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VIR Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook ahead of this weekend’s IMSA round at Virginia…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

***A total of 21 entries are listed for the IMSA Michelin GT Challenge at VIR. The number is equal to the grid size for the other GT-only round held of 2019, held at Lime Rock Park last month.

***Both Meyer Shank Racing-run Acura NSX GT3 Evos hit trouble in Friday’s opening practice session, with the No. 57 Heinricher Racing machine suffering a suspension issue and the GT Daytona points-leading No. 86 car encountering a mapping issue, per IMSA Radio.

***The issues didn’t prevent W Series race winner Alice Powell from getting her first taste of the 3.27-mile, 17-turn VIR road course in the Heinricher car. Powell, who is making her IMSA debut this weekend, completed 19 laps on Friday.

***While Scott Hargrove returns to the wheel of the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, no official word has been given if the Porsche Selected Driver will be in the car for the final two races of the season.

***Both Dennis Olsen and Matt Campbell, who claimed victories alongside full-season driver Zach Robichon at Lime Rock Park and Road America, are unavailable this weekend due to their Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli commitments at Suzuka.

***VIR was the site of Hargrove’s first-ever car race in 2011, competing in the Skip Barber Racing School summer series. “VIR is a highlight from the driver’s seat, so I’m definitely excited to be back racing here with the team,” said the Canadian.

***GT Le Mans class points leader Earl Bamber also has interests in Suzuka this weekend, with his Earl Bamber Motorsport team running a factory-supported Porsche for Mathieu Jaminet, Sven Mueller and Romain Dumas.

***GTLM teams will have ten sets of Michelin ‘confidential’ tires to utilize this weekend, with GTD competitors limited to eight sets of Michelin Pilot Sport GT S9M commercial tires.

***Additional GT3-spec Mercedes could be on the grid, according to the manufacturer’s head of customer racing Stefan Wendl.  “We have several interested customers coming out of our own [GT4] lineups and also from external teams or drivers. We now need to fit everything together,” he told Sportscar365.

***Wendl indicated that programs will need to come into place in the next four-to-five weeks.

***It follows Friday’s confirmation of the continuation of Riley Motorsports’ GTD program next year, in partnership with Robinson Racing, which will see Gar Robinson and Lawson Aschenbach at the wheel of a Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo for the full season.

***Jeroen Bleekemolen has found an unorthodox way to prepare for Sunday’s race, by competing in the NASCAR Late Model 100 at South Boston Speedway on Saturday night. The Riley GTD driver will make his short oval debut behind the wheel of a car prepared by Lee Faulk Racing.

***Bleekemolen said: “We race at VIR every year with IMSA and we have been talking about visiting the South Boston Speedway on Saturday night pretty much every year. We are all very passionate about racing and the whole team wanted to see me race. I also thought it would be a lot of fun to try something different.”

***Members of the Riley Motorsports team, including Bleekemolen’s co-driver Ben Keating, are set to attend the race.

***AIM Vasser Sullivan driver Townsend Bell is making two trips to VIR this weekend as he juggles the IMSA round with his IndyCar commentary duties for NBCSN. Bell was on-site at VIR on Friday but will travel to St. Louis to take the mic for the Indy race at Gateway Motorsports Park, before returning to Virginia on Sunday.

***Michelin has been named the “official tire technology partner” of PlayStation’s Gran Turismo franchise, per an announcement made on Friday. The multi-year agreement sees Michelin become the official tire supplier of FIA-certified Gran Turismo Championships, with Michelin-branded tires featured in the game.

***WeatherTech Championship DPi points co-leader Juan Pablo Montoya was on-hand for the partnership’s launch event held on Broadway in New York City.

***Qualifying for this weekend’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race was canceled because of inclement weather. Teams were given 30 minutes to nominate their starting drivers for Saturday’s two-hour race.

***The Pilot Challenge grid sees the return of the No. 8 eEuroparts Audi R8 LMS GT4 which missed the previous three rounds. Gunnar Jeanette and Rodrigo Sales will be sharing the wheel.

***Kuno Wittmer set the fastest lap in Friday practice for the Virginia is for Racing Lovers Grand Prix, with a time of 1:53.331 behind the wheel of the No. 75 Compass Racing McLaren 570S GT4.

***Interest in the Ford GT Mk II track day car has been “unprecedented” with Multimatic set to close sales inquiries on Aug. 31. A total of 45 cars will only be built, with interest understood to be well beyond that number.

“The demand for the Mk II was so high that we could have sold the entire production run on the day of the Goodwood reveal,” said Multimatic President & Chief Operating Officer, Raj Nair.

***There’s a 50 percent chance of precipitation on Saturday, although the forecasts are less severe with no thunderstorms predicted.

John Dagys contributed to this report

 

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

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