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Road Atlanta Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday notebook on eve of 22nd annual Motul Petit Le Mans…

Photo: Michelin

***The new Michelin Tower was formally dedicated Friday afternoon, with a ceremonial ribbon cutting made by Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta track president and general manager Geoff Lee and Michelin North America chairman and president Alexis Garcin. The 52,000 square-foot four-story building houses race officials, media, broadcasters and hospitality.

***As has been the case this season, track qualifying records were again smashed, this time by all four categories. The entire DPi and GT Le Mans field were under the previous records, held by Pipo Derani (1:10.437) and John Edwards (1:17.006) from last year.

***James Calado’s GTLM pole-sitting lap of 1:15.639 in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE was some 3 mph faster than the previous class track qualifying record.

***Calado admitted that he had even more room to give during his record pole run, telling IMSA Radio that it “wasn’t perfect” and that he “lost a tenth in the last corner”. “We’ve got a really good balance with the car and a great lineup, so it’s so nice to lift the atmosphere of the Risi team,” said the Englishman.

***Felipe Nasr became the fourth different Brazilian driver to take pole in the six post-merger editions of Petit Le Mans. He followed Christian Fittipaldi in 2014, Helio Castroneves in 2017 and Derani in 2018. It marked Nasr’s first career IMSA pole. 

***Nasr’s Practice 4 pace-setting 1:08.419 lap was actually quicker than his pole time.

***Corey Lewis claimed his second consecutive pole in GT Daytona, with Paul Miller Racing having bounced back from some “long hours” due to an accident by Marco Seefried in opening practice on Thursday, which forced the team to miss the second session.

***A number of championship titles will be locked up once cars roll off the grid for tomorrow’s Motul Petit Le Mans. Acura and Porsche will officially clinch the DPi and GT Le Mans manufacturers’ championships, along with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and Matt McMurry in LMP2.

***Meyer Shank Racing and drivers Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman will clinch the GT Daytona championships once one of the drivers completes the two-hour and 30-minute minimum drive time.

***An eighth place finish or higher in class, meanwhile, would hand the DPi drivers’ championship to Acura Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron and the GT Le Mans title to Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber of Porsche GT Team.

***The closest title race comes in the GTD manufacturers’ championship, which sees Lamborghini holding a one-point lead over Acura. Porsche, sitting a further seven points behind in third, also remains in mathematical contention. 

***GTD pole-sitter Lewis said they’re very much focused on helping deliver Lamborghini back-to-back class titles. “We’re definitely thinking about it,” he told Sportscar365. “We’re aiming to win the race and if we can win the manufacturers’ for Lamborghini, that’s another feather in our cap and I know Italy will be very happy for sure.”

***There has “clearly” been more interest in LMP2 as there had been this time last year according to ORECA customer racing service manager Anthony Megevand, who is projecting between 5-7 full-season entries.

***Megevand confirmed to Sportscar365 that an Oreca 07 Gibson has been sold to a new-to-IMSA team planning to contest the Michelin Endurance Cup races next year, with an additional four teams, including a former Prototype Challenge outfit, having been in discussions with the French constructor.

***ORECA recently produced the 49th Oreca 07-based chassis, counting the four Acura ARX-05 DPis in existence, with an additional three or four LMP2 chassis expected to be completed by the end of the year.

***Rumors, meanwhile, have continued to circulate the paddock of at changes to Mazda’s factory program for next year.

***A third Mazda RT24-P, meanwhile, may only contest a partial season, with multiple teams reportedly in the mix beyond the previously reported bid from Spirit of Daytona Racing.

***BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt was non-committal when asked if the manufacturer’s M8 GTE program will be extended beyond the end of 2020. Team RLL is set to return to the GTLM class next year, with its driver lineup set to be announced at its annual awards night in December.

***BMW has sold almost 100 units of its M4 GT4 car, according to Marquardt. “We did the first batch, which was about 80 cars in the first year,” he told Sportscar365. “As sales were really good, we decided that we would do another batch. I think we’ve been reasonably successful all over the world this year.”

***Marquardt added that BMW is already in talks to decide on the M4’s successor: “We, together with our colleagues from M, are discussing what would be fit for the next model,” he confirmed.

***The brand-new BMW X5 M and X6 M made their North American premieres on Friday at Road Atlanta. Both high-performance SUVs are assembled in nearby Spartanburg, S.C., with the X5 M representing the third-generation that delivers more than 600 horsepower from the twin-turbo V8 from the M5 Competition.

***Outgoing IMSA President Scott Atherton was recognized prior to the unveil, with BMW of North America motorsport manager Victor Leleu presenting him with a model of the BMW Art Car that took part in the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona, as well as a framed poster titled “BMW and IMSA”.

***Atherton’s successor is not expected to be announced until after this weekend.

***FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu will be in attendance tomorrow to honor Atherton’s tenure in North American sports car racing.

Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report

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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