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Sebring IMSA Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday notebook from Sebring International Raceway…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

***NASCAR took center stage at Sebring International Raceway on Thursday for a historic announcement that will see a Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 race car contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year as a Garage 56 effort fielded by Hendrick Motorsports. While technical details of the car were not disclosed, ACO President Pierre Fillon said it must race as a hybrid to be eligible.

***Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick was also in attendance along with NASCAR President Steve Phelps, NASCAR and IMSA chairman Jim France, GM Performance & Motorsports Vice President Jim Campbell and IMSA President John Doonan (all pictured above).

***France said discussions with the ACO for a Garage 56 berth began last August during the postponed 24 Hours of Le Mans.

***In addition to the hybrid requirement, Fillon said the NASCAR Garage 56 entry will run on TotalEnergies’ Excellium Racing 100 percent renewable fuel that has been introduced this weekend in the FIA World Endurance Championship. 

***It’s expected the car will meet the minimum lap times seen in the GTE-Am class at Le Mans.

***Matt Bell has been added to the No. 7 Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine D08 Nissan alongside the previously confirmed Mark Kvamme and Anthony Mantella. Bell has replaced Trenton Estep, whose name disappeared from the entry list on Wednesday. 

***The No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo missed Thursday’s second practice session after a brake rotor failure caused Russell Ward to make contact with the Turn 3 barriers in the morning session. It’s unclear if the team will make night practice as it undergoes making repairs.

***Trouble also hit the No. 97 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes, which was sidelined this afternoon with an oil leak while the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-05 underwent an engine change and also missed the session.

***A total of 63 drivers must complete laps in this evening’s night practice in order to be eligible to drive during periods of darkness in the race on Saturday. Click Here for the list.

***FastMD Racing rebounded from an accident in testing earlier this month at Sebring to make its first WeatherTech Championship start of the year this weekend. Sebring marks the first round of the LMP2 and LMP3 seasons for full-season points, hence some changes in teams and driver lineups.

***Andreas Roos is in his first official race in his new position as BMW M Motorsport director. Roos has replaced Mike Krack, who departed following the Rolex 24 at Daytona for the team principal role at the Aston Martin Formula 1 team. Roos, who previously worked at Audi Sport, is currently in his sixth week with BMW. 

***Roos told Sportscar365: “It was really great in the end because Mike and I had an overlap where we could do a handover, which was really helpful. This was in the end very good. I have a bit of knowledge from my past on how motorsport works; that’s not the biggest issue. But for sure you have to adapt. It’s a different OEM and different topics. But it’s fun to work and a great bunch of guys.”

***There are two 16-year-old drivers in this weekend’s race with Sebastian Montoya making his sports car racing debut in the No. 81 DragonSpeed Oreca 07 Gibson and Josh Pierson in PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ No. 11 entry. Pierson, who turned 16 following his IMSA debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, is pulling double duty in making his FIA World Endurance Championship debut with United Autosports this week.

***Sportscar365 understands that the on-track debuts for several LMDh manufacturers have been pushed back due to supply-chain delays. Acura was due to be the next manufacturer to break cover next month in what’s now believed have been rescheduled for June. 

***The new spec LMDh hybrid unit — combining Bosch’s MGU and battery from Williams Advanced Engineering — ran for the first time during Porsche’s test at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya last month, with parallel dyno programs ongoing with other manufacturers according to IMSA’s Vice President of Competition Simon Hodgson.

***Martin Frohnmaier, the director of customer projects at Bosch, revealed that an undisclosed LMDh OEM sacrificed parts in order for another OEM to complete initial dyno testing with the hybrid unit, owing to the level of sharing and cooperation between partners in the LMDh development program.

***ACO competition director Thierry Bouvet confirmed that LMDh cars will be homologated by the ACO and IMSA compared to the LMH platform, which is under the FIA and ACO’s authority. Both platforms are eligible for competition in the GTP class in the WeatherTech Championship and Hypercar class in WEC.

***Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers returned to the cockpit of a BMW for the first time in nearly a decade. Sellers raced a BMW M3 with Fall-Line Motorsports in Michelin Pilot Challenge competition in 2013.

***Sellers told Sportscar365: “It’s kind of cool, because BMW was really one of my first full-time seasons in IMSA. It’s neat to be able to kind of do the 360 back to that. All the people I knew back then have moved or been replaced though, so it’s a whole new crowd for me to learn.”

***Kay van Berlo swept the opening two Porsche Carrera Cup North America presented by The Cayman Islands races of the season on Wednesday and Thursday, with the Kelly-Moss driver claiming convincing victories in both 40-minute races. Van Berlo will now turn his attention to LMP3 duties in the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 Nissan.

Davey Euwema contributed to this report


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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