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Daytona Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ first notebook from Roar Before Rolex 24 weekend…

Photo: John Dagys

***A total of 45 cars of the 47 cars slated for this weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 arrived in the paddock Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, with both of the DragonSpeed Oreca 07 Gibsons not yet on-site as of Thursday evening.

***Sportscar365 understands that its European Le Mans Series-spec Oreca is en route from Miami, with shipping and customs delays for its LMP2 car used in the FIA World Endurance Championship casting doubts over its participation this weekend.

***While teams spent Thursday afternoon unloading and preparing for track action, drivers went through media day activities, which included photo shoots, TV interviews and other obligations. 

***It provided the first glimpse of several high-profile drivers taking part in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, including Fernando Alonso, Kamui Kobayashi, Rubens Barrichello and Alex Zanardi.

***Alonso had a seat fitting in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R on Thursday afternoon, with the Spaniard and Kobayashi set to get their first laps in the DPi contender tomorrow. 

***Kobayashi, meanwhile, made a visit to Wayne Taylor Racing’s shop in Indianapolis last month, along with co-drivers Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande, in preparation for his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut.

***Mazda Team Joest has a significantly different look to it, with an influx of staff from Multimatic combining with the German squad for the start of the season. It includes George Howard-Chappell as well as a number of other crew from the Ford WEC program.

***Howard-Chappell told Sportscar365 the additional staff, which have been involved in the Mazda RT24-P’s off-season development program, are currently only confirmed for the Rolex 24 due to clashes for the remainder of the WEC’s 2018-19 season.

***It’s understood the majority of the Multimatic staff are focused on the No. 77 Mazda DPi, which features only some of the updates this weekend, compared to the No. 55 car that has been the team’s development car to date.

***Among the other high-profile additions to the Joest/Multimatic operation include former Audi LMP1 engineers Leena Gade and Brad Kettler, while Jan Lange has replaced longtime Joest managing director Ralf Juttner as team manager.

***Lamborghini factory driver Marco Mapelli will complete Magnus Racing’s lineup for the Rolex 24, with the Italian joining full-season drivers Andy Lally and John Potter, plus Michelin Endurance Cup pilot Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 44 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.

***Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell, meanwhile, has rounded out Park Place Motorsports’ lineup in its No. 73 Porsche 911 GT3 R. The Australian, who claimed GTE-Am class honors in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, is set for his Rolex 24 debut.

***Felipe Fraga will join Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating for the Michelin Endurance Cup races in the No. 33 Wynn’s throwback-liveried Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3. The Silver-rated Brazilian replaces Luca Stolz in the lineup, due to Stolz’s promotion to Gold. Stolz, however, remains on board for the Rolex 24 as the team’s fourth driver. 

***A revision has been made to the Balance of Performance, initially issued late last month, which sees the maximum engine speed of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 reduced from 7700 to 7500 RPM.

***Ford Chip Ganassi Racing looks set to also sport special liveries, at least for the Rolex 24, with both of the Ford GTs in bare white liveries this weekend. The cars ran in the same design during a private test at Daytona last month, which saw newly signed CGR IndyCar driver Felix Rosenqvist turn his first laps in the Multimatic-built GTLM contender.

***Manthey Racing, Herberth Motorsport and NGT Motorsport have joined forces to run the No. 99 Porsche 911 GT3 R, which will be driven by Sven Mueller, Klaus Bachler, Juergen Haering and car owner Steffen Goerig.

***While currently confirmed for Daytona only, NGT Motorsport team owner Ramez Wahab told Sportscar365 that a continuation of the program in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring has not yet been ruled out and will likely be dependent on a strong result in the Rolex 24.

***The NGT-entered car is one of four 2019-spec Porsches set to take part in the race.

***Sportscar365 believes that the Florida-based team is also assisting the Via Italia Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 entry. The Brazilian squad, which campaigns a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 in the Brazilian GT Championship, took delivery of the brand-new Prancing Horse on Wednesday.

***A large contingent of on-air talent and production personnel from NBC Sports are on-site this weekend, ahead of the network’s first IMSA broadcast later this month. It’s understood an announcement on its Rolex 24 and season-long commentary team is expected this weekend and is set to include on-air talent from both its NASCAR and IndyCar broadcasts.

***Laurens Vanthoor and CORE autosport COO Morgan Brady are missing the Roar due to the expected births of their children. Ironically, both their wives had due dates of Dec. 31 and have yet to deliver. The Vanthoors are expecting their first child, with the second for the Bradys.

***Dirk Werner is also absent this weekend due to family reasons. The German is set to drive the No. 540 Black Swan Racing Porsche in the race.

***LaSalle Solutions has come on board as the primary sponsor of the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 for the Rolex 24. The Chicago-area based tech company has been a longtime partner of TRG, which will field two new Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MRs in the Michelin Pilot Challenge season opener.

***Portuguese energy company Galp, meanwhile, has been named an associate sponsor of the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi, which will be driven by the full-season pairing of Portuguese drivers Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque.

***Puma has inked a deal with Porsche to become the “exclusive technical partner” for fireproof racing clothing as well as shoes, caps and luggage. The sports brand will equip all 24 factory, Young Professional and Junior drivers, including its new-for-2019 ABB FIA Formula E Championship effort.

***On-track action gets underway on Friday, with two sessions for WeatherTech Championship competitors, as well as track activity for Pilot Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge, which holds its season-opening race on Saturday.

Rene de Boer 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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