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Daytona Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday notebook from Roar Before 24…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

***The opening day of the Roar Before the 24 saw the early pace advantage go to the Gibson-powered LMP2 cars, namely the Oreca 07s, with all three French prototypes inside the top-five overall, led by Rebellion Racing’s Neel Jani. The Swiss driver’s 1:39.160 lap, however, was some 1.363 seconds slower than Eric Curran’s pace-setting time from the December test.

***Friday’s times saw a 2.427-second gap between the quickest and slowest Prototype entry. The No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Riley Mk. 30 Gibson, which only completed 24 laps, was slowest at a 1:41.587. Of note, the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson was quickest in the speed traps at 194.3 mph, some 2.8 mph quicker than the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.

***Both Mazda RT24-Ps struggled on Friday, with the No. 55 car stopping on track with suspected electrical issues, prior to suspension problems halting the No. 70 entry later in the afternoon. Jonathan Bomarito recorded the quickest time for the car, a 1:40.830, in the second session, after both cars missed nearly the entire morning.

***There’s been a number of late additions or newly confirmed driver lineups for this weekend, and the race itself, largely in the Pro-Am Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona categories.

***Mercedes DTM driver Robert Wickens and Chris Cumming will join Ben Keating and John Falb in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09, with the now Silver-rated Sean Rayhall likely to complete the lineup, and potentially also be listed in the team’s No. 88 entry, according to team boss Peter Baron.

***Baron told Sportscar365 they’re evaluating a number of drivers for the No. 88 car this weekend, with both Alex Popow and Remo Ruscitti in the frame for drives. Former IndyCar ace Sebastian Saavedra is also here.

***Porsche factory driver Michael Christensen has been confirmed in the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, alongside the previously announced Jesse Lazare, Daniel Morad and father-and-son Carlos and Michael de Quesada.

***The No. 18 DAC Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 will feature Canadian Indy Lights driver Zachary Claman De Melo, who will team up with Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America regulars Anthony Massari, Patrice Brisebois, Emmanuel Anassis. It’s understood the DAC Lamborghini is a full-season entry.

***Norbert Siedler, meanwhile, will complete Park Place Motorsports’ lineup in its No. 73 Porsche 911 GT3 R with full-season drivers Patrick Lindsey and Joerg Bergmeister and Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup pilot Matt McMurry. Both Siedler and McMurry are not here this weekend.

***Roberto Pampanini, Christoph Lenz and Milos Pavlovic have been confirmed in the No. 61 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini, alongside Christian Engelhart and Rolf Ineichen, who will also drive the Austrian squad’s No. 16 entry.

***Reigning FIA World Endurance Champion Neel Jani had the No. 13 Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson all to himself on Friday, with his Rolex 24 co-drivers Stephane Sarrazin, Sebastien Buemi and Nick Heidfeld in Las Vegas taking part in the Visa Vegas eRace, a virtual Formula E race with a record $1 million purse. “I prefer driving a real car than on a computer game!” Jani told Sportscar365.

***Sarrazin, Buemi, Heidfeld, as well as DragonSpeed’s Loic Duval and Sam Bird of Scuderia Corsa, are all expected to arrive on Sunday for the final day of the Roar following their virtual race in Vegas.

***A high-profile Mercedes-AMG factory driver is set to complete SunEnergy1 Racing’s lineup with Tristan Vautier, Boris Said and team owner/driver Kenny Habul. The North Carolina-based team has gone through multiple staff changes since November, with veteran NASCAR crew chief Matt Chambers out as team manager, along with its lead engineer.

Rodney Sandstorm couldn't trick @jeffgordonweb. #RodneySandstorm #SuperFan

A post shared by Jordan Taylor (@jordan10taylor) on

***Jordan Taylor’s trick of dressing up as a retro Jeff Gordon, complete with Gordon’s 90’s-style mustache and DuPont-sponsored NASCAR jacket, and approaching the four-time NASCAR champion for a selfie backfired on Thursday, when his Wayne Taylor Racing co-driver nearly instantly recognized the undercover Taylor.

“I had that idea as soon as I found out he was driving with us that I wanted to come up to him as a super fan,” Taylor said. “I figured he’d see that a million times and I’d blend in with the crowd. But he saw it coming and it kind of ruined my day!”

***The SpeedSource-run Mazda team has gone through an engineering shakeup, with lead engineer and strategist Marcus Shen departing for a new job outside of motorsports. Zach LaGrone moves to the No. 55 car, replacing Shen, with Jim Malicki, formerly of Tequila Patron ESM, taking over as engineer/strategist for the No. 70 car.

***Ryan Knott, meanwhile, has been promoted to crew chief on the No. 70 Mazda, with new addition Chris “Scottie” Muir will taking the crew chief role with the No. 55 car.

***There’s also been staff changes at ESM, with former EFFORT Racing team manager Erin Gahagan having been named its new team manager. Ian Jones, who oversaw the team’s WEC program last year, is now crew chief, with Onroak Automotive’s Philippe Dumas also remaining with the Florida-based team, as well as selected OAK Racing mechanics and engineers.

***Dumas admitted Onroak may not be represented on the LMP2 grid in the WEC this year, should RGR Sport’s return not materialize. The Mexican team is currently fighting funding issues, due to the country’s economic conditions. It could result in no full-season Ligier JS P217 Gibson entry. “It’s a shame because [the FIA/ACO] needs to think twice on the concept,” Dumas said, in reference to the growing number of pro-graded or manufacturer-supported LMP2 teams.

***Rene Rast’s ride with Visit Florida Racing could be extended for the remaining Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races. The Audi Sport factory driver on loan, who inked a deal with the Troy Flis-owned squad earlier this week for Daytona-only, told Sportscar365 that a decision on additional races hasn’t been made, although none of the races conflict with his recently announced DTM program.

***DragonSpeed’s Oreca 07 Gibson taking part in the Roar and the Rolex 24 is the team’s upgraded Oreca 05 chassis that competed in the European Le Mans Series last year. Its all-new LMP2 car is also on-site for spares.

***Team principal Elton Julian has all but ruled out a return to Sebring, with its focus firmly on a return to the ELMS and a potential 24 Hours of Le Mans debut, pending invite. A second full-season ELMS entry is still yet to be confirmed.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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