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Road Atlanta Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ second notebook from the Michelin Endurance Challenge at Road Atlanta…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

***LMP3 cars look set to be adopted into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year, following dialogue between teams and stakeholders. A formal announcement is expected during Wednesday’s virtual ‘State of the Sport’ address, which could also confirm the continuation of the GT Le Mans class for 2021.

***Sportscar365 has learned that at least two teams have already placed orders for new-for-2020 LMP3 machinery in anticipation for its debut in the series next year. It will likely feature a six-race championship season, plus eligibility in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

***GTLM, which is poised to continue with Corvette and BMW as full-season factory teams, could be replaced by a ‘GT3 Pro’ concept for 2022 as part of a regulations refresh for the GT3 platform that will include the debut of the new BMW M4 GT3.

***Renger van der Zande told Sportscar365 that he believes the 15 kg weight break given to the Cadillac DPi-V.Rs this weekend is “still not enough.” Cadillacs qualified 2nd, 6th, 7th and 8th for Saturday’s Grand Prix at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

***Richard Westbrook, who is making his GTD debut this weekend in the No. 11 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, said adapting to ABS has been “very, very different.” He told Sportscar365: “It is what it is for this class and maybe it’s good for the Am [drivers]. But I would love it if they did it on driver ID so when the pro gets in, it switches off the ABS.”

***Ian James said that seeing the checkered flag at Virginia International Raceway was a “relief” in the first race finish for The Heart of Racing Aston Martin program. The No. 23 car crashed out of the Rolex 24 at Daytona prior to missing the next two rounds then failed to start the Road America race due to a fuel cell leak.

***As has been the case with multiple teams and manufacturers, James said the team has been working with a remote engineer, based at Prodrive in the UK, for real-time technical support throughout the IMSA race weekends. Aston Martin factory driver Darren Turner has been drafted into the lineup this weekend and is likely to contest the remaining Endurance Cup races.

***Longtime engineer Owen Hayes has joined Team Hardpoint this weekend with engineering and strategy support for the team’s Audi R8 LMS GT4 in Michelin Pilot Challenge. Team owner/driver Rob Ferriol said Hayes’ addition represents another “step forward” for the team.

***Hardpoint’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo is slated to return for the next round at Mid-Ohio, as it is only slated to contest the WeatherTech Sprint Cup races this year.

***Both AIM Vasser Sullivan and Meyer Shank Racing are scheduled to test at the Charlotte Roval on Sept. 15 in what is understood to mark the second outing for GT3 machinery on the circuit that will host the recently added GT-only event. Riley Motorsports tested its Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo on the 17-turn, 2.28 layout last month.

***Jack Hawksworth said AVS will likely “lean on” the Toyota side of the family for data on the track although noted the considerable difference between his Lexus RC F GT3 to a stock car.

***The new Toyota GR Supra GT4 is on display in the Pilot Challenge paddock this weekend, with TRD announcing its first customer team on Friday that will debut in January’s season-opener at Daytona.

***Precision Performance Motorsports has placed its Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo up for sale, with no expectations to field a car in GTD in the near future according to team owner Richard Gdovic. The team has remained active in Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America with son Brandon Gdovic in the Pro class.

***Richard Gdovic explained to Sportscar365 that the team’s planned WeatherTech Sprint Cup effort with Rodrigo Pflucker was called off due to the Peruvian’s sponsor pulling out amid uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and travel restrictions in the country.

***Ben Keating told Sportscar365 that he expects to be in Bahrain for the FIA World Endurance Championship season finale, which has been rescheduled tp the same weekend as the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, where he was due to return to Riley Motorsports’ Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.

***Filipe Albuquerque is another IMSA driver impacted by the clash, with the Portuguese star set to also miss Sebring due to his LMP2 commitments with United Autosports.

***Action Express Racing team manager Gary Nelson told Sportscar365 they have options on two “very good” drivers to take Albuquerque’s seat in the No. 31 Whelen-sponsored Cadillac DPi. “We lost Plan A and Plan A1 and now we’re going to Plan B,” said Nelson, in reference to also not being able to utilize Toyota Gazoo Racing LMP1 driver Mike Conway.

***Sportscar365 understands that Gabby Chaves, who served as a last-minute sub for Felipe Nasr in the Daytona July race, is one of the drivers in the mix to join Nasr and Pipo Derani in the car for November’s season finale.

***Twenty WeatherTech Championship drivers here this weekend are slated to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in two weeks’ time: Sebastien Bourdais, Olivier Pla, Renger van der Zande, Filipe Albuquerque, Pipo Derani, Harry Tincknell, Oliver Jarvis, Kyle Tilley, Dwight Merriman, Bruno Spengler, Nick Tandy, Richard Heistand, Richard Westbrook, Simon Tummer, Fred Makowiecki, Laurens Vanthoor, Cooper MacNeil, Toni Vilander, Ben Keating and Matt McMurry.

***Scuderia Corsa is the only active WeatherTech Championship team that will be making the trip to France, along with partial-season competitors Risi Competizione and DragonSpeed. Sportscar365, however, understands that some U.S. crew members are still awaiting final approval from the French government for travel allowances amid the current restrictions.

***Riley Motorsports is “reviewing all of [its] options” and awaiting IMSA’s Sept. 9 announcement before making a decision on its WeatherTech Championship program for next year according to Bill Riley, who told Sportscar365 that remaining in the GT Daytona class with the Mercedes is among the possibilities.

***Live coverage of the WeatherTech Championship will return to NBCSN, with coverage of the Grand Prix at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET before returning at 2:30 p.m. for the remaining 3.5 hours of the race. Flag-to-flag coverage will stream on both the NBC Sports App and NBC Sports Gold’s TrackPass.

***Brian Till, Calvin Fish and A.J. Allmendinger will again be in the NBC Sports booth, with Kevin Lee and Dillon Welch on pit road. IMSA Radio’s coverage will feature John Hindhaugh, Jeremy Shaw and Shea Adam.

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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