype Challenge season-opener, could be put into action for the Rolex 24 should Muehlner find sufficient funded drivers. 

***The No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R missed the opening session due to a brake system issue while the No. 111 GRT Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo had a “small delay” in clearing IMSA’s required data logger technical scrutineering requirements. Both cars set times in the afternoon.

***The third car that missed Session 1, the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland Oreca 07 Gibson, due to shipping delays from its sea freight, topped the afternoon session in LMP2 in the hands of Giedo van der Garde. 

***While testing the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac this weekend Marcus Ericsson is not expected to race. The ex-Formula 1 driver, who is now part of CGR’s NTT IndyCar Series effort, is understood to be in a reserve driver role that would require the team to nominate him on grounds of force majeure.

***Wayne Taylor Racing tested two different Acura ARX-05 chassis at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday. The team is understood to have four Oreca-built tubs in its possession, including two ex-Acura Team Penske chassis, for its single-car program this year with Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque as full-season drivers.

***Albuquerque is the only WTR driver not to have previously driven the Acura DPi, but has credited his familiarity with the Oreca LMP2 cockpit and chassis in helping him to get up to speed quickly. His last drive in a turbo-powered car came in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro turbodiesel in the 2015 WEC season.

***With a win in next weekend’s Rolex 24, WTR would become only the second team and first since Chip Ganassi Racing to win the race overall in three consecutive years. CGR achieved the feat in 2006-08 in DP machinery.

***Multimatic has built-up a brand new Mazda RT24-P chassis this year for its No. 55 DPi entry. The Mazda factory squad, which has scaled back to a single-car entry, utilized one of its 2020 chassis for a Daytona race engine shakedown at Sebring, alongside the new chassis, according to Larry Holt.

***Holt said they are still deploying the same level of resources despite the reduced program.

***New Chevrolet sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser said she isn’t looking to replace Doug Fehan’s role at the manufacturer, despite absorbing Fehan’s previous responsibilities into the new overarching position within the manufacturer.

“Doug was such an important part to the program,” she told Sportscar365. “He got us started and carried us for many years. We thank him for what he did and make Corvette Racing what it is today. I know I’m never going to replace Doug and I don’t want to. He’s a huge part of the history and belongs there.”

***WeatherTech Racing’s Porsche 911 RSR-19 is the ex-No. 911 factory Porsche from last year according to Cooper MacNeil, who said the support on the program is a “conglomerate” between Porsche AG and Proton Competition. The Proton-run squad is also using some of CORE’s equipment from last year as well as one of its former engineers, while spare parts have come in from Germany.

***The team also utilized CORE’s Rock Hill, S.C. shop to prep the car prior to this weekend. “Jon Bennett [CORE team owner] has been super welcoming and a big thank you to him,” he said. “It’s made our lives a lot easier.”

***Despite what MacNeil said about utilizing some of CORE’s staff, CORE Chief Operating Officer Morgan Brady told Sportscar365 this is not the case. He also confirmed the team will not be based at their shop for the remainder of the season. “We wish the WeatherTech program much success but we are not involved with the operation of the team,” Brady told Sportscar365.

***PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports is expected to announce its full-season driver lineup prior to Sebring. Sportscar365 understands it will not include Bronze-rated revelation Patrick Kelly, who is set to focus on a limited-race program around his and the team’s 24 Hours of Le Mans debut.

***Ryan Hardwick, who won IMSA’s other auto-invite to Le Mans, indicated that he’s unlikely to take up the entry this year despite having done “some work” with teams. Hardwick told Sportscar365 that he wants to have the “full experience” at Le Mans instead of the current COVID-19-restricted schedule that’s on the cards for this year.

***Rolf Ineichen’s move back to Lamborghini prevented Team WRT from assembling a Daytona program according to team principal Vincent Vosse, who said that working with the Swiss driver for the second edition in a row presented the “only chance” to do the race.

***In explaining WRT’s 2021 absence to Sportscar365, Vosse added: “Daytona takes a lot of time to put it together and work it out. I prefer to work on my 2021 European season than to focus on one race and to find myself in February without enough drivers for my programs.”

***GT Daytona class teams will utilize Michelin’s harder of its two commercial slick compounds, the S9M, for all races this season. Over the last two years, there has been a roughly even split of races between the S8M and S9M. The change also affects the Pilot Challenge GS class, which is now also exclusively S9M.

***While racing against each other in this year in GTD, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor are understood to be teaming up for at least one 24-hour race together in the same car later this year.

***Multiple reports on Friday have indicated that NBCSN will cease operations at the end of 2021, impacting IMSA’s long-term contract with NBC Sports. “Key elements” of NBCSN’s programming is expected to move to USA Network and streaming service Peacock in 2022.

Ryan Myrehn & 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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