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Sebring Wednesday Notebook

Sportscar365’s first notebook of weekend for season-ending Twelve Hours of Sebring…

Photo: Jim Williams Twitter

***Fans were treated to a track walk on Wednesday afternoon at Sebring International Raceway, in the first-of-its kind opportunity for the public to get an up-and-close impression of the historic 3.7-mile airfield circuit ahead of on-track activity for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

***As has been the case for the majority of the season, spectator attendance is permitted this weekend although with social distancing and mandatory mask-wearing protocols in effect. The paddock has remained closed to fans, although media are allowed inside the ‘bubble’ for the first time since the return of racing in July.

***The 12-hour race has previously only been held once outside of the traditional March date in its 68-year history, with the 1967 running having been held on April 1. This weekend marks the first time the event has been rescheduled and first as a season finale for IMSA.

***Earl Bamber is listed in both of the factory Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries this weekend following the team’s decision to opt for three-driver lineups in its factory GT Le Mans operation, which will conclude following Saturday’s race.

***Sportscar365 understands that Porsche’s decision to put Neel Jani in the No. 912 car this weekend is based on the the likelihood of the Swiss driver being part of its FIA World Endurance Championship GTE-Pro program next year. Sebring is currently scheduled as the 2021 WEC season season-opener.

***Jordan Taylor, who recently clinched the GT Le Mans title with Corvette Racing and co-driver Antonio Garcia, said he can’t “pick one over the other” in the battle for the DPi championship, which will likely be played out between his father’s Wayne Taylor Racing operation and Team Penske’s No. 7 Acura ARX-05, co-driven by brother Ricky.

“Watching our car is stressful and watching them is stressful,” he said. “It’s not really fun watching them race, especially going to Sebring where they are separated by a couple of points. It’ll be good and it’s be great for the fans. If I were watching as a fan, this is exactly what I’d want. You want the championship to come down to the wire. It should be a good fight.”

***Max Angelelli has returned to the IMSA paddock for the first time since Road America. The longtime Wayne Taylor Racing co-owner sold his shares in the team to Wayne Taylor, marking the end of an era for the championship-winning Italian former driver.

***Angelelli, who is at Sebring as a representative for Dallara, also manages Ryan Briscoe, who is among a number of drivers on the fence looking for rides next year following WTR’s decision not to retain Briscoe or Renger van der Zande.

***Multiple paddock sources have indicated reports of Chip Ganassi Racing fielding a Cadillac DPi-V.R next year, in what would come as a significant boost to the DPi class, which is set to lose at least two-full season entries.

***Inter Europol Competition has been utilizing one of Era Motorsports’ Oreca 07 Gibson chassis despite having forged a partnership with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, which has a second car in its stable. Team manager Sascha Fassbender told Sportscar365: “I did the deal with Bobby [Oergel, PR1/Mathiasen team principal] and I was surprised it was Era’s car!”

***The German-based, Polish-flagged team was delayed by one day arriving into Atlanta for its IMSA debut last month after initially being denied boarding for their flight. Fassbender credited IMSA and motorsports attorney Dustin Hesseltine for their rapid response in getting his crew approved to enter the U.S.

***Hesseltine told Sportscar365 that their government contacts continue to be “incredibly supportive” of the personnel needing to enter the country for IMSA events from nations that are still on travel restrictions that were imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump in March. 

***Inter Europol is a Polish-based chain of bakeries that supplies products to supermarkets, hotels and restaurants throughout Europe.

***The Heart of Racing won the New Zealand Endurance Championship last weekend with drivers Darren Kelly and Alex Riberas, who along with team co-owner Gabe Newell, have remained based in New Zealand since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Newell established a team for the championship, having shipped in a dedicated Aston Martin Vantage GT3 for the campaign.

***Porsche’s ‘Red, White and Thank You’ liveries for its GTLM finale marks the fifth special design to be carried on the CORE autosport-run entries in the program’s seven-year history.

***It includes the one-off “Mission 2014. Our Return” livery run in its debut race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, followed by the Porsche 911 GT1-98-inspired liveries that ran at Motul Petit Le Mans in 2018, the Brumos Racing tribute designs utilized in multiple races in 2019 and the Coca-Cola throwback designs featured at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta last year.

***Despite ending its factory GTLM program, Porsche looks set to have an increase in customer entries in GTD next year, with a “huge” amount of interest among teams wanting to run the Porsche 911 GT3 R according to Head of Porsche Motorsport Fritz Enzinger.

***It would build on the existing lone full-season entry from Wright Motorsports and Pfaff Motorsports’ full-time return next year in what could see as many as five season-long Porsches in GTD.

***Sportscar365 understands that the newly forged Team Hardpoint/Earl Bamber Motorsport alliance could be be among the new teams fielding cars next year although Pascal Zurlinden, Porsche’s director of factory motorsport, would not confirm specific additions.

“We have many requests from customers to join GTD, even new customers which will come on top that we can’t speak about yet, but we are working on it,” Zurlinden told Sportscar365. “We’ll see some GT4 cars and [also the launch of] Carrera Cup North America, which will run in IMSA and is a big step for us.”

***Both Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor, meanwhile, are believed to have already secured full-season rides in GTD with Porsche customer teams.

***Zurlinden — who hasn’t been to a IMSA race since January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona due to travel restrictions — meanwhile, will be on-site this weekend in support of Porsche’s sendoff.

***Team Penske is set to hand over its Acura ARX-05 machinery to WTR and Meyer Shank Racing on Sunday morning, which will see each team take delivery of two DPi chassis. MSR has already scheduled its first test with the car, for Dec. 8-9 at Daytona, where all four of its drivers for the Rolex 24 are expected to be in attendance.

***Despite Helio Castroneves having signed with the team for a six-race NTT IndyCar Series program in 2021, Dane Cameron is linked to MSR’s remaining full-season seat alongside the already-confirmed Olivier Pla. AJ Allmendinger will be the team’s fourth driver for Daytona.

***Alexander Rossi, meanwhile, has been rumored to be WTR’s third driver alongside full-time pilots Ricky Taylor and Felipe Albuquerque, who are expected to be formally announced by the team later this month.

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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