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Long Beach Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday notebook from streets of Long Beach…

Photo: Jonathan Grace

***IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams unloaded Thursday morning ahead of the start of on-track activity tomorrow for Saturday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Unlike last year that included GTD Pro cars, the 100-minute street race features only the GTP and GTD classes, yet only has one fewer entry than last year’s 28-car field.

***IMSA has dropped the WeatherTech Sprint Cup for this year. The Sprint Cup, launched in 2019, had been eligible for GTD class competitors that included all non-Michelin Endurance Cup races. While an official reason has not been communicated, Sportscar365 understands that the lack of dedicated Sprint Cup participants and an overall push to simplify the class and series structures played factors in the decision.

***Vasser Sullivan’s second Lexus RC F GT3, driven this weekend by Ben Barnicoat and Parker Thompson, is running the No. 89 in a nod to the year Toyota’s luxury brand was formed. The majority of the team’s No. 14 GTD Pro effort are on the No. 89 car, including engineer Geoff Fickling, who has history working with Thompson in Pirelli GT4 America competition.

***Jack Hawksworth, who makes his first GTD start since a similar one-off outing at Mid-Ohio in 2022, indicated that teams may look to double stint their Michelin Pilot Sport Pro GT H1 tires in the race, owing to the new-for-2024 tire compound’s increased performance and durability. The Englishman told Sportscar365 that it was off the table last year with the previous generation S9M compound.

***Hawksworth said: “You can easily see a situation where that first 30 minutes of the race there’s quite a bit of caution, and at that point we haven’t put much energy into the tire. Your pit stop is going to be quicker. I could see a situation where that might happen.”

***GTD teams have a total of four sets of tires for the entire event, one set less than last year. GTP teams, meanwhile, are limited to the same number of sets, in the series’ debut of the soft tire for an entire weekend.

***Previously, Michelin’s soft compound, or known last year as the SLT, was only utilized during prescribed night-time portions of the Rolex 24 at Daytona over the last two editions. The soft tire is currently scheduled to also be utilized for the Detroit round in June.

***Teams will have a total of 150 minutes of practice time on Friday prior to qualifying. The minimum drive time in the the race is just five minutes for GTP, compared to 35 minutes for GTD.

***With the FIA World Endurance Championship racing in Imola this weekend, several teams and manufacturers are split up, including Porsche Penske Motorsport. The team’s managing director Jonathan Diuguid and team president Tim Cindric are in Long Beach along with Porsche LMDh technical director Stefan Moser, with Porsche LMDh factory director Urs Kuratle, Porsche Penske competition director Travis Law and Roger Penske himself in Italy.

***In addition, Chip Ganassi Racing, Proton Competition and Heart of Racing Team are also pulling double duty, with the Ian James-led Heart of Racing squad in the unique position of also racing in GT America powered by AWS this weekend, which holds a pair of 40-minute sprint races in Long Beach.

***James is missing his first WeatherTech Championship event as team principal of Heart of Racing, with sporting manager Paul Charsley leading the team’s dual effort in Long Beach.

***Turner Motorsport and Flying Lizard Motorsports also have cars entered in both the WeatherTech Championship GTD class and GT America, including the Lizard’s Elias Sabo, who is slated to drive in both series.

***Ricky Taylor revealed in a pre-event Zoom call that he and brother Jordan routinely share hotel rooms during races, including this weekend, and even during the four-year stint when Jordan was driving for Corvette Racing. The two, however, live in separate houses in central Florida, with Ricky married to Emily Nash, the senior manager of track marketing and promotions for IMSA.

***The Taylor brothers won the Long Beach race overall consecutively from 2015-17 with WTR but have been winless in Southern California since. Jordan and co-driver Louis Deletraz are tied for the GTP points lead alongside Porsche Penske’s Felipe Nasr and Dane Cameron.

***JDC-Miller Motorsports has partnered with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for the remainder of the season, with the hospital’s logo appearing prominently on the side of the team’s No. 85 Porsche 963.

***The No. 5 Proton Competition Porsche, meanwhile, has remained in its Mustang Sampling livery despite team principal Christian Ried previously confirming the sponsorship for the Michelin Endurance Cup-only races this year.

***Katherine Legge, along with Takuma Sato, were inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame on Thursday. Legge had been initially slated to compete this weekend prior to getting replaced by Stevan McAleer in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 for the remainder of the GTD season.

***Interest in the WeatherTech Championship continues to build from a number of high-profile teams in the motorsports world. Sportscar365 understands that NASCAR powerhouse operation RFK Racing has made initial explorations, with longtime team member Kevin Kidd having been on-site at last month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Cadillac.

***A number of WeatherTech Championship cars and drivers will be taking part in Thunder Thursday at the Long Beach Pike Outlets from 6-9 p.m. tonight. Activities include pit stop competitions, driver autograph sessions, live band performances and food.

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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