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Daytona Saturday Notebook

John Dagys’ Saturday notebook from Roar Before Rolex 24…

Photo: Jakob Ebrey/United Autosports

***Fernando Alonso got up to speed in the No. 23 United Autosports Ligier JS P217 Gibson on Saturday, posting a 1:38.072 lap time in the morning session to end up 26th overall, and quickest of the Ligier LMP2 drivers. The Spaniard was just 0.07 seconds faster than co-driver Lando Norris.

***Both Mazda RT24-Ps returned to action, following a challenging Friday as it waited on the arrival of parts. The No. 77 car posted the 14th quickest time in combined speeds, although more than 1 second off the pace from the Cadillac DPi-V.Rs, which have topped the time charts in every session so far this weekend.

***Eddie Cheever III has been confirmed as Spirit of Daytona’s third driver for the Rolex 24. Team principal Troy Flis told Sportscar365 they’ve yet to decide whether they’ll go with a fourth driver for the race. “That’s still up in the air,” he told Sportscar365. “I’m not going to make that decision until next week, after we get back and look at all the data and information and get everybody’s input.”

***Only a handful of Prototype seats remain available for the race. The fourth seat in the Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson is open, as well as all four or five seats in the BAR1 Motorsports Riley Mk. 30 Gibson, despite the team initially announcing Joel Miller for the race.

***Norbert Siedler will complete the lineup in the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R alongside Patrick Lindsey, Joerg Bergmeister and Tim Pappas. The team has so far only confirmed Daytona, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Motul Petit Le Mans, according to Lindsey.

***New 3GT Racing driver Kyle Marcelli told Sportscar365 that he’s signed an exclusivity agreement that will prevent him from driving any non-Lexus GT3 entries. The Canadian, however, will still take part in the Continental Tire Challenge, in a Ford Mustang GT4.

***Sportscar365 has learned that a fourth Acura NSX GT3 could appear on the GT Daytona grid by as early as Sebring.

***The status of GMG Racing’s planned Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup effort with a Porsche 911 GT3 R is up in the air, following an accident for the car in private testing at Daytona late last year. Alec Udell was due to be part of the driver lineup.

***Team principal James Sofronas told Sportscar365 that the three remaining Patron Endurance Cup races remain a possibility.

***Former Stevenson Motorsports team manager Mike Johnson has joined Park Place Motorsports as its new race strategist. Johnson replaces Thomas Blam, who has moved to Mazda Team Joest.

***Austin Cindric, who makes his Prototype debut, said the No. 85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Oreca is a “tight fit” for his 6’3″ frame. “I’m sitting on carbon and I don’t have much of a seat insert,” he said. “I tore up my knees real bad yesterday. It will be interesting to tough it out for 24 hours.”

***Six-foot-two Graham Rahal has also had challenges fitting inside the cockpit of his Team Penske Acura ARX-05. “When he gets in the car, I feel for the guy!” co-driver Helio Castroneves said. “We’re trying to make adjustments so he can feel comfortable.”

***Simon Pagenaud holds the distinction of having driven every designation of Acura/Honda ARX cars, dating back to the Wirth Research-designed Acura ARX-01. “It’s really awesome to be back with them,” the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion said. “Obviously they’ve done a lot for my career and this prototype is a big evolution compared to the past.”

***All WeatherTech Championship cars are sporting a new leader lights system, developed by Motec. The smaller display provides additional new features than the first generation.

***Several interested observers from other forms of motorsports have been sighted this weekend. Recently retired Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa was on the grounds on Friday, while NASCAR and former IndyCar driver Casey Mears made his way out to the track on Saturday. Other notables include 2017 USF2000 champion Oliver Askew, 2016 Pirelli World Challenge GT Cup champion Alec Udell, and defending Rolex 24 at Daytona GT Daytona class winner Michael de Quesada.

***Dr. Robert Masson, who scored his first career IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda outright MPC class win in Saturday’s season-opener, has revealed ambitions of joining his son, Kyle, in the Rolex 24 in the future. Kyle, who claimed Prototype Challenge class honors in the race last year, makes his Prototype debut in Performance Tech Oreca.

***A 90-minute session is on tap at 6:30 p.m. this evening, followed by Session 6 at 10:45 a.m. Sunday’s activities kick off with Session 6 at 10:45 a.m., prior to qualifying for pit box and garage locations, which gets underway at 11:25 a.m.

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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