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Daytona Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday notebook from Daytona International Speedway…

Photo: Michelin

***Michelin North America motorsports director Chris Baker and Bob Carroll, Michelin international vice president, original equipment sales, presented IMSA President Scott Atherton and IMSA CEO Ed Bennett with gold-plated trophies created from the Michelin Challenge Design project on Friday, in commemoration of its new partnership.

***Scott Clark, the chairman and president of Michelin North America, will wave the green flag to get tomorrow’s Rolex 24 at Daytona underway.

***Remarkably, 53 of the 95 cars that took to the track on Thursday, between WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Michelin Pilot Challenge competitors, broke the previous track qualifying records while on Michelin tires. 

***According to Baker, Michelin has 75 people on-site this weekend supporting the massive effort, with an even larger presence set for Sebring, which will see around 17,000 tires and a 25,000 sq. ft. tent to service both IMSA and FIA World Endurance Championship paddocks.

***By comparison, Michelin typically brings 9,000 tires to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***The No. 66 Ford GT, which crashed in the hands of Sebastien Bourdais in final practice, will be ready to race, with only “superficial” damage sustained to the car according to team manager Mike O’Gara. It has been the only noteworthy incident of the weekend so far for WeatherTech Championship competitors.

***Richard Westbrook says Ford Chip Ganassi Racing has its “work cut out” in its bid for three-in-a-row at Daytona. The car is running 20 kg heavier this weekend than it did in last year’s Rolex 24, and Westbrook told Sportscar365 that the Ford GTs have been “pegged-back a lot in power.”

***Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke says they have to “make the best” of the Balance of Performance situation with the Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo, which he believes is at a significant deficit to the GT Daytona class competition.

“We have run simulations and have been on open books; we’ve been testing together with IMSA. They have all the data. They have decided to be quite shy to our suggestion and this is exactly what we simulated as the delta.”

***Reinke said the German manufacturer has already delivered 80 Evo kits to Audi R8 LMS customers worldwide, with “more to come” in the weeks to follow. 

***Lamborghini, the second of three GT3 manufacturers to roll out with Evos for 2019, has so far delivered more than ten all-new cars, with upgrade kits now beginning to be sent to customers, according to its head of motorsport, Giorgio Sanna. “The priority was to create the new cars,” he told Sportscar365.

***The Paul Miller Racing, Magnus Racing and PPM Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evos are brand-new cars, while the Grasser Racing Team and Ebimotors entries taking part this weekend have been upgraded.

***Sanna said he’s been pleased with the feedback from the five teams competing with the Huracan GT3 in Daytona. “It’s the first race for the new model and everything is going as we expect,” he said.

***IMSA has implemented a pit stop timer on the leader lights of each car as a new fan experience. The timer, which measures from wheel stop to wheel start in purple numbers, remains displayed on the car until it reaches the first sector.

***Geoff Carter, IMSA’s senior director of technical regulations and compliance, stressed that the timer is not used to enforce minimum refueling times, as it varies depending if cars are taking a full fuel load.

***The projected full fuel fill times for Daytona are 30 seconds (DPi), 34 seconds (LMP2/GTLM) and 40 seconds (GTD).

***PPM had considered running a five-driver lineup with Brandon Gdovic joining the team’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo but ultimately decided against it. Gdovic, who coaches PPM driver Steve Dunn, is expected to be a part of the driving squad at some point this season, with the team not yet having determined its lineup beyond Daytona.

***Pfaff Motorsports endurance drivers Lars Kern and Dennis Olsen have experience racing together in VLN, which team manager Steve Bortolotti says has helped make their inclusion in the lineup a seamless experience. Kern will be the team’s third driver at the remaining Endurance Cup races.

***Pfaff has hired Thomas Blam to manage race strategy for the Endurance Cup races this year.

***NBC Sports’ lead IMSA announcer Leigh Diffey will be calling his first sports car race in six years this weekend, and said the experience was like “coming home.”

***A surprise retirement party was held for Christian Fittipaldi on Thursday evening, where IMSA presented the three-time and reigning Rolex 24 winner with a commemorative plaque. Among in attendance included Atherton, NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton as well as many of Fittipaldi’s current and former co-drivers. 

***Adobe Road Winery has launched the “Racing Series” of wines this week, as part of the Kevin Buckler-led operation’s expansion of its successful wine business. The collection includes “Redline”, “Shift” and Apex” wines, which will be available next month.

***Buckler, whose TRG team took part in Friday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge season-opener, is expected to break ground on a 16,000 sq. ft. waterfront wine entertainment center in Petaluma, Calif. in April.

***Adding to the pre-race hype, Fernando Alonso made an appearance on Friday’s edition of “The Torque Show” with Justin Bell and Tommy Kendall, dressed as Jordan Taylor’s alter-ego Rodney Sandstorm.

Image: The Torque Show

Daniel Lloyd and Ryan Myrehn 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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