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GT World Challenge America

Las Vegas Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook from SRO America finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway…

Photo: Brian Cleary/SRO America

***After initially appearing as a Pro class entry, the No. 7 Squadra Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 has been moved to the GT3 Pro-Am class due to Martin Fuentes successfully re-obtaining Bronze* status from SRO.

***It leaves four cars in the GT3 Pro class this weekend, the same number that were present at last month’s penultimate event of the season at Road America.

***Mercedes-AMG has already clinched the inaugural global GT World Challenge title ahead of this weekend’s season finale. The German manufacturer has accumulated 13,156 points compared to Ferrari’s 9,205 based on nominated drivers’ results from the Europe, Asia and America seasons.

***Andy Soucek was full of praise for his co-driver Alvaro Parente scoring pole for Race 2 with the fastest GT3 lap of the weekend so far. “He pulled out something magical from the pocket, as usual,” said the Spaniard. “I am very honored to have been his teammate this year, it’s always a pleasure.”

***Toni Vilander said that while it was a shame that Miguel Molina won’t share the drivers’ title with him this year, he fully supports his co-driver’s move to the FIA World Endurance Championship.

“When you get the call to do WEC, you have to take it,” Vilander told Sportscar365. “It’s been his goal. I’ve been there before and then decided to come back to do something else. He needs to go. He’s young.”

***The No. 12 Ian Lacy Racing Ford Mustang GT4 of newly crowned Pirelli GT4 America Sprint Am champion Drew Staveley battled braking-related issues in the opening practice sessions. Staveley qualified 9th overall and second in class.

***Stephen Cameron Racing has swapped BMW M4 GT4 chassis after “power issues” for its SprintX car in practice. The GT4 SprintX Pro-Am championship leaders will incur a ten-grid position penalty as a result, following approval of the change by the stewards.

***Alan Brynjolfsson will not return to GT4 America competition next year, according to Park Place Motorsports’ director of operations Mike Johnson, with Brynjolfsson set to fully focus on his efforts in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. Johnson told Sportscar365 that the team, however, remains open to other potential client-based efforts in SRO America.

***Flying Lizard Motorsports will be back in SRO America, although the class and car has not yet been finalized, according to program manager Darren Law. The California-based team has fielded Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsports for Robby Foley and Michael Dinan this year.

***Brian Hughes has been hired by SRO Motorsports America as its director of operations in a new over-arching role. Hughes had previously served as SRO America’s Clerk of the Course, among other roles. 

***Sportscar365 has learned that plans are being put into place for a SRO America-run winter series at Thermal Club. A three-race championship is set to run from December-February, open to GT2, GT3 and GT4 machinery. An announcement is expected shortly.

***News on a likely title sponsorship change for GT World Challenge is expected to be announced on Sunday at the SRO’s Awards Gala. Sportscar365 understands that watchmaker Blancpain is unlikely to return as the entitlement sponsor for the three series next year.

***Upwards of 1,000 people are expected to be in attendance at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino for the end-of-year prize-giving ceremonies for all of SRO Motorsports Group’s championships worldwide, except for the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli, which concludes its season in Kyalami next month.

***Stephane Ratel is taking a wait-and-see approach to the UK’s Brexit developments, which could have a catastrophic effect on the motorsports industry should the UK Parliament deliver a ‘hard Brexit’ when it meets on Saturday.

“The problem is the uncertainty,” Ratel told Sportscar365. “When we had to confirm Silverstone on the calendar, that’s uncertainty because you could end up in a hard Brexit. The worst for us is that there’s nothing happening on the 31st of October and another six-month delay would get closer to May. Then everything gets blocked and we’re in big trouble.” 

***The Saleen Cup kicked off with its first of three races of the weekend, with Friday’s round having been rescheduled from Road America due the car’s lack of windshield wipers that forced its cancelation last month.

***A total of 20 cars have been entered although the No. 2 Saleen 1 Cup of Bryce Miller and the No. 8 car both sustained fires, with the No. 1 car of Eric Powell crashing into the first chicane in second practice and not taking part in Friday’s race.

***Saleen is planing to maintain a 20-car grid in next year’s Cup according to its director of motorsports Gabriele Cadringher, who is hoping to fill each car with two-driver lineups. “We’ve grown exponentially from six cars in Portland to 20 cars in four races,” he told Sportscar365.

***RealTime Racing team owner Peter Cunningham has ruled himself out of tackling next year’s Pikes Peak International Hillclimb as a driver. The multiple World Challenge champion has contested the last three editions of the famous Colorado event.

“After stopping the professional road racing at the end of 2016, I went and did Pikes Peak,” Cunningham told Sportscar365. “That was fun, and we performed well, but I think that I’ve done what I could there and now it’s time to give someone else a chance.”

***Cunningham hinted that the RealTime squad has some other Hillclimb events on its radar for next year.

***It’s a busy weekend for racing-related events in Las Vegas, with Monster Energy Supercross in action on Saturday evening at Sam Boyd Stadium and the final round of the second season of the World’s Fastest Gamer kicking off its 12-day elimination tour for a full-time GT4 drive in 2020.

***Tomorrow’s SRO America races will all be streamed on the series’ official website, with the first-ever GT World Challenge America double-header set for 10:55 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. PT starts, and the first races of the weekend for GT4 Sprint and GT4 SprintX/West set for 2:40 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively. 

***CBSSN will carry coverage of GT World Challenge on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET with GT4 SprintX/West action airing Oct. 27 at 2 p.m., followed immediately by the GT4 Sprint season finale.

Daniel Lloyd & Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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