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Sebring Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook as WeatherTech Championship teams unload at Sebring…

Photo: Michelin

***IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams unloaded Friday afternoon for their second race back, although Saturday’s Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring will feature the first time LMP2 cars have featured in the series since January’s season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, with GT Daytona teams facing a different points scenario.

***Sebring marks the start of the full-season LMP2 championship, which is currently slated for six rounds, with the Rolex 24 only having counted towards Michelin Endurance Cup points. GTD teams, meanwhile, will only score WeatherTech Sprint Cup points here this weekend, which has resulted in the absence of Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura NSX GT3 Evos.

***It marks the first IMSA race that the Ohio-based team, with an eligible car, has forgone since its move to sports car racing in 2004, initially with Grand-Am.

***Team co-owner Mike Shank pulled double-duty between the IMSA round at Daytona and NTT IndyCar Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway two weeks ago, a feat that AIM Vasser Sullivan team co-principal Jimmy Vasser nor NBC Sports analyst/AVS driver Townsend Bell will undertake this weekend either.

***Bell will be fully committed to the No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3 this weekend, with AVS co-owner James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan set to be in Iowa on Friday and Sebring on Saturday, with Vasser remaining in Iowa for the entire double-header IndyCar weekend. 

***There have been increasing questions whether the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and the GT-only round at Lime Rock Park will go ahead as planned in early September amid New York and Connecticut’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals from highly impacted COVID-19 states, including Florida, North Carolina, California and Texas.

***A total of 22 states are now subject to the mandate, which is calculated when a state’s COVID-19 positivity rate exceeds 10 percent over a seven-day rolling average. The Finger Lakes’ region of New York, where Watkins Glen International is located, has seen a slight increase from 0.8 percent to 1.4 percent in positivity rate in recent days.

***NASCAR moved its event at Watkins Glen, originally scheduled for Aug. 16, to Daytona International Speedway as a result of the restrictions, with Sportscar365 understanding that the situation for IMSA remains in flux, with no final decision taken. 

***Corvette Racing, which is seeking its 101st win in IMSA competition, completed a two-day test at Sebring in February, which included the rollout of its FIA World Endurance Championship-spec car that later took part in the Six Hours of Circuit of The Americas.

***Tommy Milner explained that the only major difference to the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R in endurance spec for the Twelve Hours of Sebring and in sprint form for this weekend’s two-hour and 40-minute race is the brake package. 

***Oliver Gavin, who along with Antonio Garcia stayed in Florida in a rented house between races, and prior to that a 14-day voluntarily quarantine, said he’s completed more than 1,000 miles on his bike during the three-plus week period.

***Mazda’s Jonathan Bomarito, who has been in Tennessee between events with family, said he was pleased with the pace of the Mazda RT24-P in drying conditions at Daytona, with Multimatic and engine tuner AER making “good improvements” on the traction control since last year’s rain-soaked Twelve Hours of Sebring, which saw the Mazda DPis struggle when compared to the Cadillac DPi-V.Rs.

***Rain is expected to again play a factor this weekend, with scattered thunderstorms forecast both for this evening and all day tomorrow.

***Team Hardpoint is set for its first double-duty weekend, with Spencer Pumpelly and Rob Ferriol having taken part in Friday’s Advent Health 120 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race and will stay on for the WeatherTech Championship event. The team made its GT Daytona class debut at Daytona as part of an expanded effort for the remainder of the season, racing GT3 and GT4-spec Audi R8 LMS cars.

“I think Spencer said it best, the GT3 is like the GT4 on fast-forward,” Ferriol said. “Similar chassis balance, identical cockpit, only much, much faster.”

***Both Hardpoint and Wright Motorsports completed testing at Sebring earlier this month prior to the season restart at Daytona, once IMSA’s testing ban was lifted on July 1. They are believed to be the only WeatherTech Championship teams to have gotten laps at Sebring following the lockdown.

***The No. 16 Wright Porsche 911 GT3 R is back to its traditional livery this weekend after carrying a vinyl American flag wrap on it roof in the 4th of July race at Daytona.

***Wright driver Ryan Hardwick used the down time between Daytona and Sebring to visit the newly opened 1st Phorm headquarters in Fenton, Mo. 1st Phorm is a longtime partner of Hardwick and title sponsor on the team’s Porsche this year.

***Performance Tech Motorsports, which makes its return to the IMSA paddock, has partnered with VB Enviro Care, using its products to sanitize the air and surfaces in the team’s paddock area. VB Enviro Care was introduced to the team through driver and surgeon Dr. Robert Masson, who has been using the products at his workplace, the Masson Spine Institute.

***Blake Mount, one of the team’s IMSA Prototype Challenge drivers, has elected not to travel to Sebring this week after coming in close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19. “I am extremely sad to not be racing at Sebring but I couldn’t actively avoid my doctor’s recommendations,” Mount said.

***Performance Tech was one of three American teams to have dropped off the entry list for the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Friday. The Florida-based squad was due to team up with a European operation for the LMP2 effort, gained via Cameron Cassels’ Trueman Award from last year. 

***GEAR Racing and Rick Ware Racing have also pulled the plug on its Le Mans efforts, with both teams also current absent from the IMSA paddock. It leaves Risi Competizione (GTE-Pro) and WeatherTech Racing (GTE-Am) as the only two U.S.-based teams that will attempt to take part in the French endurance classic, which is slated to take place on Sept. 19-20.

***Team Penske will be competing in eight different races this weekend, in the only time this year where all five of its motorsports operations (IMSA, IndyCar, NASCAR Cup and Xfinity, Australian Supercars) will be in action on the same weekend. The massive effort accounts for 13 drivers and approximately 39,010 miles of travel, if one could attend all events, beginning travel at Penske’s North Carolina base. (Mooresville -> Iowa -> Sydney -> Texas -> Sebring -> Iowa -> Sydney -> Texas -> Mooresville).

***Jordan Taylor revealed that he’s received an offer to drive an ARCA car in next month’s NASCAR triple-header event at Daytona’s Road Course, which has replaced Watkins Glen on its schedule. The Corvette Racing driver said he’s also had a “confusing” offer to take part in the NASCAR Cup Series race and indicated it would require him bringing budget.

***Fellow GTLM driver Nick Tandy, an avid NASCAR fan, has been another IMSA driver that is pushing for a drive, owing to his experience of the 3.56-mile oval/road course layout.

***AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth, meanwhile, admitted that he came “quite close” to making his NASCAR oval debut this year although COVID-19 has derailed those opportunities. Hawksworth took part in last year’s Xfinity Series round at Mid-Ohio in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, finishing 15th in his first stock car racing start.

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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