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Road Atlanta Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ first notebook from Michelin Endurance Challenge weekend at Road Atlanta…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

***Saturday’s Grand Prix at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta is back down to a 28-car field following the withdrawal of Performance Tech Motorsports’ Oreca 07 Gibson from the LMP2 class due to COVID-19-related circumstances.

***Cameron Cassels, the team’s principal LMP2 driver, took to Facebook explaining that he’s so far been unsuccessful in being granted an exemption to Canada’s 14-day mandatory quarantine upon return from the U.S. “My first day outside of quarantine would be December if I were to compete in all the IMSA events this year,” he wrote. “As a husband, and father of four children, that’s a hard no to that scenario.”

***Cassels, who was also forced to pull out of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, currently holds a one-point lead in the season-long championship standings entering this weekend’s race, which sees only two LMP2 cars in action.

***2019 Team USA Scholarship winner Scott Huffaker makes his WeatherTech Championship and LMP2 debut this weekend as the third driver in PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ Oreca. The 20-year-old has a long-standing relationship with the Bobby Oergel-led squad, with stints in Pacific F2000 and Formula Pro USA F4 prior to IMSA Prototype Challenge with the team.

***Colin Braun is taking part in his first IMSA LMP2 race since winning January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona with DragonSpeed. Braun, who has been winless at Road Atlanta as a driver, gets his first of three planned outings in Era Motorsports’ Oreca, whom he has been serving as a driver coach.

***Despite not initially appearing on the entry list, Jeff Westphal is back in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 this weekend alongside full-season drivers Toni Vilander and Cooper MacNeil.

***Filipe Albuquerque returns to Action Express Racing for the first time since the Rolex 24. In that time period, the Portuguese driver has claimed four LMP2 class wins out of five combined starts in the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series, along with four poles.

***IMSA will unveil the 2021 WeatherTech Championship schedule and “series enhancements” on Wednesday in a virtual ‘State of the Series’ address. Sportscar365 understands the address was initially due to take place at Road Atlanta this weekend, although has been delayed.

***While set to get his first laps in the Lexus RC F GT3 on Friday, Daniel Morad had a seat-fitting at AIM Vasser Sullivan last week in the buildup to his team debut. “I’ve spent a few days at the shop getting as familiar as possible with the car and controls so I’m ready to hit the ground running,” he said.

***It’s unclear if Morad will remain with the team for Motul Petit Le Mans and the Twelve Hours of Sebring, with Aaron Telitz set to return to the No. 14 Lexus for those races, as well as the remaining sprint rounds.

***While being a six-hour race, LMP2 and GTD teams are mandated to run three-driver lineups per the sporting regulations. There is no such requirement in DPi or GTLM.

***Jack Hawksworth admitted that AVS was on the “wrong side” of the strategy at VIR but said he felt like they didn’t have a car for anything better than a fourth place class finish, which has put he and Meyer Shank Racing’s Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry tied for the GTD points lead.

***McMurry will be making his 150th race start on Saturday. The 22-year-old Phoenix native calls Road Atlanta his home track as he has “more hours [there] than anywhere else.”

***Multimatic has utilized its new driver-in-the-loop simulator in Detroit for the first time ahead of this weekend. Initial evaluation on the state-of-the-art nine-degree of freedom motion simulator was undertaken by Scott Maxwell, the company’s lead sim driver.

“The DiM is truly amazing, super sensitive and adjustable,” Maxwell said. “It gives a great road feel and the graphics are awesome.  It’s a major step-up from our other machines and will, for sure, enhance our pre-race and overall vehicle development capabilities. The Mazda models are good to go so strap the Mazda boys in the seat right away.”

***Juan Pablo Montoya said he “has no idea” what his racing future holds for 2021 but admitted he would jump at a ride if it’s an “opportunity worth doing.” Montoya said: “I don’t want to stop. I love racing. I still want to try to win Le Mans. We have to see if the opportunity is there.”

***Fellow Acura Team Penske teammate Ricky Taylor, who is employed by Honda Performance Development, said the complications of the closed paddock has made negotiations more difficult. “It’s another one of those weird things where you’re not able to walk around the paddock and go meet people either,” he said.

***Sportscar365 understands that Acura is likely to announce its 2021 DPi team lineup at Mid-Ohio later this month. Meyer Shank Racing appears set to campaign at least one Acura ARX-05, although questions remain if a second or potentially third team or car could be in the works.

***This weekend’s race, the replacement for the canceled Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, is not the first six-hour IMSA event to be held at Road Atlanta. Al Holbert and Elliott Forbes-Robinson drove a Porsche 911 Carrera RSR to overall victory in a six-hour enduro in 1974.

***Road Atlanta is the home track for Porsche Cars North America, which is headquartered near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. CORE autosport, which operates the IMSA-based Porsche GT Team, is based in Rock Hill, S.C., 188 miles from the track.

***The Chevrolet Corvette C8.R will be added to the next iRacing build, which is due out next week. It is set to join the Dallara P217 Gibson, which becomes the first current-gen LMP2 car in the sim that features a number of IMSA machinery across multiple series. 

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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