***Richard Westbrook posted the quickest lap of the day prior to night practice for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, having reeled off a 1:35.185 in his No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-LMDh. It marked the first time Cadillac had topped a GTP official session after Meyer Shank Racing led the way in all but two sessions at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 and the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport Acura ARX-06 was quickest this morning.
***Westbrook said: “It always feels nice to be at the top but I don’t think it really means too much or read too much into it. Obviously big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year so you have no idea what other fuel levels people are running.”
***The two sessions saw a total of nine red flag periods, including several for serious accidents. IMSA or Winward Racing have yet to provide an update on Lucas Auer’s condition as of 6 p.m. ET, other than stating that the Mercedes-AMG factory driver was transported to a local hospital after his accident in opening practice.
***Sportscar365 understands that IMSA’s safety team removed part of the roof of the GTD class pole-sitting car to extricate Auer, with the team working to transport its spare car from its workshop in Texas to the track with hopes of still making the race.
***Several GTP class cars encountered minor setbacks in Practice 1, including the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963, which lost out on the majority of the session due to brake issues. The No. 25 Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8, meanwhile, underwent a spark plug change and completed only limited running.
***The No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo didn’t register a lap time during Practice 1 due to a fuel pickup issue according to a team spokesperson. Jules Gounon went on to set the fastest GTD Pro lap in the second session.
***Alexander Sims said it took two or three tests to get fully acquainted with the Cadillac V-LMDh. “I did a DPi test and somehow that felt really quite intuitive,” he told Sportscar365. “Like just jumping back in a big F3 car. Whereas this took a few more tests to get on top of it, because it just has that more power and weight behind the car.”
***Sims, who is a full-season driver for Action Express Racing, is gearing up for his first prototype race appearance since the 2012 European Le Mans Series round at Donington Park where he drove an LMP2-class Lola B12/80 Judd run by Status GP.
***Balance of Performance manipulation won’t occur in the new GTP class, according to some competitors: “This is the first time I’ve come here in 18 years when id didn’t think about BoP one time,” said team owner Michael Shank. Cadillac’s Westbrook added: “IMSA can see what power levels everyone’s running, so I don’t think you can hide anything.”
***A total of 67 Bronze or Silver-rated drivers will be required to complete laps in night practice tonight in order to be authorized to drive during periods of darkness in the Rolex 24. Click Here for the full list.
***LMP3 driver Jarett Andretti says his team will be looking at the pace of the LMP2 cars during the night practice session. IMSA is not increasing the performance of LMP2 despite some drivers saying they were being backed into the LMP3 field on acceleration. “When their Bronze is starting [the race] there might actually be a race between the back of the P2 field and the front of P3,” Andretti told Sportscar365. “But in the night session they might pick up some pace: hopefully the gap grows a bit.”
***Austin Cindric, driving the Rick Ware Racing Oreca 07 Gibson, is the first incumbent Daytona 500 winner to contest the Rolex 24 since Jamie McMurray, who won the NASCAR classic in 2010 before finishing second in the following year’s Rolex 24 edition.
***Penske driver Josef Newgarden downplayed any links between his LMP2 debut with Tower Motorsports and Porsche Penske Motorsport’s LMDh program: “We’re here as fans of Team Penske,” said the two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion. “It’s fun to watch the Porsche program and what they’re developing. But I wouldn’t read too much into the timing of this.”
***There has been continued talk in the paddock of an imminent additional manufacturer commitment to LMDh. Sportscar365 understands that McLaren is among the OEMs that are closest to confirming a program, while interest from Hyundai has faded in recent months. Ford, meanwhile, has continued evaluations but is also looking at the LMH platform.
***While unconfirmed, McLaren has been linked to chassis constructor Multimatic should it get the green light to join the LMDh ranks alongside Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Porsche, and beginning in 2024, Alpine and Lamborghini.
***Dallara chief technical officer Aldo Costa, meanwhile, told Sportscar365 that the Italian constructor would be open to supporting a third LMDh manufacturer by as early as 2025, having ruled out a new program for 2024 as there is “not enough time.”
***The No. 64 Team TGM Aston Martin Vantage GT3 is the same TF Sport-owned chassis that The Heart of Racing used for its 24 Hours of Spa entry with TF last year.
***TF Sport team principal Tom Ferrier told Sportscar365 that the British squad’s Racing Team Turkey Oreca 07 Gibson was still in the U.K. when its planned Rolex 24 entry was denied amid over-capacity interest, however some LMP2-specific equipment had already been dispatched to the U.S.
***Ferrier also indicated that TF Sport is unlikely to enter further Michelin Endurance Cup rounds with Racing Team Turkey’s Salih Yoluc because all three races sit within the Bronze-rated driver’s planned European Le Mans Series LMP2 campaign.
***To commemorate this debut of LMDh platform, each of the participating IMSA GTP manufacturers are also providing production vehicles to serve as safety cars in the Rolex 24. The Acura NSX Type S, BMW XM, Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing and Porsche 911 Turbo S will all take part in the ceremonial pre-race parade lap and will then share safety car duties throughout the race.
***The 1950 Cadillac ‘Le Monstre’ will be on display at the Cadillac display in the manufacturers’ midway this weekend, along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans centenary trophy, which makes its U.S. debut on its world tour leading up to the 100th anniversary of the French endurance classic this June.
***Operation Motorsport has three beneficiaries in attendance this weekend. Representing the U.S. is retired Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse as an Operation Motorsport event coordinator, while retired Marine Greg Meismer will assist KohR Motorsports in Michelin Pilot Challenge. Canadian Forces Cpl. Josh Snider will be working alongside Gradient Racing in the Rolex 24.
***Founded by Diezel and Tiffany Lodder, the mission of Operation Motorsport is to renew a sense of team, identity and purpose for medically retiring or retired service members affected by military service by supporting their recovery through motorsports. The organization has provided over 1,115 training days to more than 116 active beneficiaries during the last five years and has expanded the program for 2023.
***IMSA’s senior director of competition Mark Raffauf was honored by the Road Racing Drivers Club with the 2022 Phil Hill Award. The 2019 recipient, RRDC President Bobby Rahal, made the presentation at the annual RRDC members’ dinner on Wednesday evening.
***John Fergus, a racing champion with multiple titles, businessman and vice president/treasurer of the RRDC, was named the 2022 recipient of the RRDC Bob Akin Award, meanwhile.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report