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Road Atlanta Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday notebook from Road Atlanta…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

***The No. 67 Ford GT has been stripped of its 2nd place qualifying run in GT Le Mans due to failing the ride height test. As a result, Richard Westbrook will be forced to start from the rear of the field in Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans, promoting the champions-elect No. 3 Corvette C7.R to the outside front row in class.

***Click Here for the revised provisional starting grid.

***While Team Penske has been on a tear on the track all weekend, team president Tim Cindric said it hasn’t necessarily been all clear-sailing in getting all three of its IndyCar stars to agree on a setup. “It should be a reality show, watching the three of them trying to compromise!” Cindric joked.

***Helio Castroneves, making his Petit Le Mans return for the first time since the Brazilian’s 2008 LMP2 class victory, replied with: “I can compromise, but Juan Pablo [Montoya], C’mon!”

***Both Cindric and Castroneves admitted the driver changes have also been comedic exercises so far, particularly with the large size difference between Castroneves, Montoya and Simon Pagenaud. “After watching this weekend and these three guys, just getting in and out of the car, it’s going to take us a little bit of time to get right!” Cindric said.

***IMSA President Scott Atherton said he’s optimistic of the newly announced Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore at Sebring to be “well-received” in the paddock. The standalone four-hour endurance race, scheduled for Nov. 9-11, 2018 will be open to LMP3, GT3, GT4 and TCR machinery. “We’re hopeful we can get up into significant numbers,” he told Sportscar365. “The track, our cap there for the WeatherTech Championship is 60 cars. You could argue that should be the same number.”

***Atherton dismissed the possibility of additional races being added in the winter months to create a mini championship of sorts for Pro-Am competitors. He said it would take a “very compelling” reason to go beyond the Sebring Encore, namely due to the proximity of the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Twelve Hours of Sebring.

***The event will mark the first race for many teams on Michelin tires, prior to the full rollout of the partnership in 2019. “The opportunity is for us to show everyone how we work in race conditions for a significant part of the community who may not have had the opportunity to work with us before,” said Chris Baker, Director of Motorsport for Michelin North America.

“We’re working with Simon Hodgson, Geoff Carter and the IMSA technical team on a comprehensive testing program. But of course we won’t be able to touch everybody… You can’t have 100 cars at a tire test. You can only reach so many vehicle platforms.”

***Atherton said his expectation would be for LMP3 cars to be fighting for the overall win, ahead of GT3 machinery, with IMSA’s initial analysis indicating a “very good” separation in lap times between the four classes. “But the unknown for us is how these cars will perform on a different tire,” he said.

***Porsche GTLM team manager and CORE autosport COO Morgan Brady left the track Friday morning, en route back home to Charlotte, to be with his wife, who is giving birth to their first child. While being offered team owner Jon Bennett’s plane, Brady elected to make the four-hour drive instead in his Porsche 911 road car.

***BAR1 Motorsports has yet to determine its LMP2 chassis choice for next year, according to Brian Alder, who said the ACO’s recently approved ‘joker’ updates for the Ligier JS P217 and Dallara P217, plus re-homologation of the Riley Mk. 30 Gibson, has made them re-consider all options. The Prototype Challenge squad was initially closing in on an Oreca 07.

***Alder said they hope to finalize its 2018 program by the end of the month. “We’re making good progress and have a lot of meetings this weekend. It looks promising,” he told Sportscar365.

***Fellow PC squad Performance Tech Motorsports is expected to also make the step up to the Prototype class next year, reportedly with a Ligier LMP2, although a deal has yet to be finalized.

***Acura has had “lots” of customer interest in the NSX GT3 for next year, according to HPD President Art St. Cyr. The manufacturer held a track event at Buttonwillow last month, which saw four prospective clients sample the GT3 contender. “So far things have been pretty much as expected,” St. Cyr told Sportscar365. “Things are looking promising.”

***St. Cyr said Honda has sold several cars to customers in Japan, with current projections putting potentially up to three NSX GT3s on the grid in the WeatherTech Championship next year.

***A total of 33 Porsche Motorsport-built race cars are competing across three series this weekend, including four Porsche 911 GT3 Rs and two Porsche 911 RSRs for Petit Le Mans. Six Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsports, meanwhile, closed out the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season this afternoon.

***Longtime Michael Shank Racing driver John Pew, who claimed victory here last year alongside Ozz Negri and Olivier Pla, has returned to the IMSA paddock this weekend, visiting with the team and other friends. Pew told Sportscar365 that he has no plans to return to the wheel for the time being.

***IMSA announced on Friday a strategic alliance with the Forza video game franchise, which includes activation with IMSA cars, tracks and partners. Turn 10 Studios launched Forza Motorsport 7 earlier this week, available on Xbox One and Windows 10 platforms.

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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