***IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams unloaded Thursday for the first two-hour 40-minute round of the season, and the first-ever WeatherTech Sprint Cup round for selected GT Daytona class entries. It has resulted in the addition of the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren 720S GT3 and No. 74 Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the overall grid.
***Two of the most notable absences from the GTD class are PPM and P1 Motorsports, the latter which has withdrawn from GT3 competition altogether due to an alleged injury for team owner/driver JC Perez.
***PPM, which had also been entered for the full-season, is absent this weekend but understood to be returning for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. The team has scheduled a test at Watkins Glen with Brandon Gdovic and Don Yount. Of note, team manager Sunny Voelker is no longer with the program.
***The No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT has reverted to its 2016 Le Mans-winning livery this weekend ahead of next month’s endurance classic. The team’s No. 67 Ford, meanwhile, has remained with the same dark blue color, introduced in 2018, in anticipation for a completely different design for Le Mans.
***Sportscar365 believes that all four Fords will run with previous Le Mans race-winning liveries in the race, in what will be the manufacturer’s swan-song in GTE-Pro from an official factory team capacity.
***Both the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo and No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Audi R8 LMS Evo are sporting new colors this weekend, with a black-and-pink design for the Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman-driven MSR entry thanks to primary sponsor AutoNation, and a white, green and black livery on Ryan Dalziel and Parker Chase’s Vertical Bridge-sponsored Audi.
***The pink on MSR’s Acura is the same color seen on its Honda-powered Indy car, in promotion of AutoNation’s ‘Drv Pnk’ campaign for cancer research.
***MSR’s Katherine Legge and Jackie Heinricher visited Honda R&D Americas in Raymond, Ohio on Thursday and met with members of the Women Business Research Group. The Acura NSX road car is produced in a nearby facility in Marrysville, Ohio.
***Compass Racing’s new McLaren, which makes its North American race debut this weekend, is Chassis No. 4, which came at the team owner Jill Beck’s request. “It’s always been a significant number for me,” Beck told Sportscar365. “Lots of good things come from four.” As an example, the team’s first McLaren 570S GT4 is Chassis No. 16, a number divisible by four.
***PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports could debut its second Oreca 07 Gibson by as early as next month’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, according to team principal Bobby Oergel, who told Sportscar365 they have a “few opportunities” at play for a potential limited-race program this year ahead of a planned two-car full-season effort in 2020.
***Oergel said that car owner Patrick Kelly has been completing laps in the recently delivered LMP2 chassis following an extensive test program in the team’s Ligier JS P3 Nissan last year. It’s unclear if the former Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge racer could be part of the lineup in races this year.
***Eric Lux has joined Matt McMurry in PR1/Mathiasen’s season-long Oreca LMP2 for this event and will return for Watkins Glen alongside McMurry and Gabriel Aubry, who is on FIA World Endurance Championship duty at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.
***Philipp Frommenwiler has been confirmed for the remainder of the Michelin Endurance Cup races in the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. The Swiss driver made his team debut alongside full-season drivers Jack Hawksworth and Richard Heistand at Sebring, replacing Austin Cindric in the lineup.
***Cindric, due to his NASCAR Xfinity Series duties, would have only been able to do Daytona and Motul Petit Le Mans, leading the team to secure Frommenwiler for the post-Daytona enduros, according to team principal Ian Willis.
***The Lexus is 35 kg heavier and with a smaller air restrictor compared to its configuration at Mid-Ohio last year, which saw 3GT Racing break through to give the car its first class victory in North America.
***Willis told Sportscar365 they’re still working on extracting consistency out of the car, which has generally starred on single-lap pace but has suffered a drop-off at the end of the stint.
***A number of teams have continued their prep for next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Keating Motorsports drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen spent Thursday in Ford Performance’s simulator in Concord, N.C., getting their first laps of Le Mans in a virtual Ford GT.
***Ryan Briscoe and Dirk Mueller, meanwhile, completed a test at Monza last month in their old chassis, which has since been sold to Keating. “I was like, ‘That’s my old car!'” Briscoe told Sportscar365. “It was fun to drive it again.”
***Corvette Racing has scheduled its annual pre-Le Mans test at Road America on May 8-9, in what is expected to be the final factory outing for the Corvette C7.R in the race, in what will be the team’s 20th attempt.
***Will Bamber, the brother of two-time overall Le Mans winner Earl, was spotted testing Moorespeed’s Audi GT3 car at Mid-Ohio last month. The Silver-rated Kiwi is understood to have also gotten laps in the team’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car as an introduction to the U.S. racing scene.
***Lawson Aschenbach, who makes his second GTD start of the year and first with Sprint Cup debutant Lone Star Racing, is targeting a run in next month’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway. Along with several other sports car racing stars, Aschenbach took part in the Charlotte Roval Xfinity Series round last year with JD Motorsports.
***Gunnar Jeannette, who is racing this weekend in Michelin Pilot Challenge GS competition in an eEuroparts Audi R8 LMS GT4, has recently become the product manager of WeatherTech’s Pet Comfort feeding system. Jeannette has been a longtime driver within WeatherTech Racing’s organization.
***The Porsche 911 GT2 RS has set a new production car lap record at Road America, completing the 4.048 mile circuit in just 2:15.170 in the hands of David Donohue. It comes just one month after the same feat was achieved at Michelin Road Atlanta.