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Daytona Wednesday Notebook

John Dagys’ Wednesday notebook from Rolex 24 week at Daytona…

Photo: IMSA

***All 38 cars set for this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona assembled for a group photo on Wednesday morning (pictured above). The four defending class champions, as well as the WeatherTech-sponsored No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020, were lined up in the front row.

***WeatherTech founder and CEO David MacNeil has been named the honorary starter for the race and will wave the green flag on Saturday afternoon. The automotive accessory company is celebrating its fifth year as the title sponsor of the championship.

***IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and Ferrari Challenge cars took to the track today for practice sessions in cold and wet conditions, with competitors greeted to 40-degree Fahrenheit temperatures Wednesday morning, although warmer weather is expected for the remainder of the week.

***At least two NTT IndyCar Series stars came close to taking part in this year’s race, with both Josef Newgarden and Will Power having been ruled out of rides due to sponsorship and manufacturer conflicts. NASCAR veteran Denny Hamlin was also initially in the frame for a drive prior to his decision to undergo shoulder surgery during the off-season.

***A number of veteran IMSA drivers are absent this weekend as well, largely from the now-defunct factory Ford GT program. It includes Richard Westbrook, Dirk Mueller, Joey Hand as well as former Corvette factory ace Jan Magnussen plus two-time prototype champion Eric Curran.

***Chip Ganassi Racing, meanwhile, is absent from the Rolex 24 for the first time in 16 years. During that span, the team claimed six overall wins and two class wins between DP and GTLM machinery.

***Defending GT Le Mans class champion Earl Bamber believes this year’s race will be a lot different to 2019, largely because of the unknowns of the debuting Porsche 911 RSR-19 and Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. “It’s going to be a tough weekend because two manufacturers have new cars, so that’s going to be a bit of an unknown,” he told Sportscar365.

“Typically this race is about making no mistakes; I think if we’ve got a car that’s quick and [we] make the least mistakes we’ll be there fighting for the podium. The weather is a bit dodgy and then obviously with less cars it will be more of a green race and more flat out which is what we saw a couple of years ago in ’18.”

***A Twitter fan vote hosted by Audi Canada determined the livery for the WRT Speedstar Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo this weekend. The ‘North Star’ design beat a ‘Rouge North’ scheme in the online poll to take its place on the No. 88 car.

***The No. 77 Mazda RT24-P DPi’s new livery for the 2020 season has been finished up with a set of silver wheels to complement its white paint scheme, contrasting with the black wheels found on its predominantly soul red sister car.

***Jordan Taylor was showing off the latest fashion trends in the paddock on Wednesday, sporting a pair of zippered shoes. The newly minted full-season Corvette Racing factory driver will be making his first GT start at Daytona since 2012.

***Newly signed GRT ADAC GT Masters driver Tim Zimmermann will be on-site this weekend to help support Grasser. The 23-year-old will pair with GRT’s Daytona driver Steijn Schothorst in the German GT3 championship this year.

***Team principal Gottfried Grasser told Sportscar365 that Lamborghini factory driver Franck Perera will continue with GRT for a second GT Masters season. Only Zimmermann and Schothorst had been previously confirmed for the team’s six-person squad.

***Defending European Le Mans Series LMP2 champions IDEC Sport could make its WeatherTech Championship debut later this year according to team principal Fred Ducastel. “Will it directly be with our team at first, I don’t know,” he told Endurance-Info. “If we go there, it would be i the second half of the season. LMP2 is very attractive for gentlemen drivers in the U.S.”

***Former IMSA president Scott Atherton, who has remained on the sanctioning body’s board as a liaison to the ACO, is in attendance this weekend. When asked by Sportscar365 if an announcement is expected this weekend between IMSA and the ACO on prototype convergence, Atherton declined to comment.

***The Austin Hatcher Foundation will be hosting multiple auctions featuring artists Bill Patterson and Roger Warrick that will be “live painting” during the event. Auctions for Patterson’s artwork are planned at the Porscheplatz fan area on Saturday at 11:50 a.m., Audi Corral at 6 p.m. and the Cadillac Suite at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, with a Warrick-painted BMW piece set to be auctioned at 3:30 p.m. at the BMW Corral on Saturday.

 ***GEAR Racing by GRT drivers Christina Nielsen and Rahel Frey made a visit to the Speediatrics Children’s Care Unit at Halifax Medical Center on Wednesday to kick off the foundation’s initiatives. 

Daniel Lloyd, Slade Perrins & Laurent Mercier contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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