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Long Beach Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday IMSA WeatherTech Championship notebook from Long Beach…

Photo: John Dagys

***IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams unloaded on Thursday afternoon in advance of this weekend’s 100-minute sprint race, which reverts to a Prototype and GT Le Mans-only round, following the addition of Prototype Challenge in 2016 and GT Daytona last year.

***A total of 22 cars are entered for the third round of the season, with both Spirit of Daytona Racing and Risi Competizione among the notable teams not present. 

***The timeline for Spirit of Daytona’s return to WeatherTech Championship competition remains unclear. Sportscar365 understands the team is scheduled to test its rebuilt Cadillac DPi-V.R at Watkins Glen later this month and could return as early as the next round at Mid-Ohio, or delay its comeback to the Six Hours of The Glen in June.

***It marks the second consecutive Long Beach race the Troy Flis-led squad has missed, after brake failure for Renger van der Zande in opening practice damaged the tub of the team’s Riley Mk. 30 Gibson and brought its weekend to an early end last year.

***While not driving this weekend, Matt McMurry has still made the trip to Long Beach, fresh from the European Le Mans Series pre-season test at Paul Ricard, where he assisted Algarve Pro Racing’s Ligier JS P217 Gibson. The second-generation driver will serve in a coaching role with the team throughout the ELMS season.

***There have been several Balance of Performance changes since last month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with boost pressure reductions for the turbocharged Acura, Nissan and Mazda DPis, with the Cadillac DPi-V.R having been handed a smaller air restrictor. The BMW M8 GTE has also been pegged back.

***Mazda returns to the site of the first podium finish for its RT24-P, which has undergone significant changes since last year. “We are headed to Long Beach with every bit of momentum we gathered at Sebring and are going to try to leverage it over the 100 minutes we have to battle on Saturday,” said Mazda Motorsports director John Doonan.

***WeatherTech Championship competitors have been given 20 minutes of additional track time this year, with Practice 2 extended into a 45-minute session, from 4:45-5:30 p.m. PT. It is immediately followed by qualifying, beginning at 5:40 p.m. for GT Le Mans class cars and 6 p.m. for Prototypes.

***Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves were inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame on Thursday. The Acura Team Penske drivers join previous inductees such as Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, Danny Sullivan and Dan Gurney in having a permanent plaque on the public sidewalk on South Pine Ave. on the downtown waterfront.

***Should be be the designated qualifying driver, Castroneves will be seeking his fourth consecutive Long Beach pole, after claiming top qualifying honors in the last three Verizon IndyCar Series races on the famed streets. 

***DJR Team Penske driver Fabian Coulthard will be attending this weekend’s race, with the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship ace set to get a glimpse of the WeatherTech Championship for the first time, alongside Penske’s IndyCar operation.

***The 2018 Ford Mustang GT will serve as the safety car for Saturday’s 100-minute race. The 460-horsepower “Race Red” Mustang is equipped with the Level 2 GT Performance Package, which adds MagneRide adaptive suspension as used on the Shelby GT350, Brembo six-piston front brake calipers with larger rotors, 19-inch wheels with Michelin performance tires, a larger radiator, a strut-tower brace, a Torsen limited-slip differential, Active Valve Exhaust, and Recaro seats. 

***Lamborghini has produced a six-car run of Huracan GT3 collector cars commemorating Grasser Racing Team’s GT Daytona class victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The cars, featuring a special livery that includes a licensed Rolex 24 logo, sold out in four hours, according to Chris Ward, Senior Manager, Motorsport for Automobili Lamborghini America. “We have a unique customer base that facilitates the access to people that want to purchase cars like that, which is pretty cool,” Ward told Sportscar365.

***Circle Porsche held its annual dealer event Wednesday evening at the Porsche Experience Center in nearby Carson, Calif. It featured Porsche race cars and drivers that will take part this weekend between the WeatherTech Championship and Pirelli World Challenge.

***Six Porsche factory drivers: Earl Bamber, Michael Christensen, Patrick Long, Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Laurens Vanthoor, meanwhile, visited the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles for a private tour of the year-long “The Porsche Effect” exhibit.

***The multi-story display covers Porsche race and road cars, pre-dating the company’s formation, and showcases the German manufacturer’s impact on the automotive world. The exhibit will remain open until January.

***The “Mazda Hot Lap Challenge” kicks off this weekend, which will award two all-expense paid VIP trips to next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and the chance to test a Mazda Global MX-5 Cup car. Winners will be selected based on the quickest times set on iRacing in the car and will culminate with a head-to-head virtual race to determine the overall winner.

***By only supplying the Prototype class this weekend, it is one of the easiest weekends of the year, logistically, for Continental Tire, with just five employees and two transporters having made the trip west to supply the 14 cars, amassing 630 tires for the 100-minute sprint race.

***So far this year, Prototypes have run 65,846.16 miles (48,455.16 miles at Daytona, 17,391 miles at Sebring) on Continental tires, compared to the number of miles completed by Prototypes at Long Beach last year, which was just 946.08 miles.

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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