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Daytona Saturday Notebook

John Dagys’ Saturday notebook from Roar Before Rolex 24 at Daytona…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

***The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05, which initially qualified second in the hands of Filipe Albuquerque, has been moved to the rear of the DPi starting field after the car did not meet the minimum rear wing assembly angle in post-qualifying technical inspection. 

***Saturday’s sessions at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 saw a number of incidents amid changing track conditions. The biggest hit of the day came from the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 of Kyffin Simpson in Session 3, which resulted in the team missing the qualifying session for tomorrow’s 100-minute qualifying race.

***In a unique twist, both the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson of Ben Keating and the car that he will also drive in the Rolex 24, the No. 5 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R — qualified by Tristan Vautier — both ended up quickest in Roar qualifying for tomorrow’s 100-minute qualifying race. “I’ve never been on the stage with a teammate from another car!” Keating said in the post-qualifying press conference.

***Kenny Habul, who was quickest in GTD and third among all GTD Pro/GTD entrants in qualifying, doesn’t believe a number of the GTD Pro class drivers were showing their true potential during the the mixed-condition session. “There’s no way in God’s earth that they were giving it everything because I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “You’ve got some of the real superstars of the GT world that are a second off my time. There’s just no way.”

***Habul explained that the SunEnergy1 team has been pieced together at the last-minute, unlike previous efforts that had been operationally run by an existing GT3 team. “There’s guys that barely speak English,” he said. “There’s eight nationalities in the team and guys that just met each other yesterday. It was one of those last minute things.”

***The mid-event Balance of Performance adjustment made to three of the GTD Pro/GTD cars is understood to have given the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R GTD roughly a 27-horsepower increase compared to its initial configuration. Sportscar365 believes that the Corvettes, however, are still struggling in straight-line speed compared to the competition.

***While having contested the majority of the 2019 WeatherTech Championship season with BMW Team RLL in GTLM, Tom Blomqvist is set for his Rolex 24 debut. The Brit was forced out of the season-opener that year due to visa issues and was replaced by Augusto Farfus in the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE, which went onto claim the class win.

***Action Express Racing is again relying on crew members from Hendrick Motorsports to serve as the pit crew on the No. 48 Ally-sponsored Cadillac for the Michelin Endurance Cup races this year. Team manager Gary Nelson said the team has “gained strength” in “pretty much all areas” for the upcoming season. 

“In the Hendrick area, they’ve just stepped up and stepped up,” Nelson told Sportscar365. “They didn’t buy the team yet; they’re assisting us in a lot of ways. Pit crew-wise, they’ve really been a savior for the 48 [car] because we were able to hire full-time guys to work on the cars and build the cars but still getting a second pit crew together is difficult.”

***Daytona marks the first time that Andrea Caldarelli is sharing a Lamborghini GT3 car with Rolf Ineichen since the 24 Hours of Brno in 2016, a race that came during Caldarelli’s first year with the Italian manufacturer.

***Jarett Andretti returns to Rolex 24 for the first time since making his sports car racing debut in the 2012 race in a GT class Yellow Dragon Motorsports Mazda RX-8 that he shared with his late father John, Taylor Hacquard and Anders Krohn. 

***Andretti Autosport has brought in additional staff for its first-ever 24-hour race, following last year’s mid-season WeatherTech Championship debut in the LMP3 class. Jarett told Sportscar365 that Oliver Askew’s ABB FIA Formula E World Championship commitments have precluded from him returning to the IMSA operation after serving as his co-driver last year. Josh Burton has stepped in as the new full-time role.

***KCMG, which is making its WeatherTech Championship debut, is without its team principal Paul Ip, who has been unable to travel from Asia due to COVID 19-related travel restrictions.

***Crucial Motorsports is yet to determine its lineup for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring according to Paul Holton who co-runs the McLaren GTD squad with Aaron Nash. “I think pending our results here, we may have the same or a very similar lineup,” Holton told Sportscar365. “I think that is a realistic possibility, we’ll see. We’re going to perform this weekend, and once we do Daytona we’ll work on Sebring.”

***Crucial’s transportation for Daytona is a modest trailer situated amongst the 18-wheeler haulers used by the rest of the field. “We’re waiting on our hauler to get built, so we’re like cramming 12 pounds of junk into a 10-pound container,” Holton said. “We’re definitely the odd-man-out in the paddock!”

***Cetilar Racing is planning to head to Sebring for a two-day test immediately after the Rolex 24. The Italian entrant is leaning on a U.S.-based AF Corse structure where its Michelin Endurance Cup program will be housed. Team owner Roberto Lacorte indicated that there was a last-minute rush to get ready for Daytona, based on customs delays.

***The characteristics of the new BMW M4 GT3 are enabling drivers to tackle the Daytona course in a “totally” different way compared to the retired M6 model, according to Bill Auberlen who described the new car’s traction as an improvement over its predecessor. “I’ve been in the M6 so many years in a row, that you know to tickle the throttle off the corners,” Auberlen told Sportscar365. “In this one, you put your foot down and feel you can do more. Here, so far, it’s a much better experience.”

***Chip Ganassi Racing has yet to finalize its third drivers for Sebring. While Alex Palou has ruled himself out, opting to focus entirely on the conflicting NTT IndyCar Series event at Texas Motor Speedway, Sportscar365 believes that Scott Dixon could join Helio Castroneves and Jimmie Johnson in pulling double-duty over that weekend.

***Kevin Magnussen is likely to be the third driver in the team’s No. 02 Cadillac for Sebring, as Peugeot has recently stated it will not take part in the FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener that would have initially tied down the Dane to the 1000 Miles of Sebring-only.

***Earl Bamber had the “worst race” of his entire career on Christmas Day last year when he came down with food poisoning during the Thailand Super Series season finale at Buriram. The Kiwi managed to complete a 35-minute stint and finish second in the race, which was good enough for he and co-driver Piti Bhirombhakdi to win the series title in an EBM-assisted Porsche 911 GT3 R.

***IMSA held two ‘Fan Forum’ sessions at Daytona, where fans got the opportunity to ask questions to some of the top drivers in the field. The ‘silly season’ session included Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez, Richard Westbrook and Felipe Nasr while the ‘star power’ session involved Jimmie Johnson, Jordan Taylor, Helio Castroneves, Alexander Rossi and Austin Cindric.

***Several of the Fan Forum attendees were among the 3,200 scouts who are attending the Roar Before the Rolex 24. They are taking part in the two-night Scout Days weekend camp that brings together troops from across the U.S. A track walk, a Prototype Challenge pre-race grid walk and fishing on Lake Lloyd are included in the Scout Days activity schedule.

Daniel Lloyd 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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