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Road America Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook from Road America ahead of WeatherTech track action…

Photo: Michelin

***IMSA teams unloaded Friday at Road America, in what will be the first event featuring an expected larger turnout of fans after restricted attendance at both the WeatherTech 240 at Daytona and Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring earlier this month. As was the case in the previous two rounds, paddock access is not allowed for fans, the media or public relations representatives.

***An announcement on changes to the 2020 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule has been delayed numerous times in recent weeks. Sportscar365 understands that the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen will not go ahead in September and is likely to be replaced by a round at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Labor Day weekend.

***Contracts are reportedly yet to be finalized for a proposed GT-only race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which could replace the Lime Rock Park event that was scheduled for one week after The Glen.

***Both New York and Connecticut have expanded its quarantine list to 34 states this week due to increased COVID-19 positivity rates, with only people from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Hawaii and Oregon not needing to quarantine for 14 days upon entry.

***Sportscar365 understands that the event at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, currently scheduled for Nov. 1, is also in jeopardy following the cancelation of the NTT IndyCar Series race at the Northern California circuit. No word has been given on a potential replacement, although rumors have resurfaced on a potential double-header event.

***On Wednesday, Renger van der Zande completed Wayne Taylor Racing’s first simulator session since the lockdown, with the Dutchman turning virtual laps in Dallara’s state-of-the-art sim in Indianapolis. Simulator testing had been among the types of testing banned by IMSA until July 1.

***Van der Zande returned home to Amsterdam between races and only arrived back in the states that morning. Other than having been flagged for secondary screening due to returning to the U.S. within a 14-day period, he said his travel experience went flawlessly. “Every time I show this IMSA letter that I’m here for racing, all of the doors open,” he said.

***A number of drivers, including Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and Antonio Garcia and Porsche factory driver Laurens Vanthoor, are due to fly back home following this weekend. Garcia, who has been in the U.S. since June 18, said it’s been his “longest time away from his kids and family.”

***Earl Bamber, meanwhile, is planning to stay in the country through at least the end of August due to a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in both his home country of New Zealand and current residence in Malaysia. Earl’s brother, Will, is on-site this weekend helping Team Hardpoint and scouting for drives and opportunities for Earl Bamber Motorsport next year.

***The Porsche factory driver will make his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in next month’s Daytona Road Course race in a Richard Childress Racing-run Chevrolet backed by KCMG. “I’ve dreamed about competing in NASCAR my entire life, so I am so thankful to Richard Childress, KCMG and everyone who has played a role in creating this opportunity for me,” he said.

***Several other IMSA drivers are understood to be in the frame for drives in the Aug. 14-16 event that also includes the NASCAR Cup Series, Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and Menards ARCA Series races on the oval/road course, which has been modified to include a chicane in the short chute outside of NASCAR Turn 4.

***The Heart of Racing, which makes its return after missing the last two races, had its test at Mid-Ohio earlier this week cut short. Team principal Ian James told Sportscar365 they had to switch “a couple of bits out” of its Aston Martin Vantage GT3, although the car is good to go for this weekend.

***James’ co-driver, Roman De Angelis, has been selected for Aston Martin Racing’s Driver Academy this year. The British manufacturer announced the full list of 13 drivers on Friday, including KohR Motorsports’ Nate Stacy and Pirelli GT4 America driver Kenton Koch.

***The 2020 graduate of the program, open to drivers between the ages of 17 and 25 racing either GT3 or GT4-spec Aston Martins in “recognized championships” will be awarded financial support towards their 2021 program, as well as simulator and fitness sessions and a TAG Heuer watch.

***Cooper MacNeil, who along with his father David are shareholders of Road America, is coming off a sweep in Ferrari Challenge North America’s return to racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last weekend.

***Co-driver Toni Vilander, meanwhile, celebrated his 40th birthday by completing his first skydive while in Florida. “Jumping out from a perfectly operating airplane at 14,000 feet didn’t make a lot of sense. I was struggling for a few hours but as soon as I had a celebratory beer, it was OK,” said the Finn.

***Scuderia Corsa has a new engineering team this year, with Tim Whitteridge and Bruno Finco having been brought on-board run the team’s Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020, which Vilander said is now closer its GTE counterpart due to updates in the rear suspension and front aero.

***While running new-for-2020 machinery in IMSA, both the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R and Porsche 911 RSR-19 have previous testing experience at Road America, with the Corvette famously having taken its first laps in August 2018, as exclusively revealed by Sportscar365.

“It should suit the car,” said Porsche’s Laurens Vanthoor on the new-gen Porsche. “If in the end it’s going to be quick and will be quick on the straight, I don’t know. Obviously Corvette is new as well, so we don’t know exactly how they’re going to be and BMW you never really know. I don’t know if they know!”

***Both Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia said it will be “difficult” to fight the big “power advantage” of the BMW M8 GTE this weekend, which has received a nearly 15-horsepower increase from its configuration at Sebring. Corvette has a total of seven class wins at Road America, with its last coming in 2016. 

***This weekend marks the first three-day event for WeatherTech Championship competitors in the COVID-19 era and the first time all four of its U.S.-based multi-class series or challenge series are in action together, with Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama making its season debut alongside Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge.

***A total of 21 cars are on the entry list for GT3 Cup Challenge.

***Porsche has back-to-back GTD class victories at Road America with Wright Motorsports (2018) and Pfaff Motorsports (2019).

***One change to the IPC entry list is with the No. 6 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P3 Nissan, which sees Rasmus Lindh sub again for Blake Mount. Mount, who sat out Sebring due to a family member contracting COVID-19, has “developed symptoms” of the virus himself according to a team statement and elected not to travel to Road America.

***PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ class victory at Sebring marked the 50th win for the Oreca 07 chassis in LMP2 competition worldwide. One day later, United Autosports picked up win No. 51 for the car in the European Le Mans Series season-opener at Paul Ricard. A total of 75 races have been run with the car since its debut in 2017.

***Questions over the future of Panoz Auto have surfaced following reports that the company could be shuttering its doors in September. LMP2 team Era Motorsport recently moved into the shop that had formerly run the organization’s sports car racing operations, including the DeltaWing and more recently the Avezzano GT4, which ended its factory program in GT4 America last year.

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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