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Sebring Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook on eve of Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

***At least three cars will start from the rear of their respective fields for tomorrow’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, with both Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries and No. 8 Tower Motorsport by Starworks Oreca 07 Gibson all electing to change tires. Click Here for the provisional grid. 

***Pole-sitter and DPi points leader Ricky Taylor said Acura Team Penske has still been in “full attack” despite it being the final race in the program. “The guys are developing things right up to the last minute,” he said. “They’re not letting anything back to give us the best shot possible to win.”

***Acura is second in the DPi manufacturers’ championship — one point behind Cadillac — in its quest for back-to-back titles. With four wins this season, Acura leads any potential tie-breakers, meaning the manufacturer with the higher finishing position on Saturday will claim the title.

***The luxury automaker could end up champions in two classes as Acura currently holds a two-point lead in the GTD standings to Lexus, with Porsche in third, 13 points behind.

***Acura Team Penske and Meyer Shank Racing drivers posed for photo-ops with a Honda HA-420 HondaJet, which is parked in the paddock this weekend (pictured above). The light business jet is produced by Honda Aircraft Company in Greensboro, N.C. The eight-seat jet starts at $5.3 million, considered one of the most affordable offerings in the industry.

***Longtime Honda Performance Development engineer Allen Miller will be retiring following tomorrow’s race. Miller, who currently holds the ‘Race Team Leader’ position within the California-based company, follows current HPD President Ted Klaus into retirement, with Klaus to be replaced by technical director David Salters, effective Dec. 1.

***Bill Auberlen has reportedly tested negative for COVID-19 after initially presenting symptoms earlier this week that resulted in the BMW veteran sitting out this weekend’s race as a precaution. Nick Yelloly, who flew from the UK on Thursday morning, turned his first laps in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 in night practice.

***Laurens Vanthoor relinquished qualifying duties of the No. 912 Porsche entry for the first time since the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2019, with Neel Jani having qualified and set to start the car in sixth in GT Le Mans.

***Jani is not expected to be in the car’s full driver rotation in the race, with the ex-Porsche LMP1 star explaining to Sportscar365 that he’s here to “help Larry and Earl have a better strategy.”

***Owing to the last-minute nature of his drive, Jani is wearing Matt Campbell’s fire suit this weekend, stating that it “more or less” fits him. Campbell, along with Mathieu Jaminet, are in Paul Ricard for this weekend’s GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup season finale.

***Antonio Garcia said his GT Le Mans class pole run, blitzing the field by 0.660 seconds, was the result of “a perfect lap.” The Spaniard improved on co-driver Jordan Taylor’s lap record set here in the July sprint race.

***Andy Lally is racing with a partially torn ACL and a meniscus injury that he suffered in a jiu jitsu sparring match just prior to the previous round at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

***Patrick Byrne, who along with Guy Cosmo and Don Yount make up Performance Tech Motorsports’ LMP2 driver lineup this weekend, said he is thrilled to be back behind the wheel of a prototype after primarily driving GT machinery in the recent past.

***Byrne and Cosmo are evaluating all opportunities for their 2021 plans but expressed a specific interest in remaining in the WeatherTech Championship paddock.

***Drivers have indicated that the track conditions have changed significantly throughout the buildup to the race following heavy rain in the days preceding on-track running. Several drivers told Sportscar365 that this has been the ‘greenest’ track surface they’ve ever encountered on the 3.7-mile airfield circuit.

***The No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan lineup consists of Jack Hawksworth, Aaron Telitz, and Kyle Kirkwood, who each have the distinction of having a championship in what is now called Indy Pro 2000 on their CV, although each driver won the title in a different era of the series.

***Hawksworth was the victor in 2012, the final year the championship was known as Star Mazda, Telitz was the 2016 champion of what was then called Pro Mazda, while Kirkwood is the reigning titleholder under the Indy Pro 2000 moniker.

***Lexus will be seeking its first Endurance Cup win on Saturday following its runner-up class finish at Motul Petit Le Mans, which Hawksworth said was a “big step” in the program.

***Riley Motorsports is poised to depart the GT Daytona class next year, with the team reportedly set to field two Ligier JS P320 Nissans in the new-for-2021 LMP3 class. Jim Cox and Dylan Murry have already been confirmed as the first pairing, with current GTD client Gar Robinson linked to the second entry.

***Bill Riley declined to comment when asked about his team’s WeatherTech Championship plans for 2021, other than confirming Cox and Murry, as previously announced.

***Riley said they plan to take delivery of their first GR Supra GT4 next week and is “working hard” to finalize a second car for Michelin Pilot Challenge competition next year. “We’ve looked at the car when it’s been on display and we’ve gone over to Salisbury to see the car at TRD and we’re really excited about it,” he told Sportscar365.

***NBC and NBCSN will combine to carry all 12 hours of the race live, beginning Saturday at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN before shifting to network television for a three-hour window between 3-6 p.m. before returning to the sports network for the conclusion through 10:30 p.m.

***A total of 12 NBC Sports IMSA, NASCAR and IndyCar commentators will call the action throughout the day with Leigh Diffey, Kevin Lee, Paul Tracy, Townsend Bell, Calvin Fish, AJ Allmendinger and Brian Till in the booth and pit lane reporters Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Parker Kligerman, James Hinchcliffe and Dillon Welch.

***International and radio coverage will be carried by Radio Show Limited’s John Hindhaugh, Jeremy Shaw and Shea Adam.

John Dagys contributed to this report

Ryan Myrehn is an Indianapolis-based broadcaster and reporter. In addition to his work covering primarily domestic sports car racing for Sportscar365, he is a pit reporter for SRO America's TV coverage as well as for IndyCar Radio. Myrehn, a graduate of DePauw University, is also the host of Sportscar365's “Double Stint” Podcast.

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