***IMSA President John Doonan said the decision to name the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s new top class GTP beginning in 2023 is a “back to the future” move and allows the sanctioning body to “educate our audience… with a simple class structure.” As previously announced, Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) and Le Mans Hypercar (LMH)-spec prototypes will be eligible in the top category.
“We engaged those who are committed to the sport and this top platform,” said Doonan. “We had the opportunity to speak with manufacturers who have decided they’re coming and bounce this off of them. There were more smiles and positive nods that I probably have seen in a while. I’m so excited about their reaction.
“In addition we didn’t do this in a vacuum. Our colleagues at the ACO of course know we’re headed here. [ACO President] Pierre Fillon will be here tomorrow. He understands what we want to do with this. We also talked about how they had GTE and here in IMSA we called it GTLM. With a common set of regulations it allows us to compete in either in ACO/WEC competition and IMSA competition with the same product.”
***A total of 68 drivers must take part in night practice in order to be eligible to drive during periods of darkness during the race. Click Here for the list.
***Star Spangled Racing has joined forces with NTE Sport for its GTD program this year. The Jacksonville, Fla.-based operation, founded in 2020 by first-generation immigrant Tiger Tari from Turkey, owns the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo chassis driven by Don Yount, Benjamin Hates, Jaden Conwright, and Markus Paltaala this weekend.
***Michelin Motorsport sent an additional communication to competitors Thursday morning, stating that LMP3 and GTD Pro/GTD teams are responsible for tire usage above one stint with the brand’s commercial line of S8M, S9M and S9M+ tires. Michelin has reminded competitors that the “recommended stint length” for those tires remains at one stint.
“Should teams feel that more than one stint is achievable under certain conditions, it is highly recommended that mileage equivalent to desired race mileage be completed in practice sessions,” a statement from Michelin reads. “Once the desired mileage is achieved, please mark the tire set for Michelin to conduct further technical analysis of the tires.”
***The recommended stint length requirements come in addition to new-for-2022 tire pressure and negative camber mandates that were enforced during last weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24.
***Kamui Kobayashi said his level of communication with co-driver Jimmie Johnson and Action Express Racing has been “improving” after some initial challenges last year. “We [both] talk English but [it’s] a different language. For example we’re talking about understeer and oversteer in European racing but here it’s push and loose. There was a lot of confusion last year, I remember. In the U.S. they say scuff [tires]. At some point I didn’t understand in the race they said ‘scuff tires’ I don’t know what is scuff?!”
***Seven teams: Riley Motorsports, Turner Motorsport, GMG Racing, NTE Sport, Team TGM, NTE Sport and Wright Motorsports are pulling double duty between competing in the Rolex 24 as well as Friday’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge round. Numerous drivers are also double-dipping.
***It includes Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth, who is driving a Toyota GR Supra GT4 with Smooge Racing. “It’s been busy,” Hawksworth told Sportscar365. “It’s been good to get some more laps under my belt and things are going well over on that side. I feel like we’ve had a good Roar, on this side as well. So far it’s been good.”
***Fellow Vasser Sullivan driver Townsend Bell will be pulling double duty of a different kind, driving the No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3 in the Rolex 24 and serving as part of NBC Sports’ broadcast team for the fourth consecutive year.
***Bell told Sportscar365 that he will start the race on the Peacock Pit Box before shifting his attention to driving, with “spontaneous” broadcast stints throughout the remainder of the race.
***Head of Porsche Motorsport Thomas Laudenbach is not on-site this weekend and is instead attending the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season-opener in Ad Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
***Sportscar365 understands that Porsche has a multi-day test scheduled at an undisclosed location in Europe early next month in what will mark the first proper track outing for the yet-to-be-named LMDh car, which was confirmed Thursday in having a twin-turbo V8 powerplant.
***Initial plans for the car to complete demonstration laps this weekend was ruled out after a supply-chain delay delayed its rollout to earlier this month instead of the originally scheduled December run and has since re-focused the test program in Europe for the time being.
***A total of 16 Porsche-built race cars are in action this weekend, including seven Porsche 911 GT3 R cars in the Rolex 24 and nine of the new Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport entries in Pilot Challenge competition.
***Joey Hand will take part in all NASCAR Cup Series road course races this year in a Rick Ware Racing-entered Ford Mustang. Hand, who has remained affiliated with the manufacturer as a Ford Performance driver, is scheduled to contest the six road course races on the calendar.
***Ford has scheduled a press conference for Friday at 10 a.m. ET, which is set to confirm a new program within sports car racing.
***Sportscar365 understands that RWR could return to WeatherTech Championship competition later this year. The team partnered with Eurasia to field a Ligier JS P217 Gibson in last year’s Rolex 24.
***SunEnergy1 Racing drivers Raffaele Marciello, Luca Stolz, Fabian Schiller and Kenny Habul have dyed their hair orange to reflect the color of the No. 75 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo. The SunEnergy1 drivers had blue hair at last year’s Rolex 24 when the car ran in a metallic blue livery.
***BMW M Motorsport is celebrating 50 years with a range of programs during the weekend. It will include a pre-race parade of vintage and current BMW M cars, including a BMW M1 from 1980. Three race cars that made history by winning IMSA races will also be on display at the ‘Rolex 24 Heritage Exhibition’ in the Daytona Fan Zone: the BMW 3.0 CSL from 1975, the 2015 BMW Z4 GTLM and the BMW M8 GTE that claimed GT Le Mans class honors in 2019.
***DTM manager Frederic Elsner is on site this weekend. The Rolex 24 features a number of former and current DTM drivers taking part this weekend including reigning champion Maxi Goetz, Mike Rockenfeller, Rene Rast, Nico Mueller, Marco Wittmann, Sheldon van der Linde, Dani Juncadella, Lucas Auer, Philip Ellis as well as Winward Racing and T3 Motorsport.
***Former IMSA President Scott Atherton was honored by the Road Racing Drivers Club with the 2021 Phil Hill Award. The 2019 award recipient, RRDC President Bobby Rahal, made the presentation at the annual RRDC members’ dinner on Wednesday in Daytona Beach. The Phil Hill Award has been presented annually since 1993 to the person who the RRDC feels has rendered outstanding service to road racing.
***Jeremy Shaw, motorsports writer, commentator and founder of the Team USA Scholarship, was named the 2020 recipient of the RRDC Bob Akin Award, meanwhile. A recipient of the Bob Akin Award was not selected for 2021. The next presentation will be made in 2023 recognizing the 2022 honoree.