***All 55 cars taking part in this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona assembled for a group photo in pit lane on Wednesday. This year’s field includes brand new DPi and LMP2 cars, as well as several new GT cars and manufacturers, all ready to usher in a new era of North American sports car endurance racing.
***Conor Daly has been a late addition to the No. 88 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09, replacing Sebastian Saavedra in the lineup. Daly, who was testing his IndyCar at Sebring on Wednesday, joins the previously confirmed Alex Popow, James Dayson and Scott Mayer, with Sean Rayhall also being confirmed at the last minute.
***Grasser Racing Team has added Michele Beretta to its No. 61 Lamborghini Huracan GT3, alongside Christian Engelhart, Rolf Ineichen, Roberto Pampanini and Milos Pavlovic. Engelhart and Inechein are listed to pull double-duty as they will also drive the Austrian squad’s No. 11 car with Mirko Bortolotti and Ezequiel Perez Companc.
***Australian V8 Supercars regular Paul Morris has been added as a fifth driver in the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. The former Bathurst 1000 winner joins Tristan Vautier, Boris Said, Kenny Habul and Mercedes-AMG factory driver Maro Engel in the GT Daytona class contender.
***Matteo Cairoli, meanwhile, completes Manthey Racing’s lineup in the No. 59 Porsche 911 GT3 R, following the Porsche Young Professional’s standout drive with the team in the 24 Hours of Dubai earlier this month. “I am a bit scared about the prototypes because for me it’s the first time [at Daytona] and I don’t know what to expect with a prototype coming behind me, faster than me,” he told Sportscar365.
***Cairoli joins newly promoted Porsche GT factory driver Sven Mueller in spearheading the German squad’s GTD lineup, alongside Steve Smith, Reinhold Renger and Harald Proczyk.
here is the car pic.twitter.com/Z2wuTm9pwb
— Goodridge Properties (@DallasGoodridge) January 25, 2017
***Despite official on-track activity not kicking off until tomorrow, Tequila Patron ESM spent the afternoon repairing its No. 22 Nissan Onroak DPi after an accident during a car-to-car video shoot on the track. Bruno Senna was at the wheel when it reportedly collided with the vehicle, with the ESM car sustaining sidepod and radiator damage.
***It’s unclear how much of an impact the accident will have on ESM’s efforts this weekend, as the team had been short on spares. “Every day we’re still learning and every day they’re still shipping in more parts from Japan and France,” Ryan Dalziel told Sportscar365. “Even through the weekend, we have different daily deliveries of people bringing stuff over.”
***The No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 underwent a precautionary engine change on Wednesday, after an issue was detected just prior to its arrival at Daytona yesterday.
***Thomas Blam has joined Park Place Motorsports as its chief strategist for the entire season. Blam, who serves as team manager for K-PAX Racing and Flying Lizard Motorsports, will have a busy season as he’s set to undertake three different programs in three different classes between two series.
***CORE autosport, which makes its GTD debut this weekend, has purchased a spare Porsche 911 GT3 R, which is on-site this weekend and painted in full livery. Morgan Brady told Sportscar365 it made better economical sense to have a second full car rather than a spares package.
***The team took a similar approach with its Prototype Challenge operation, having had two Oreca FLM09s, and even swapping between the two chassis over the course of the 2016 season.
***BAR1 Motorsports team owner Brian Alder said the buildup to the race has gone smoothly and the team has high expectations for the season-opener.“To be honest, we feel more prepared than we ever have,” Alder told Sportscar365. “I think we have over 70 24-hour races between our drivers, something like that.”
***Luxury audio system company Mark Levinson has joined 3GT Racing as the primary sponsor of the team’s No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 for the entire season. Scott Pruett and Sage Karam are joined by Ian James and Gustavo Menezes for this weekend’s season-opener.
***3GT team principal Paul Gentilozzi admitted the team is taking a fresh approach to the RC F GT3’s development in the WeatherTech Championship, despite its pedigree in Europe. “When you make such a significant change in tire construction from the Michelin it was developed on to the Continental, you can only take with you a certain amount of the transfer of technology because the tire is a different animal,” he told Sportscar365.
***Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Richard Westbrook has a Shameless claim to the paddock’s most storied motorhome. The Englishman has rented a tour bus formerly used by country music icon Garth Brooks for the race week, although it is unknown whether Two Piña Coladas were a part of the package.
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report