Connect with us

WeatherTech Championship

Detroit Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday notebook from Belle Isle following opening day of track action…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

***A water line failure led to a precautionary engine change for the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo following opening practice, which forced the Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow-driven entry to sit out Practice 2. The car qualified fifth in the hands of Snow.

***The No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 of Aaron Telitz, who initially set the fifth quickest time, will start from the rear of the field after co-driver Jack Hawksworth failed to turn a lap in Q2 due to right-rear suspension damage sustained in a brush with the wall in Q1.

***Click Here for the provisional grid. 

***Richard Heistand’s pole in GTD was the first for Audi in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition since Detroit 2017 when Lawson Aschenbach took Stevenson Motorsports’ Audi R8 LMS to top qualifying honor.

***The No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 is not being crewed by Gradient Racing this weekend but instead a combination of familiar faces brought together with assistance and contacts from Mercedes-AMG and HWA. It includes engineer Jim Bell, who works with Mercedes-AMG customer team DXDT Racing in Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS.

***Bell is fresh off engineering Michael Cooper and Erin Vogel to their first class in last weekend at Virginia International Raceway.

***Gradient, which has a GTD entry of its own this weekend in the WeatherTech Sprint Cup-only No. 66 Acura NSX GT3 Evo of Marc Miller and Till Bechtolsheimer, will return to operating the SunEnergy1 Mercedes for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and Motul Petit Le Mans. Mercedes-AMG factory ace Maro Engel is set to rejoin Mikael Grenier and team owner/driver Kenny Habul for The Glen.

***Habul told Sportscar365 that he’s yet to be back in his native Australia since the onset of COVID-19 due to the country’s strict travel restrictions. While residing in North Carolina, Habul recently purchased a property on the Mt. Panorama circuit in Bathurst sight-unseen. The 17-acre estate is on Conrod Straight.

***Mike Shank said he felt like a member of “The Rolling Stones” while on the celebratory post-race parade lap with Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and their wives in a Chevrolet Camaro convertible following Meyer Shank Racing’s win.

“None of the fans left,” Shank told Sportscar365. “99 percent were for Helio, which was awesome. I just got to sit there and be a part of it. To feel that, it was a wave of love and just incredible.”

***Both Kevin O’Donnell and Perry Melneciuc, who are full-time members on MSR’s Acura DPi, were part of the crew on the Castroneves entry at Indy.

***Shank said it “would make sense” if the Brazilian is part of MSR’s Acura DPi lineup next year. Castroneves served as the fourth driver in Wayne Taylor Racing’s Rolex 24 at Daytona-winning Acura lineup in January but has no further sports car races currently planned.

***With Magnus Racing with Archangel electing to skip this weekend’s Sprint Cup-only race in GT Daytona, it breaks Andy Lally’s streak of being the only driver to have competed in every GTD race since the start of the post-merger era in 2014. A total of 80 GTD races have been held in the WeatherTech Championship era.

***The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix has been confirmed through 2022 with an option for two additional years according to event chairman Bud Denker, who explained that last year’s canceled event pushed its existing contract with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources into next year.

***No date for the 2022 event has been announced although event promoter Roger Penske said that it will likely be either on the first or second weekend of June. This year’s race was pushed back one week to allow for a two-week gap from the Indy 500.

***When asked by Sportscar365 on the potential clash with the Le Mans test day or 24 Hours of Le Mans, Penske said they’ll have to “take that on at the time” once 2022 event dates are being formalized.

“You’ve got two components,” Penske explained. “You’ve got IMSA drivers who want to drive at Le Mans [and] they need the test day. We also have the responsibility to our sponsor General Motors. We have to look at the teams and what’s the impact on them.”

***Penske said it’s no longer feasible to host a split event, with IMSA on one weekend and IndyCar the next, as was initially planned for this year prior to the postponement of Le Mans to August that led the consolidation to its traditional single weekend event. 

***IMSA has updated several lines of its sporting regulations, largely around qualifying points eligibility. In the event of a post-qualifying tub, chassis or engine change for an entry that would result the car going to the back of the starting grid, the qualifying points will be adjusted accordingly. 

***Qualifying points have been introduced for the first time this year in all classes, with GTD featuring a two-stage qualifying format with the team’s Bronze or Silver-rated driver setting the car’s starting position and their co-driver scoring qualifying points.

***The pair of Chevrolet Corvette C8.Rs, which are running unopposed in GT Le Mans this weekend on a non-points basis, have returned to its traditional yellow and silver liveries after the one-off designs run at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in celebration of 25 years of Mobil 1’s technical partnership with the team.

***Mike Conway will rejoin Action Express Racing for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in the No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R alongside full-season drivers Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr. Jimmie Johnson, Simon Pagenaud and Kamui Kobayashi, meanwhile, have been confirmed for the team’s sister No. 48 entry for the race.

***Edouard Cauhaupe is currently only booked to drive for United Autosports in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen according to team co-owner Richard Dean. “For now it’s Watkins Glen, and we’re hoping that he can get some support and stay with us for Petit,” Dean told Sportscar365 at Portimao. “Niklas [Kruetten] is both. And I’m hoping that we can get the third one done over this weekend.”

***Additionally, Dean clarified that United plans to complete the Endurance Cup LMP2 season with its Sebring lineup of Jim McGuire, Wayne Boyd and Guy Smith.

***There could be as many as eight LMDh manufacturers on the grid in the WeatherTech Championship by 2024, with at least two other yet-to-be-confirmed programs believed to be in the works. It would be in addition to the already announced efforts from Acura, Audi, Porsche and BMW and not counting Cadillac or Lamborghini.

***Roger Penske confirmed talks with IMSA on the possibility of holding a long-distance endurance race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the future. “That’s something that would be high on our list,” he said.

***Penske downplayed the presence of the Indianapolis 8 Hour, which is set for a second edition this year as a round of SRO Motorsports Group’s Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli and GTWC America season finale. 

“That was an event that was committed before we got there,” Penske said. “When we think of a sports car event we’d think of an event like IMSA, a proper race with different classes, like you’d have at Sebring or Daytona or something like that.”

***Specialty seat maker RECARO Automotive has become an IMSA Official Partner in a new multiyear deal. The official partnership with IMSA allows RECARO Automotive to “introduce and reinforce the merits of its seating technology to a wider audience” according to a statement.

***Watch the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic with live coverage on NBCSN beginning at 5 p.m. ET. will be available for international viewers featuring the IMSA Radio commentary team of John Hindhaugh, Jeremy Shaw and Shea Adam.

Daniel Lloyd 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

Click to comment

More in WeatherTech Championship