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Daytona Monday Notebook

John Dagys’ first notebook from the IMSA-sanctioned December Daytona test…

Photo: John Dagys

***A total of 18 cars are set to take part in the IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona International Speedway, with no changes to the entry list since its initial release last week, other than the confirmation of some drivers.

***Five of the six Mazda Team Joest drivers will be in attendance, with only Spencer Pigot not here this week due to an IndyCar commitment.

***Mazda Motorsports Director John Doonan told Sportscar365 that the driver pairings have not yet been 100 percent finalized, but will run this week with Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell in the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P and Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez and Rene Rast in the No. 77 car.

***Only the No. 77 Mazda is expected to turn laps tomorrow as the No. 55 car undergoes a precautionary engine change following issues from a test at Sebring last week, according to Ralf Juttner. That test marked the first time both cars had been on track together.

***Juttner told Sportscar365 their biggest challenge so far has been logistics, with the team having only moved into its Atlanta-based workshop last week, between tests. Additionally, Joest is currently borrowing a transporter from Riley Motorsports as it awaits delivery of its own rig. 

***Mazda’s second entry has been renumbered from No. 70 to No. 77, in a tribute to the legendary German squad. “The No. 7 was part of Joest since Day 1,” Doonan told Sportscar365. “Their first four Le Mans victories were with No. 7, so we wanted to pay homage to them.”

***Joest’s first entries in the American Le Mans Series, with the Audi R8R in 1999 and Audi R8 the following year, also carried the No. 77, which saw Allan McNish claim the LMP900 title in 2000.

***Simon Pagenaud will get his first laps in Team Penske’s Acura ARX-05 this week. The test will mark the first time Penske has run both cars, and is coming off a single-day test at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The team has also tested at Road Atlanta and Sebring, in addition to a previous outing at Daytona, with a scheduled test at Mid-Ohio having been rained out.

***Ernie Francis Jr. will turn laps in one of the Ford GTs tomorrow. The 19-year-old Trans-Am champion, who has recently been named to NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, is understood to not be in the running for a race seat.

***Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team principal Mike O’Gara told Sportscar365 that its lineup will remain unchanged for Daytona and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, with all six of its drivers returning, including endurance pilots Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon.

***The team us unlikely to run additional Fords at Daytona and Sebring, with the focus set to remain on its two season-long entries. “We feel that adding cars doesn’t increase our chances of winning,” O’Gara told Sportscar365.

***The only change to the Fords is a slightly revised livery, which sees the production ‘Liquid Blue’ and ‘Liquid Red’ colors used. Both colors are darker and are metallic in appearance. 

***CORE autosport’s new Oreca 07 Gibson is set to run for the first time in anger, following a brief systems check at Carolina Motorsports Park in Kershaw, S.C. Both Colin Braun and Jon Bennett are fresh off last weekend’s Thunderhill 25 Hours, where they drove a Ginetta G57 prototype, which dropped out with mechanical issues.

***Bennett said the experience helped prepare him for a return to prototype racing, after a season in GT Daytona with its Porsche 911 GT3 R, which along with its spare chassis, is now up for sale.

***The BAR1 Motorsports Riley Mk. 30 Gibson is sporting aero updates only, with the Multimatic-developed mechanical developments, allowed via the FIA/ACO’s ‘Joker’, scheduled to arrive by the end of the month. More than 20 hours of wind tunnel time has been conducted with the aero updates, according to team owner Brian Alder.

***A number of drivers are set to turn laps in the car over the two days, including Tomy Drissi, Don Yount and Gustavo Yacaman tomorrow, and Mark Kvamme and Marc Drumwright on Wednesday. Alder said they have yet to finalize drivers for the season and will start the year with a single car.

***Onroak Automotive’s entry, featuring Evo updates to its Ligier JS P217 Gibson, is the ex-Visit Florida Racing chassis. Several Onroak crew from France have made the trip to run the car, with mechanics from Tequila Patron ESM and VFR also assisting. Pipo Derni and Will Owen will handle testing duties.

***It’s understood confirmation of Visit Florida’s Cadillac DPi-V.R program could come later this week. Multiple sources have indicated that Matt McMurry is the leading candidate among drivers, although the 20-year-old recently tested JDC-Miller Motorsports’ Oreca.

***Robert Alon, meanwhile, is set to turn laps in JDC’s LMP2 entry this week, alongside Stephen Simpson and Simon Trummer, who was recently confirmed in the team’s new second full-season entry. Alon drove one of 3GT Racing’s Lexus RC F GT3s last season.

***BMW’s new M8 GTE is fresh off its first test on U.S. soil last week at Homestead-Miami Speedway. A large contingent of engineers from Germany are on-site, with both John Edwards and newly signed driver Connor De Phillippi set to drive. 

***Riley Team AMG’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 is taking part in the test, despite not having a new car or Evo kit, which was a requirement for a GTD team’s participation in this test. IMSA’s Geoff Carter told Sportscar365 they’re working with the German manufacturer to evaluate alternative components, which are all FIA-homologated, in an effort to provide an improved Balance of Performance.

***Jeroen Bleekemolen is set to handle testing duties of the Mercedes-AMG, which is up for sale. Ben Keating has ordered a brand-new chassis, which could arrive in time for next month’s Roar Before the Rolex 24.

***Bill Riley, meanwhile, has ruled out running Mercedes-AMG GT4s in Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge next year. Its understood Riley will return to a two-car GTD effort, with its second customer to be announced shortly.

***WeatherTech Championship competitors will have 5.5 hours of track time, split between a morning session from 9:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. and an afternoon session that runs from 2:15-5 p.m. IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda cars will also be on track for a single-day test tomorrow.

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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