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Road Atlanta Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Thursday notebook from Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta…

Photo: IMSA

***A total of 31 cars are entered for this weekend’s 23rd running of Motul Petit Le Mans. While the 10-hour race is being held in October as usual, this edition marks the first time Petit has not hosted the final round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

***A date clash with ADAC GT Masters has forced Grasser Racing Team’s No. 11 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo to skip Petit Le Mans, round three of the Michelin Endurance Cup. According to a statement from the team, the car is expected to return for Sebring.

***Franck Perera and Steijn Schothorst, who are two of Grasser’s MEC drivers, also race full-time in GT Masters which is at the Red Bull Ring this weekend. GRT is still present at Road Atlanta with some of its crew supporting the Magnus Racing GTD Lamborghini.

***Team Hardpoint confirmed its lineup for the event on Wednesday which features owner/driver Rob Ferriol alongside Markus Winkelhock and Andrew Davis. Ferriol’s WeatherTech Sprint Cup co-driver Spencer Pumpelly was unavailable due to his pre-existing Michelin Endurance Cup commitments with GRT Magnus.

***A total of 26 Bronze or Silver-rated drivers are required to complete laps in night practice tonight  Click Here for the list  

***Alessandro Balzan has replaced Toni Vilander in Scuderia Corsa’s lineup, marking the three-time IMSA champion’s first WeatherTech Championship start since the Rolex 24 at Daytona. “I have been with the team at some of the races helping as a spotter,” said Balzan “I am looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the red, white and blue Ferrari this week at Road Atlanta.”

***Cooper MacNeil is coming off winning his third Ferrari Challenge North America title last weekend at Sebring International Raceway. The No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 missed the last two rounds due to Cooper’s focus on Ferrari Challenge. The car has since received a Balance of Performance break, which is understood to have factored into the initial decision to skip the Mid-Ohio race.

***It appears Vilander will not contest any more races with the team this year due to complications of “COVID-19 restrictions and quarantine requirements on both sides of the Atlantic” according to a team statement. “We hope to work with Toni again once the COVID-19 pandemic is in our rearview mirror,” the statement said.

***The BoP for DPi has remained largely unchanged since its last round at Mid-Ohio, with the only change coming with a 3-liter increase in fuel capacity for the Mazda RT24-P. GT Le Mans and GT Daytona BoP remains the same from last weekend’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

***DPi and LMP2 teams have had a change of Michelin tire compounds compared to last month’s six-hour enduro, with the prototypes back on the medium tire for the first time since the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which was won by Wayne Taylor Racing. GT Daytona class cars remain on the Michelin Pilot Sport GT S9M as they ran six weeks ago.

***WTR’s Briscoe, who along with Renger van der Zande head into the event with a three-point lead in DPi, believes it could be a benefit to their Cadillac DPi-V.R. “We’re going to go into it needing to learn about the tire and how it performs differently to what we had at the six-hour,” he said. “I expect it to be good for us.”

***Scott Dixon, who has rejoined the duo this weekend for the first time since their Rolex 24 win, said his participation was never in doubt despite the NTT IndyCar Series season not coming to a close until later this month at St. Petersburg. 

***Colin Braun is making his third LMP2 start of the season with a third different team, teaming up with Performance Tech Motorsports, which has returned to action for the first time since Road America. Braun became available following Era Motorsport’s withdrawal from the remainder of the year due to an injury for Dwight Merriman.

***Matt Bell, who has teamed up with Braun and Jim McGuire in the No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson, will be pulling double duty this week as the Englishman pursues the IMSA Prototype Challenge championship with K2R Motorsports. 

***McGuire, the CEO of AERO Advanced Paint Technology, is making his WeatherTech Championship and LMP2 debut in a “very last minute” deal.  “Matt and I ran four seasons together in an LMP3 in Europe, Asia and North America and have had a goal to get in a P2 at some point,” he said.

***This weekend marks the first time since 2017 that Porsche has not brought a retro livery to Petit Le Mans. The factory GTLM squad campaigned Mobil 1 design from the Porsche 911 GT1-98 in 2018, prior to the popular Coca-Cola colors adorned on the cars last year.

***While having been canceled this year due to the pandemic, a taste of the Luftgekühlt experience can be found in the infield this weekend, with a number of air-cooled Porsche road and race cars on display at the Porscheplatz.

***A new mural has sprung up under Road Atlanta’s Fox Bridge for Hispanic Heritage Month. The vibrant painting by local artist Ashley Dopson depicts the cars of famous Hispanic sports car drivers Juan Manuel Fangio II (Argentina), Luis Mendez (Dominican Republic), Antonio Garcia (Spain) and Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia). View images of the mural here.

***Road Atlanta circuit president and general manager Rick Humphrey said: “In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and the diverse backgrounds of the legends who have raced here, we’re proud to display this Hispanic heritage mural for the teams and fans to see as a tribute to Hispanic and Latino culture Hispanic drivers and racing personnel are a part of Michelin Raceway’s history, and we’re thankful for the impacts they have made and continue to make.”

John Dagys and Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report

Ryan Myrehn is an Indianapolis-based journalist and sportscaster, covering IMSA and Pirelli World Challenge. Myrehn, a graduate of DePauw University, is also the host of Sportscar365's “Double Stint” Podcast.

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