***The No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports Riley Mk. 30 Gibson has been reduced to a four-driver lineup, with Tomy Drissi to sit out the race due to business commitments. The car is set to roll off from 17th on the Prototype grid.
***Alex Popow’s 1:41.778 lap time in qualifying in the team’s LMP2 entry was 0.781 seconds quicker than the Prototype Challenge class-winning pole time from James French last year.
***Defending Rolex 24 at Daytona winner Ricky Taylor has been battling the flu. The No. 7 Acura ARX-05 was qualified by Helio Castroneves, with the second-generation driver having been in practical quarantine. “He’s sick. We can’t even see him. We can only text him,” Castroneves told the AP. The bug has hit several Team Penske crew members, but so far no other drivers.
***The demise of Cadillac’s Pirelli World Challenge program has seen key additions to GM’s IMSA efforts. Laura Wontrop Klauser has become Cadillac Racing’s new program manager, replacing Jim Lutz. Steve Cole, who ran the Pratt & Miller Cadillac squad, meanwhile, has rejoined Corvette Racing as its director of operations.
***Max Angelelli, meanwhile, remains with Cadillac as the DPi-V.R project coordinator.
***Celebrations of Scott Pruett’s 50-year career have continued this weekend, with Daytona International Speedway track president Chip Wile presenting Pruett with a core sample of the start/finish line and picture book on Friday. Additional commemorations are planned tomorrow in Pruett’s final start.
***JDC-Miller Motorsports is still putting together the pieces for its 24 Hours of Le Mans debut, with drivers and the makeup of its team still to-be-confirmed. The Minnesota-based team received an auto-invite for this year’s race, courtesy of Mikhail Goikhberg’s Trueman Award from last year. “I think we’ll go, we’re just still trying to put all of the pieces together,” team principal John Church told Sportscar365.
***Lance Stroll has ruled out following in the footsteps of Fernando Alonso in potentially making his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut this year, with the Canadian set to fully focus on his Formula 1 season once it kicks off in March. “There’s 21 races on the calendar this year. I don’t really want to extend my racing schedule to 22 weekends,” Stroll said.
***2017 Audi R8 LMS Cup champion Alessio Picariello is getting his first taste of U.S. racing this weekend, as a guest of Land Motorsport and Audi. The Belgian driver told Sportscar365 that he’s targeting a program in ADAC GT Masters this year that could also include outings in the WeatherTech Championship.
***Land has yet to confirm its full lineup for the GTD season, although it’s understood Sheldon van der Linde will likely contest the majority of the races alongside a combination of other drivers, depending on availability.
***More than 20 drivers taking part in the Rolex 24 are set for the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour next weekend. The list includes: Kelvin van der Linde, Robin Frijns, Augusto Farfus, Alvaro Parente, Come Ledogar, Christopher Mies, Markus Winkelhock, Kenny Habul, Tristan Vautier, Phillip Eng, Romain Dumas, Fred Makowiecki, Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor, Patrick Long, Tim Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Luca Stolz, Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda.
***A handful of Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge competitors will also be making the trip Down Under, including Kuno Wittmer, Daren Jorgensen and Cameron Lawrence.
***At 18 years old, Devlin DeFrancesco is the youngest driver in the field and he makes his sports car racing debut this weekend in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson. The Canadian says the biggest difference to his previous experience in European single seaters. “The amount of time you get in the car is limited and fitting in the car is tricky, especially when your teammate is 6″3!,” he said.
***Continental Tire kicked off its “Celebrates You” campaign on Thursday evening with Team TGM drivers Guy Cosmo and Hugh Plumb handing out Continental Tire swag to fans in the infield. Bryan Sellers and Ryan Dalziel, meanwhile, delivered doughnuts to the campground on Friday morning.
***Spencer Pumpelly will be joining Magnus Racing for its Rolex 24 webcast, serving as the the co-host of the around-the-clock stream alongside Sean Heckman. The stream will be available on its YouTube page, beginning Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET. “It’s a different role for sure, but I’m actually really excited to do this,” Pumpelly said.
***New BMW Team RLL driver Connor De Phillippi has moved from his native California to North Carolina in order to be closer to some of his teammates, as well as for logistics reasons. De Phillippi spent the last two years making frequent trips to Europe for ADAC GT Masters and VLN races.
***A large contingent of staff from Andretti Autosport, including team owner Michael Andretti, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer J-F Thormann and technical delegates, were spotted in the paddock. While lending logistical support to United Autosports this weekend, a sports car racing program of its own has been on the radar in recent months.
***Key figures from other leading sports car racing championships are also on-site this weekend, including FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu, ACO President Pierre Fillon, Pirelli World Challenge President and CEO Greg Gill, as well as its Director of Competition Marcus Haselgrove.
***Bobby Rahal has been named the recipient of the 2017 Rolex Bob Snodgrass Award of Excellence, presented by Gorsline Company. The announcement came during the Road Racing Drivers Club annual members’ dinner on Wednesday. Other candidates for the award were Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan and Ben Keating.
***Actor Michael Fassbender took his first win in Ferrari Challenge this morning in a charging drive after starting in fourth position in the Coppa Shell class. The 30-minute race featured 41 Ferrari 488 Challenge cars. Race 2 will be Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
***Live coverage of the Rolex 24 will return to Europe, with Eurosport set to broadcast the first hour and final two hours. English language coverage will be presented by Tom Gaymor and Mark Cole at 7:20 p.m. GMT on Saturday at 5:45 p.m. on Sunday.