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Daytona Pre-Race Notebook

John Dagys’ pre-race notebook for 56th Rolex 24 at Daytona…

Photo: Tony DiZinno

***Paul Miller Racing completed a shakedown of its Lamborghini Huracan GT3 at New Smyrna Speedway last night following an engine, gearbox and electric components change after final practice. Bryan Sellers handled driving duties on the half-mile oval, located 12 miles south of Daytona International Speedway, with all systems checking out OK.

***The powertrain change came after the team found the engine parameters did not match the other Lamborghinis. IMSA denied the team an opportunity to complete a ‘hardship’ lap, forcing the team to look for an alternative location. “It’s been a little bit of a difficult lead up to the race,” Sellers said. “We had a long meeting, and now we have a good idea of where we want and need to be moving forward.”

***Despite the engine change for the Lamborghini, as well as the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P, both cars will not start from the rear of the field, as the rule only applies to races shorter than six hours in length.

***Three cars, however (No. 77 Mazda, No. 71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 and No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi) have been moved to the back due to a change of its starting drivers. Click Here for the official starting grid.

***Should one of the Ford GTs claim GT Le Mans class honors, it would mark the 200th victory for Chip Ganassi Racing. “I want to win the race, I’m not worried about number 200 or number 300,” Chip Ganassi said. “But, certainly to get the 200th at a historical event would be a feather in our cap.”

***Team Penske has come full circle this weekend, with the Roger Penske-led operation having made its first-ever start in motorsports, in the 1966 Daytona 24 Hours. Dick Guldstrand, George Wintersteen and Ben Moore claimed GT+3.0 class honors in a Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray coupé, which finished 12th overall.

***Performance Tech Motorsports’ Oreca 07 Gibson, which qualified fourth in the hands of Pato O’Ward, started life as an Oreca 05 in Europe. The chassis was campaigned by Eurasia Motorsport in the European Le Mans Series and 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016 before being upgraded to Oreca 07 and eventually purchased by the Brent O’Neill-led team. 

***Two years on from the Ford GT’s competition debut, the BMW M8 GTE is set for its first race, and also yet to go into production at the time. The M8 road car, which has yet to be formally launched by the German manufacturer, is slated to begin production later this year.

***A number of teams are again utilizing NASCAR spotters for the race. Spotters from Joe Gibbs Racing (Chris Lambert, Chris Osborne, Jason Hedlesky) are being used at 3GT Racing, while Gary and Jarit Johnson, father and brother, respectively, to seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, are serving as spotters for Tequila Patron ESM.

***Nearly 50 IMSA manufacturer and team representatives attended Michelin briefings on Friday as the tire maker prepares to become the official tire of IMSA next year. Michelin North America motorsports director Chris Baker and technical director Ken Payne presented the Michelin–IMSA plan, which includes seven active work stream teams, covering supply chain, technical, race operations, business and consumer marketing, internal and external communications, and dealer engagements.

***The team plan, developed in collaboration with IMSA, includes a series of on-track opportunities for IMSA teams to become familiar with the Michelin customer range of tires, costs, key contacts, and the Michelin IMSA Encore event at Sebring on Nov. 9-11.

***Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser said he expects it will be “no problem” in securing all four GTE-Pro entries for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The entry list for the race will be revealed on Feb. 9. “You never get assurances because you have the selecting committee and everything but I’m confident on this side,” Walliser told Sportscar365.

***Sebring International Raceway President and General Manager Wayne Estes has squashed rumors that the track is considering building a second pit lane for the FIA World Endurance Championship’s double-header event in March 2019.

***Estes said a bridge over the Ulmann Straight had been considered, for the planned expansion of parking, although the bridge is currently not in the track’s budget. 

***Meetings on the joint IMSA/WEC event continued this weekend at Daytona, with WEC’s logistics team set to visit the race in March to continue its preparation for the shared weekend, which will feature a 1,500-mile WEC round following the Twelve Hours of Sebring.

***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.

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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