***Mazda is on top-form this weekend, with the Japanese manufacturer ending both IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice sessions atop the time charts in a 1-2 sweep. Jonathan Bomarito’s pace-setting 1:18.139 lap time on Friday was more than a half-second faster than the Prototype track record.
***The Mazdas, which have yet to even score a podium finish in series competition, are already looking like favorites. “It’s a textbook start to the weekend and exactly what we came here to do,” Bomarito told Sportscar365. “It’s what we hoped for. You don’t really know until halfway through that first session where we’re going to be but we knew we had a good car.”
***The SpeedSource-run team spent both sessions practicing full service pit stops, with further practice scheduled through late tonight. Given the near-dominant pace shown so far, Sunday’s two-hour race, at its home track, could end up being the most crucial event in the history of its prototype program.
***Michael Shank confirmed to Sportscar365 that his team will not take part in the next round at Detroit, in order to put 100 percent focus on its 24 Hours of Le Mans effort. The Ohio-based team will head to Europe at the end of May for a four-day test at Monza, hosted by Onroak Automotive, prior to the Le Mans Test Day on June 5.
***Shank said their chances of putting together a last-minute deal for the Indianapolis 500, which he has been working on, is pretty low. “To be able to do Le Mans and the 100th Indy 500 in one year… It would be Chip [Ganassi] and us,” Shank told Sportscar365. “I’ve been out here since Tuesday and my phone is on fire. But I’d say say right now it’s on the downturn.”
***The future of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca still looms with some uncertainty. It’s understood that Monterey County will begin accepting requests for proposals (RFP) for track operations next month, with multiple parties expected to bid. Longtime operators, SCRAMP, meanwhile, remain on a month-to-month contract with the county, since 2014.
***It’s believed that International Speedway Corporation, which withdrew its bid to take over track operations last year, could again be preparing to make a bid, as well as other established track operators in the country.
***Visit Florida Racing is coming off a two-day test at Buttonwillow last week, with both Ryan Dalziel and Mace Goossens. Team owner Troy Flis told Sportscar365 that they used the test to evaluate different setup options for other tracks later in the season.
***The team battled traction control gremlins in Long Beach, which took them out of contention. Flis said they had yet to wrap their heads around a new version of Bosch’s TC software, which was updated for 2016.
***Monterey marks the first race for Change Racing’s No. 11 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 since its heavy, race-ending crash at Sebring. The team made significant chassis repairs at its shop in North Carolina. “We have the facilities in our shop, with our NASCAR background, to do repair work,” team boss Robby Benton told Sportscar365. “I think we have assets and resources at our disposal that most of the other teams in this paddock probably don’t have.”
***Both Ford and Corvette have scheduled separate pre-Le Mans tests at Road America next month prior to air-freighting their cars off to Le Mans. The two American GTE manufacturers have already shipped support equipment via sea-freight to France.
***Ben Keating got his first taste of a prototype in a test with a Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09 at Road Atlanta earlier this month, in preparation for his Le Mans LMP2 debut with Murphy Prototypes. The PC car was outfitted on Dunlop tires for the test, which also saw Jeroen Bleeekemolen turn laps. Keating and Bleekemolen will be joined by Marc Goossens in Murphy’s Oreca 03R Nissan at Le Mans.
***Gas Monkey Garage is likely to remain on-board as a primary sponsor of Keating’s ViperExchange.com/Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R for the remainder of the season. Additional program elements are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
***Porsche will open applications for its junior program on Sunday. The initiative, now in its second year, allows up-and-coming driving talent to apply to be considered for the German manufacturer’s highly successful development program. Candidates must be born between Jan. 1, 1995 and Feb. 28, 1999 and have previous experience in touring car or open-wheel competition, as well but not having contested more than three races in single-make Porsche championships or in a GT series this year. Click Here for more info.
***New episodes of Johnny Mowlem’s TV series “Mowlem Racing Travels” will air beginning next week in the UK. A four-part series has been ordered for 2016, which follows the British driver’s adventures through America and Europe. Catch the first episode on Sky Sports 3 on May 3 at 8:30 p.m. UK time, with a repeat at midnight.