***IMSA Chairman Jim France, IMSA President John Doonan, IMSA CEO Ed Bennett and NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton, along with Daytona International Speedway President Frank Kelleher were joined by ACO President Pierre Fillon and FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Frederic Lequien at the Le Mans Chicane on Friday for a photo opportunity with the Rolex 24 at Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans centenary trophies.
***This weekend marks the three-year anniversary of the announcement of top-class prototype convergence in the LMH and LMDh platforms being permitted to compete together in a single class. The LMDh platform debuts in the WeatherTech Championship GTP class in the Rolex 24.
***NTE Sport has undergone a late driver change in its No. 42 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2, with Robert Megennis replacing Don Yount. Yount, a longtime supporter of the Texas-based team, has stepped out to give the team more flexibility during the night driving according to team owner Paul Mata.
***Yount and Kerong Li, who suffered an accident in Thursday’s second practice, were not authorized to drive during periods of darkness in the race after the car was unable to take part in night practice due to the team waiting on a shipment of bodywork parts. Despite also not taking part in final practice, Mata told Sportscar365 that the car will be ready for the race start.
***Winward Racing’s spare Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo arrived at Daytona at 11:30 a.m. following a 1,000-mile journey by truck from the team’s shop in Texas. As previously reported by Sportscar365, Daniel Morad has been drafted into the lineup to replace the injured Lucas Auer, who underwent back surgery this morning after sustaining multiple lumbar fractures in an accident on Thursday.
***While Morad has been drafted into the Winward Mercedes, the German manufacturer is yet to finalize a substitute for Auer at next weekend’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour according to Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing boss Stefan Wendl.
***The No. 55 Proton Competition Oreca 07 Gibson and No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P320 Nissan returned to the track in the final all-class session after both missing night practice. Proton recovered from an accident in Practice 2 while Sean Creech underwent an engine change. Team boss Sean Creech told Sportscar365 that this was the team’s first LMP3 engine failure.
***Pfaff Motorsports’ Porsche 911 GT3 R has completed a limited amount of running in practice in order to ensure the GTD Pro team has a car and components in “appropriate condition” for the race according to a team statement, which it stressed is unrelated to the Type-992 Porsche’s current lack of performance.
***The Klaus Bachler, Patrick Pilet and Laurens Vanthoor-driven Porsche turned a total of 54 laps between the four official sessions, including only a pair of installation laps on Thursday evening.
***Porsche Penske Motorsport replaced the front bodywork as well as the steering rack, the latter out of an abundance of caution, following Nick Tandy’s accident in qualifying in the No. 6 Porsche 963 according to the team’s managing director Jonathan Diuguid.
***Diuguid said the factory GTP squad received further spare parts from Germany since the accident so they are “not negatively impacted” for the race.
***Porsche Penske was left questioning the addition of a 15-minute “systems check” session that was added prior to qualifying last Sunday, with Diuguid confirming they didn’t request it. “With the way GTP cars are right now, having just a singular session on one day and qualifying being that one, maybe they were concerned someone would have a problem and not be able to qualify appropriately,” he said.
***Ferdinando Cannizzo, head of Ferrari’s GT car track development, acknowledged that the Italian manufacturer has also been in dialogue with IMSA regarding the current Balance of Performance situation for its debuting Ferrari 296 GT3.
***Cannizzo told Sportscar365: “Yes but it’s nothing to comment. I’ll leave it to them for any decision about the level of performance between competitors. We need to focus on maximizing our performance and make our reliability the best we can.”
***The Ferrari 296 GT3 makes its competition debut this weekend with entries from Risi Competizione in GTD Pro and GTD efforts from AF Corse, Cetilar Racing and Triarsi Competizione.
***Ferrari’s BoP position comes amid Head of Porsche Motorsport Thomas Laudenbach pushing for IMSA to make a last-minute BoP change to bring its new Type-992 Porsche 911 GT3 R into a position where it can be “somewhere in the pack.”
***SunEnergy1 Racing team owner/driver Kenny Habul, meanwhile, has called for IMSA to “take action” on the current situation in GTD Pro/GTD, claiming that both the Porsche and Ferrari have been sandbagging and will show its true performance in the race.
***Habul told Sportscar365: “There’s a lot of BS going on with the BoP with Porsche and Ferrari three seconds off the pace. In my opinion, come the race tomorrow, they’ll be into the [1 minute] 45s pretty quickly. At the end of the day, IMSA just looks embarrassed. It’s not fair on IMSA and it’s not fair on the rest of the teams. [IMSA] needs to take action. It’s a lot tougher in Europe. They’ll just park you in a pit stop [if you’re sandbagging].”
***SunEnergy1, which will start first overall in the production-based ranks due to the chassis change for the No. 57 Winward Mercedes, has committed to “at least two” of the three remaining Michelin Endurance Cup races according to Habul.
***Habul said the possibility remains for Will Power to join the team in the future, not ruling out a run in next year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour. The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion withdrew last week due to complications from his wife’s recent surgery, with Luca Stolz filling the fourth drivers’ seat.
***Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor are serving as Porsche Penske’s reserve drivers for this weekend according to Porsche Motorsport boss Thomas Laudenbach, who confirmed they do not have a fixed reserve driver for the entire season and will nominate one on an “event basis.”
***Laudenbach told Sportscar365 that he expects to have a reserve driver at most races this year, both in the WeatherTech Championship and WEC, with it always comprising of one of the ten factory drivers from the opposite series.
***Indianapolis Motor Speedway track president Doug Boles was at Daytona today. The WeatherTech Championship is returning to the Roger Penske-owned circuit for a race involving all five classes on Sept. 17, while it’s understood the WEC has held talks for an endurance race of its own at the facility as well.
***Ferrari’s Cannizzo said he was pleased with the progress made during its test with the Ferrari 499P earlier this week at Sebring International Raceway. “We are on track and still in the development phase,” he told Sportscar365. “There’s a lot to do. We’re happy because we are on program at the moment and we know that time is tight but we not satisfied but quite happy.”
***Sportscar365 understands that all six of the manufacturer’s WEC drivers, including Antonio Giovanazzi, were on hand for the test with a single LMH car. Cannizzo indicated that it plans to undertake a second endurance test in Europe next month prior to the 1000 Miles of Sebring season opener. “It’s part of the program,” he said.
***ACO President Pierre Fillon confirmed to Sportscar365 that the LMP2 Pro-Am category will remain part of the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. The class, which has a Bronze driver requirement like that seen in IMSA LMP2, has been dropped by the WEC but will continue in the European Le Mans Series.
***Casting for a new IMSA Pro-Am docuseries, produced by Toni Calderon and Hollywood director Brad Peyton, will take place at Sebring in March that will be open to the entire paddock according to Calderon, who told Sportscar365 that a number of studios have expressed interest in picking up the yet-to-be-titled series.
***The Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer selected IMSA as the recipient of its 2022 Impact Award. Foundation President and CEO Amy Jo Osborn made the presentation to IMSA President John Doonan on Thursday in the media center. IMSA was honored for its impact in assisting the charity in raising more than $3.4 million since 2009 toward providing services to children with cancer and their families, including $116,000 in 2022.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report