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WeatherTech Championship

Road Atlanta Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s notebook on the eve of the WeatherTech Championship season finale…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

***The No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 will start from the rear of the GT Daytona class field in tomorrow’s Motul Petit Le Mans after not meeting the minimum ride height in post-qualifying technical inspection. Jack Hawksworth had set the quickest time in Q2 but will now score last place qualifying points.

***It has promoted the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini of Bryan Sellers to first place qualifying points, giving Sellers and co-driver Madison Snow two additional points in their championship pursuit compared to the original order.

***Felipe Nasr said it was a “huge plus” to gain 11 points in the tight DPi title race by qualifying on pole in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R, in a session that saw the championship-leading No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 of Filipe Albuquerque qualify seventh in class.

“I don’t know what happened there to the 10 but we did our thing and I’m glad we put on points,” Nasr said. “There were a lot of points on the table in qualifying. This is just half of the job done but it’s very satisfying. Feet on the ground, tomorrow there’s ten hours of racing and lots still to happen.”

***Albuquerque explained that they have something going on with the car that’s “atypical for us” this weekend. “Right now, we’re just hoping that we can solve this thing and that we find it before the race is over,” he said. “Ten hours is a long race. We’re holding on and we never give up.”

***It was a “truly amazing effort for Wright Motorsports to get its No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R out for qualifying on Saturday after rebuilding the car around a spare chassis that only arrived this morning from the team’s shop in Ohio, according to Jan Heylen, who won the Michelin Pilot Challenge GS class title with the team on Friday.  

“Last night at 6:30 we all thought we were going home,” Heylen told Sportscar365. “Then about an hour later it was back on. They flew someone to Cincinnati to get two [truck] drivers there. They drove all night. The car got here this morning at 7 a.m. and the guys literally rebuilt two cars as they had to take everything off the car that crashed and put the parts back on [the spare chassis].”

***Heylen’s co-driver Trent Hindman qualified the car seventh in class but is set to start in sixth after the technical infraction for the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus in qualifying. 

***Points scenarios for the various championship titles have been adjusted following Friday’s qualifying that saw Nasr’s pole reduce his and Pipo Derani’s original 19-point deficit to 8 points to WTR’s Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor. 

***Pfaff Motorsports’ Laurens Vanthoor and Zach Robichon now hold a reduced 41-point lead over the Paul Miller Racing duo of Sellers and Madison Snow in GT Daytona, with a number of point possibilities depending on the finishing positions within the 15-car class.

***LMP3 sees the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 Nissan of Gar Robinson with a 54-point lead over CORE autosport’s Jon Bennett and Colin Braun.

***Both LMP2 and GT Le Mans, however, are more straightforward, with the championship-leading cars needing only to start the race in order to clinch their respective titles.

***Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia are on the brink of back-to-back GTLM championships in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, while Ben Keating and Mikkel Jensen will lock up the LMP2 title for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports by taking the green flag as well.

***It would mark Keating’s long-awaited first season-long IMSA championship title after nearly a decade of competition in the series dating back to the American Le Mans Series.

***Corvette Racing’s last class victory at Petit Le Mans came in 2010 when Oliver Gavin, Jan Magnussen and Emmanuel Collard took a Chevrolet Corvette C6.R to victory in the GT2 class.

***Compared to last year’s Petit Le Mans, the Porsche 911 RSR-19 is 30 kg lighter with roughly a 9 horsepower increase in power compared to the Corvette C8.R, which is 10 kg heavier and with the same power output as the 2020 race. The factory Porsche squad won last year’s Petit Le Mans.

***Outside of a fuel capacity reduction for the Corvette, no other Balance of Performance adjustments have been made ahead of this weekend.

***Patrick Long told Sportscar365 that he isn’t “closing the book on racing by any means” with his step back from full-time driving but confirmed he won’t be at the wheel of a race car in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. He said: “2022 will be a year for me to really transition into my roles for [Porsche Motorsport North America] and [Porsche Cars North America].”

***In addition to IMSA’s two auto-invites to the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the winners of the newly renamed Trueman Bronze Cup (LMP2) and Akin Bronze Cup (GTD), a third auto invite will be awarded for this year’s LMP3 champion as part of IMSA’s continued partnership with the ACO, which was recently renewed for another ten years.

***It’s understood the third auto invite will go to a LMDh entry beginning with the 2023 season.

***IMSA President John Doonan confirmed that Practice 1 and 2 will both be extended by 30 minutes next year, returning to a cumulative three hours of practice time at most events. The WeatherTech Championship previously had three separate practice sessions in pre-pandemic events. 

***Doonan said the compact weekend format will remain unchanged next year despite the added track time, which will be in place for all events except at Long Beach, Detroit and Lime Rock Park.

“The feedback from the race teams is that’s really helped them,” Doonan told Sportscar365. “We like to condense [the weekends] such that they can park and get unloaded in the shortest time frame without adding additional hotel nights and things like that.”

***While IMSA is not closing the door for LMDh teams to run in WeatherTech Championship races next year as unclassified entries, Doonan indicated that it’s not currently on any manufacturers’ radars. “Based on the conversations we’re having — and it’s their announcements to make — I would be surprised if someone came to us with that,” he said. “But it could be possible.”

***Instead, Doonan is expecting 2022 to be the “first course” for LMDh manufacturers that will likely utilize events to unveil cars and “potentially [run] some demonstration laps.”

***The name of its top class in 2023 “could very well be” LMDh, although it has not yet been officially determined. When asked if IMSA would consider calling it Hypercar as is the case in the FIA World Endurance Championship, Doonan said: “We’ve got our partners from the ACO here and we continue to want to have healthy discussions around that. Right now LMDh is the name.”

***Marc Miller has returned to the paddock amid his recovery from a ruptured achilles tendon that ruled him out of IMSA Sprint Cup season-ending round at Virginia International Raceway with Gradient Racing. Miller, who was not scheduled to race here this weekend, told Sportscar365 that he has six more weeks in a walking boot and anticipates being fully fit in time for January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

***ACO President Pierre Fillon and WEC CEO Frederic Lequien are on-site this weekend as well as ACO competition department director Thierry Bouvet.

***JOTA team co-owner Sam Hignett was making the rounds on Friday, also fresh from last weekend’s WEC season finale in Bahrain. Hignett told Sportscar365 the British squad has no current plans to contest the Rolex 24 at Daytona as it had previously done under the Jackie Chan DC Racing banner.

***Ford Performance global motorsports director Mark Rushbrook has been spotted in the paddock as well, amid increased rumors of the manufacturer’s future participation in the GT3 class. Rushbrook was previously at the Mid-Ohio IMSA weekend in May.

***Motul will remain the title sponsor of Petit Le Mans as part of a multi-year partnership renewal announced on Friday. Motul and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta first partnered in 2017, when Motul became the first-ever entitlement partner of the event.

***The first three hours of Motul Petit Le Mans will be carried live on network NBC beginning Saturday at 12 p.m. ET, before shifting to NBCSN for the remainder of the race from 3 p.m. Race coverage will also stream on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app as well as Trackpass on NBC Sports Gold. Peacock will also stream the first three hours of the race that will be presented on NBC.

***Leigh Diffey and Dave Burns will call play-by-play and will be joined in the booth by Calvin Fish, Townsend Bell and Brian Till. Steve Letarte, Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Dillon Welch and Kevin Lee will reporting on pit lane.

***IMSA Radio’s coverage, which is also presented on IMSA.tv for international viewers, will again be anchored by John Hindhaugh and Jeremy Shaw, with Shea Adam returning to the pit lane for the first time since the 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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