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Daytona Saturday Notebook

John Dagys’ Saturday notebook from Roar Before Rolex 24…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

***The No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 has still yet to run this weekend, in the wake of confirmation of Paul Dalla Lana being ruled out of the race due to a skiing-related injury. Sportscar365 understands that the British manufacturer has reached out to its GT3 customer base for a potential last-minute funded replacement driver.

***It’s understood that there are tentative plans for the car to turn laps on Sunday with Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda set to be on site for tomorrow’s running.

***Per IMSA rules, all cars are required to participate in the Roar to be eligible for the Rolex 24.

***Ben Keating took part in back-to-back qualifying sessions in GT Daytona and LMP2 machinery this afternoon, driving both the Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo and the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson. Keating finished 11th in GTD and first in LMP2.

***Keating joked to Sportscar365 that with the two-hour minimum drive times in DPi and GT Le Mans, he could theoretically complete the race in all four classes and meet the drive times in each car. The minimum drive time in LMP2 and GTD is set at 4 hours and 30 minutes.

***The Rick Ware Racing Riley Mk. 30 Gibson’s day was curtailed by an accident during afternoon testing. James Davison slid the car into the tire barriers Turn 3, resulting in rear-end damage. The Riley has completed a total of 40 laps so far.

***IMSA’s revised Balance of Performance process is in action this weekend, which has seen a “more human” approach to adjustments compared to last year, while also slightly reducing the performance of the GT Daytona class.

***It’s understood IMSA has held conversations with two GTD teams so far this weekend on pace management allegations, although no cars have been parked by the sanctioning body. Turner Motorsport is believed to be one of the suspects, having been “called to the principal’s office” according to the team’s tweet.

***In a recent meeting involving the IMSA technical department, IMSA president John Doonan described the goal of getting cars within an extremely small margin on-track. “We talked about it as reference to the [length of a] boardroom table, that’s the window that the technical team is trying to get all of the cars to operate in,” he said.

***While being one of the cars atop the time sheets this weekend, the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P has battled cockpit ergonomic issues with the addition of the six-foot 1-inch Ryan Hunter-Reay alongside full-season drivers Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito.

“I caused these guys all kinds of trouble because we did it that way,” Mazda Motorsports director Nelson Cosgrove told Sportscar365. “I think it’s going to be OK. Ryan is pretty tall. We’re working our way through the seat inserts this weekend.”

***Cosgrove declined to comment on the contractual status of Joest Racing, which Sportscar365 understands will expire following the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and be replaced entirely by Multimatic staff. “We’re rolling into 2020 with Joest Racing,” he said. “We’re concentrating on winning this race and winning Sebring and that’s where I’m at.”

***Juan Pablo Montoya said his Acura ARX-05 has been “a bit of a handful” this weekend, with both Acura Team Penske entries fifth and sixth on the DPi timesheets heading into tonight’s night session. 

***AIM Vasser Sullivan has made several changes to its staff for this year, with a full-time over-the-wall crew along with the promotion of Ian Willis to technical director. Willis, who is a co-owner in the operation, served as the race engineer on the No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3 in 2019.

***Willis told Sportscar365 the team will be setting up base in CRP Racing’s shop in Harrisburg, N.C. between the Roar and the Rolex 24 before utilizing AIM’s shop in Toronto for the remainder of the season. The team had been based in North Carolina for the first part of last year to be closer to TRD.

***Frankie Montecalvo has been keeping his phone in close reach this weekend, as the AVS driver’s day job at his family’s Bayshore Recycling Center in Jersey is recovering from a six-alarm fire last month. The 29-year-old serves as the company’s chief of field operations, having been a key figure involved in the management and cleanup of the fire, which occurred on Dec. 16.  

***Ford Performance global motorsports director Mark Rushbrook told Sportscar365 the prospects of having the Ford GTs race again are “less likely at this point” with no “complete transaction” having been made to customers beyond the previously sold car to Keating.

***Rushbrook said: “That’s not our wishes; we wanted to see them stay on track. We’ll keep looking to see what we could do. The intention is that the other ones will be sold throughout the year.”

***Katherine Legge said the reception of GEAR Racing powered by GRT Grasser’s ‘pop art’ livery has been “awesome” among fans. “It’s probably the best-received car I’ve ever driven in terms of what the car looks like,” she told Sportscar365. “We have an awesome driver lineup as well, so it’s getting all the right kinds of attention.”

***GEAR Racing team owner Mark Ruggieri told Sportscar365 that the Andy Blackmore-designed livery will change “three or four times” over the course of the season, with an updated version to debut at the Rolex 24 later this month.

***Laurens Vanthoor’s daughter Emily celebrated her first birthday at Daytona today. Emily’s birth 12 months ago required Vanthoor to miss the Roar last January.

***Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA and Canada series manager Randy Hembrey is no longer with IMSA, with Hembrey’s duties having been distributed between several IMSA staff on an interim basis, according to a series spokesperson.

***Sportscar365 understands that Hembrey has joined SRO Motorsports America as its new race director for GT World Challenge America.

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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