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Laguna Seca Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday notebook from WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca…

Photo: John Dagys

***A total of 34 cars are set for this weekend’s America’s Tire 250 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, following the late withdrawal of the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 due to an illness for team owner/driver Kenny Habul.

***AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ new Oreca 07 Gibson completed a successful shakedown at Buttonwillow prior to arriving at Laguna Seca. Team co-owner Bobby Oergel told Sportscar365 that roughly 50 miles were completed on the car that carries an identical livery to its previous Ligier JS P217 Gibson, which has been put up for sale.

***Oergel said interest levels in 2019 LMP2 programs are high and hasn’t ruled out expanding into a two-car operation, should the right situation present itself.

***The No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 has returned to Liqui-Moly colors this weekend, which first debuted in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

***The 10 kg weight increase to the LMP2 machinery this weekend is estimated to cost teams roughly 0.25 seconds per lap at Laguna Seca, according to one team representative. What’s more costly, however, is the revised stint lengths, with the five-liter fuel capacity swing (-3 liters for LMP2; +2 liters for DPi) meaning LMP2 cars could be faced with three-lap shorter stints compared to the DPis. 

***CORE autosport’s Colin Braun and Jon Bennett enter the weekend third in the Prototype title chase, just ten points out of the lead thanks to its pair of overall victories at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Road America.

***The TV talent for IMSA’s shift to NBC Sports is coming into focus. Sportscar365 understands that the majority of its IndyCar lineup, including Leigh Diffey and Townsend Bell, are set to feature on the IMSA broadcasts, along with selected pit lane reporters who are also already in use with the network.

***NBC’s current slate of IndyCar pit lane reporters include Kevin Lee, Marty Snider, Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Anders Krohn and Kelli Stavast, with Snider, Beekhuis and Stavast all having previous sports car racing experience.

***Veteran color commentator Calvin Fish, meanwhile, is believed to be in contention for a seat in the booth alongside Diffey and Bell, in what could be the only carry-over from the existing FOX Sports lineup.

***Action Express Racing is expected to announce a new addition to its 2019 driver lineup tomorrow. It comes after Christian Fittipaldi’s retirement from top-level racing, which will come following January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

***Gabby Chaves has been tipped to fill in for Mike Conway in the No. 31 Whelen-backed AXR Cadillac DPi-V.R for next month’s season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans. Conway is one of the near-dozen drivers affected by the change of date of the FIA World Endurance Championship round at Fuji.

***There appears to be significant movement in IMSA’s newly announced WeatherTech Sprint Cup, with several new GT Daytona class programs, including one from a GT3 manufacturer not currently represented in the class, in the works for next year.

***Lexus has significant branding and activation around the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit, having been named the new official luxury vehicle of Laguna Seca. As part of the partnership, a Lexus GS F will serve as the official pace car, along with Lexus support vehicles throughout the facility. 

***Mazda ended its naming rights deal with the circuit on March 31, which has been taken up by WeatherTech. The Japanese manufacturer had served as the entitlement sponsor of the circuit for 17 years. 

***Filming for “The Art of Racing in the Rain” continued on Wednesday at Laguna Seca, with one of Tequila Patron ESM’s Nissan Onroak DPis utilized for on-track scenes in the Patrick Dempsey-produced film. Multiple scenes were shot during the IMSA weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July.

***Another motorsports-related movie, based on AJ Baime’s “Go Like Hell” book chronicling the the 1960s rivalry between Ford and Ferrari at Le Mans, will be filming at Road Atlanta next week. The movie is set to star Matt Damon and Christian Bale, playing Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, respectively.

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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