***A record-tying 35 cars are set for this weekend’s Bubba burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, marking the largest IMSA field since the 2012 and 2013 ALMS races, which also had 35 race starters. It’s resulted in a reorganized paddock, divided between two rows, and the relocation of WeatherTech Paddock Club and Robby Gordon Stadium Trucks to allow for additional space.
***Last year’s race, which featured Prototype, Prototype Challenge and GT Le Mans cars, had only 25 cars, with the addition of GT Daytona entries, replacing PC, largely accounting for the increased grid for Saturday’s 100-minute race.
***Only full-season “Premium” entries have been allowed this weekend, with the exception of the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, which was a last-minute addition following the withdrawal of the No. 27 Dream Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
***IMSA President Scott Atherton told Sportscar365 they had a number of non-full season teams that had requested entries, but were not accepted due to the 35-car maximum field, largely because of paddock space constraints. One of the entries was known to be Lone Star Racing with its new Mercedes-AMG GT3.
***As part of IMSA’s latest round of Balance of Performance adjustments, the Cadillac DPi-V.Rs have a revised gear stack, as defined by IMSA. Wayne Taylor Racing team manager Travis Houge told Sportscar365 that IMSA has mandated a spec first gear and final drive for the Daytona and Sebring-winning car, with the team having gearing options in the middle range.
***IMSA has not publicly released the gear ratios, and is understood to have only been distributed to manufacturers in the Prototype class. “What they’ve basically tried to do is control our engine torque by choosing gearing,” Houge said.
***Jan Heylen returns to Long Beach for the first time since making his U.S. racing debut here in 2006, in Champ Car competition. The Silver-rated Belgian teams with Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler in the No. 991 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 R. The team completed a shakedown at Buttonwillow prior to arriving at Long Beach.
***Heylen told Sportscar365 the deal came together in the last two weeks and is hopeful of taking part in additional races with the Kevin Buckler-led team. Buckler, however, has yet to commit to further rounds with his Porsche, which he withdrew from Sebring due to tire issues from Daytona.
***Chris Ward, the series coordinator for Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America, has been promoted to Senior Manager for Automobili Lamborghini America, in a newly created position. The Michigan-based Brit has been coordinating the Italian manufacturer’s GT3 customer racing activities in North America since last year.
***Sage Karam, who makes his first Long Beach start since finishing third in Indy Lights in 2013, said co-driver Scott Pruett has been like a second dad. “He’s pretty much a walking encyclopedia when it comes to racing. He’s taught me a lot like, always to say hi to my family at home when I’m doing interviews and stuff like that,” he told Sportscar365.
***The pair of Lexus RC F GT3 cars make their street race debut this weekend, in the backyard of Toyota Racing Development, which is based in nearby Costa Mesa, Calif.
***Mazda’s Tristan Nunez made speaking appearances at four Long Beach schools this week, promoting his “DNT TXT n drV Foundation.” “It’s a message I’ve been pushing since I was 16 years old, and I do all I can to spread the message of the dangers of distracted driving,” Nunez said.
***Emerson Fittipaldi will be honored by the Road Racing Drivers Club in tonight’s annual banquet in Long Beach. The event is being supported by Ford Performance, which will commemorate its historic victory at the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans by reuniting drivers A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney 50 years after Ford became the first and only all-American team to win the French endurance classic.
***Other supporting partners for the banquet include Firestone, American Honda, Team Penske, 3GT Racing, Porsche Motorsport North America, Doug Mockett & Company, Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, Trefethen Family Vineyards, Pruett Vineyard and TranSystems.
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report