***A total of 41 drivers, mostly Bronze and Silver-rated drivers, will be required to complete laps in this evening’s night practice session in order to be qualified to race. Click Here for the full list.
***Sebastien Bourdais returns to the wheel of a Ford GT for the first time since his accident at Indianapolis that took the Frenchman out of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a number of IndyCar races this summer. Bourdais turned laps alongside Dixon in a test at Mid-Ohio last week that saw Ford Chip Ganassi Racing run three Ford GTs. Only two are taking part in this weekend’s race.
***Simon Pagenaud shook down Team Penske’s rebuilt Oreca 07 Gibson at the Statesville, N.C. airport on Tuesday, following a full rebuild of the LMP2 car after Helio Castoneves’ sizable accident in testing at Road Atlanta late last month. The Brazilian crashed in Turn 1, which brought the test to an early end after sustaining significant tub damage.
***All three remaining drivers’ championships: Ricky/Jordan Taylor (Prototype), Antonio Garcia/Jan Magnussen (GTLM) and Christina Nielsen/Alessandro Balzan (GTD) will be clinched on Saturday once each car starts the race. IMSA rules for violating the base drive time places each entry at the end of the results, but still scoring finishing points, therefore ensuring each driver pairing would still win the championship even if they don’t complete the minimum drive times.
***The only exception would come if one of the title-winning cars incurs a post-race technical infraction that would the result in the elimination of all incurred race points.
***Cadillac can also lock up the Prototype manufacturers’ title by starting the race. GTD sees Ferrari with a nine-point lead over Mercedes-AMG, with just four points separating between Chevrolet and Ford, in the closest title race still to be decided. Chevy can clinch the title by being the second-highest finishing marque in the class.
***Should the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R complete 113 laps in Saturday’s race, the entry will surpass the 20,000-mile mark in Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup competition since 2014. The No. 5 team is seeking its fourth consecutive Patron Endurance Cup title this weekend and enters the race with a two-point lead over the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac.
***IMSA is set to meet with GT Le Mans manufacturers on Sunday and Prototype constructors on Monday, for roundtable discussions on a variety of subjects, including minor changes to the sporting regulations for next year.
***The elimination of the Prototype Challenge class could see changes in performance to both GTLM and GTD cars. It’s understood IMSA has been asked by manufacturers to increase the speed differential between the two classes.
***Currently, GTD cars are roughly 10 percent slower than the FIA base homologations and BoP. However, performance levels in GTLM are already at the high end of the spectrum, slightly faster than WEC specification, which would make a significant performance increase difficult for the factory-run machines.
***The No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport entry sees the IMSA debut of Sheldon van der Linde, who has impressed in his short time behind the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS. The 18-year-old South African, who is competing in the ADAC TCR Germany series in an Audi RS 3 LMS this year, nearly matched the times set by his more experienced co-drivers Connor De Phillippi and Christopher Mies in a test at Road Atlanta last month, according to team director Christian Land.
***Sheldon’s older brother, Kelvin, who teamed with De Phillippi and Mies for victory in this year’s Nürburgring 24, is on-site this weekend. The Audi GT3 pool driver will take part in next weekend’s California 8 Hours at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the Audi Sport Team Magnus entry.
***Land’s effort in the inaugural U.S. round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, meanwhile, will come with a different chassis that its racing here this weekend. Christian Land told Sportscar365 they have been provided a factory-owned Audi for the Laguna Seca event, with “Peggy Sue”, it’s IMSA-designated car, set to return to Starworks Motorsport’s shop in Florida for prep work for a likely full-season GTD effort in 2018.
***Rebellion Racing is utilizing resources from all corners of the globe for its Oreca 07 Gibson entry this weekend. Team manager Bart Hayden told Sportscar365 they’re borrowing spare parts from its WEC freight, along with a fresh batch of spares flown in from the UK, as well as equipment it kept at its Buford, Ga. workshop since its last IMSA appearance at Sebring in March.
***Post-race, the WEC spares package will be flown to Tokyo for next weekend’s race at Fuji Speedway, with 13 of the 17 crew members also leaving direct for Japan on Sunday morning. Hayden and three others will stay behind by one day in Atlanta to facilitate the freight transfers.
***Rebellion’s IMSA chassis, meanwhile, will return to the UK following this weekend’s race.
***Michael Shank Racing has post-season tests at Mid Ohio (Oct. 24) and Sebring (Nov. 7-8) scheduled to evaluate drivers for its planned Acura NSX GT3 customer program next year. It’s understood the Ohio-based team is looking to retain Andy Lally, who would be paired with a Bronze or Silver-rated driver bringing either a partial or full budget to the GTD program.
***Shank told Sportscar365 he’s expecting to remain with at least one Acura on the grid but is still working on securing the necessary funding for additional cars.
***Michael Cooper, fresh off claiming the Pirelli World Challenge SprintX title, and four-time PWC champion Johnny O’Connell are among the drivers in the paddock this weekend looking for rides next year. Both drivers are free agents following the end of Cadillac’s factory GT3 program, with 55-year-old O’Connell expected to be downgraded to Silver driver rating in 2018.