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Mid-Ohio Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday notebook from Acura Sports Car Challenge weekend…

Photo: John Dagys

***The Acura Sports Car Challenge presented by TLX Type S is down to a 25-car field following the withdrawals of the No. 7 Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine D08 Nissan and No. 19 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo. 

***Grasser, which was due to contest its first full IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, is competing in this weekend’s ADAC GT Masters season-opener at Oschersleben with a four-car Lamborghini entry.

***Forty7’s withdrawal means the entire LMP3 class features Ligier JS P320 Nissan machinery this weekend. The team has retained its two-car entry for the IMSA Prototype Challenge race, however.

***WeatherTech Championship teams unloaded on Friday morning in what’s the first compressed weekend schedule of the year that sees a single practice session late in the opening day followed by a second practice on Saturday heading into qualifying.

***The revised schedule format, introduced last year amid IMSA’s return to racing protocol, essentially reduces on-track time by one hour.

***While there are three LMP3 teams pulling double-duty between Sunday’s IPC race and the Acura Sports Car Challenge, Riley Motorsports will be the only team to utilize the same chassis in both races. Dylan Murry and Jim Cox pilot the No. 91 Ligier JS P320 Nissan in the 1 hour and 45-minute prior to the 2 hour and 40-minute WeatherTech Championship round.

***The No. 44 Magnus Racing with Archangel Acura NSX GT3 Evo is running with a new dash “technology package” this weekend according to team principal Mike Johnson, who said the car’s previous electronics caused issues in the opening two races of the season.

***Unlike the Compass and Gradient entries, Magnus’ Acura a brand-new car for 2021.

***Mario Farnbacher has been reunited with the Acura chassis that he and Trent Hindman took to the 2019 GTD title. The ex-Meyer Shank Racing Acura ran as the No. 57 car last year and was acquired by Compass following last year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

***The now Compass-owned chassis was recently used by RealTime Racing for a test at Road America. “HPD asked us to loan them our car and as good partners, we’re happy to,” team principal Karl Thomson told Sportscar365.

***Sportscar365 understands that RealTime is still working to put together a program around the remaining Michelin Endurance Cup races.

***The No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 is back to its traditional blue and yellow livery with a bit of a “camouflaged evolution” on the blue portions of the car according to team owner Will Turner.

***Friday’s lone practice session saw a gearbox pressure sensor issue for the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, which delayed the freshly rebuilt chassis from taking to the track by roughly 20 minutes. Daniel Morad rebounded to set the eighth quickest time in class.

***A number of IMSA regulars are competing in this weekend’s European Le Mans Series round at the Red Bull Ring, including Era Motorsports’ Kyle Tilley, Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel, as well as Cooper MacNeil, who has committed to the remainder of the ELMS season in a Proton-run WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 with Matt Campbell and team boss Christian Ried.

***Both Harry Tincknell and Ross Gunn, meanwhile, have prioritized their WeatherTech Championship commitments over ELMS duty this weekend.

***It was confirmed this week that Tilley will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut at Circuit of The Americas next weekend as part of a four-race program with Live Fast Motorsports. The U.S.-based British driver will also drive the team’s Ford Mustang in the Cup Series road course races at Road America, Watkins Glen and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

***A decision on the tire specification for the GTD Pro class has still not been finalized. Sportscar365 understands that meetings have been ongoing Friday between series’ stakeholders and IMSA on options. 

***Michelin is known to be in favor of having a new tire specification for GTD Pro that could potentially be leveraged globally should GT3-spec cars be adopted in the FIA World Endurance Championship by as soon as 2023.

***Sportscar365 understands that an announcement from GM is imminent on its forthcoming Cadillac LMDh project. Cadillac would join Acura, Audi and Porsche with confirmed LMDh programs for the 2023 season.

***Despite being based in nearby Pataskala, Ohio, Meyer Shank Racing has not won a sports car race at Mid-Ohio before. This weekend marks Olivier Pla’s race debut at the circuit, although the Frenchman and co-driver Dane Cameron tested here late last month.

***Acura is undefeated in DPi competition at the track with Team Penske claiming wins in 2018-20, including the program’s maiden victory with Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor, who has won two of the last three races here.

***Castroneves has been named grand marshal for Sunday’s race, with Acura’s all-new 2021 TLX Type S making its public debut as the official safety car in an exclusive Tiger Eye Pearl color. 

“Having Helio as an integral part of our season-opening event during this historic season is very fitting with his many past accomplishments at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and his great connection with our fans,” said Mid-Ohio track president Craig Rust.

***The 355-horsepower V6-powered Acura TLX Type S is also on display in the fan zone display area.

***Mid-Ohio serves as a home race of sorts for Acura and American Honda, which operates a dozen corporate, manufacturing and R&D facilities in central Ohio, including its Marysville plant where the Acura NSX is produced.

***Vasser Sullivan drivers Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz as well as their No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 made pre-event appearances at Classic Lexus and Metro Lexus in Cleveland earlier this week prior to unloading at Mid-Ohio on Friday.

***The Lexus RC F GT3 has won all three previous WeatherTech Championship GTD races at the circuit dating back to the 3GT Racing program in 2018 with Dominik Baumann and Kyle Marcelli. Hawksworth has won the last two consecutive with what was then known as AIM Vasser Sullivan.

***Skip Barber Racing School has been named the “Preferred Racing School of IMSA” in a multiyear agreement announced on Friday. “Skip Barber Racing School has earned a reputation for providing a vital first step to so many racing drivers who, over the years, have gone on to achieve the pinnacle of success in our sport,” said IMSA President John Doonan. 

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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