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GT World Challenge America

COTA Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday SRO America notebook from Circuit of The Americas…

Photo: Regis Lefebure/SRO

***The No. 8 K-PAX Bentley Continental GT3 of Guy Cosmo and Patrick Byrne lost time in opening practice when the car’s right rear wheel came loose, resulting in a red flag to retrieve Byrne’s Bentley that stopped on track.

***Both the Bentley and the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, which missed Practice 1 due to a broken diffuser, returned to action in the afternoon session that ran without any major incident.

***Several GT World Challenge America powered by AWS teams have voiced concerns over the SRO’s class-wide maximum camber settings that have been imposed this weekend. It sees a maximum front camber of 4 degrees and a maximum rear camber of 3.5 degrees, which causes varying results to cars from the six different GT3 manufacturers entered.

***K-PAX has been the most vocal, with program manager Darren Law telling Sportscar365 that it has a negative effect on their Bentley.

***Maximum camber settings and minimum tire pressures were introduced towards the end of the 2019 season in response to several tire-related issues for selected teams in both GTWC America and Pirelli GT4 America. IMSA has imposed similar mandates for its competitors, which run on Michelins.

***The No. 20 Wright Motorsports Porsche of Max Root and Fred Poordad is the same chassis that was driven by Scott Hargrove and Porsche factory driver Patrick Long in the series last year. The Ohio-based team has scaled back to a single GTWC America entry although has full-season Porsches in both the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama.

***None of the four Ferrari 488 GT3 cars are running in 2020 Evo specification this weekend, although it’s likely several teams will install upgrade kits to their cars by the next round at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in May, once SRO’s BoP is established for the car.

***Newly announced Racers Edge Motorsports drivers Trent Hindman and Shelby Blackstock took a 1,400-mile, 22-hour road trip from Los Angeles to Austin in an Acura NSX in advance of this weekend’s season-opener.

***GT3 and GT4 cars will carry GPS devices for the first time this year, as the first step towards the possible rollout of virtual safety cars in the future. Cars in GTWC Europe and Asia have been equipped with the devices to monitor speeds while under Full Course Yellows, although Sportscar365 understands that there are no current plans to implement that in either series this year.

***None of SRO Motorsports Group’s European staff are on-site this weekend, in what Sportscar365 understands to have been a precautionary self-imposed travel restriction by the company in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. It includes company founder and CEO Stephane Ratel, as well as sporting director Jacquie Groom, who along with several PR and operations staff that had planned to be in attendance this weekend.

***A SRO America spokesperson denied such claims when asked by Sportscar365 on the reason for the European staff’s absence.

***An announcement on the likely cancelation of the GTWC Europe season-opener at Monza is understood to be imminent, which will put SRO’s contingency plan into place that will see the GTWC Europe Sprint Cup season finale at Barcelona turn into the Endurance Cup finale in October and the Endurance Cup season instead kicking off at Silverstone in May.

***All events at Monza have been canceled through at least March 13, with the GTWC Europe season-opener no longer on the circuit’s official website calendar. Italy, meanwhile, has imposed a ban of spectators for all sporting events in the country through at least April 3, with the Rome E-Prix having been canceled on Friday.

***The country has been the epicenter of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak, with more than 3,000 people infected and 100 deaths so far.

***Next week’s Balance of Performance testing and official pre-season test at Paul Ricard, however, is understood not to be in jeopardy of cancellation. 

***An announcement on potential GTWC manufacturer entires is not expected to be made this weekend. Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG contested the first-ever global GT World Challenge last year, with Ratel having been hopeful for additional manufacturers. SRO had increased the entry fee for 2020.

***The FIA confirmed on Friday that the 2022 GT3 regulations have been finalized, including the definition of road car eligibility criteria. While not yet publicly released, the regulations have been distributed to manufacturers and national sporting authorities. 

***There has been confusion over the tire allotments in GT4 Sprint and SprintX this weekend, which has seen SRO confirm that teams will be allowed to use up to four sets for the entire event. The initial rule, which will now be enforced starting at St. Petersburg, states that only two sets can be used between qualifying and the races, with tires carried over from the previous round permitted in practice.

***It became clear on Thursday that this rule would be an issue due to the category’s switch to Pirelli’s new PZero DHB tire for this year. 

***Porsche’s 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport is utilizing a new side window intake. The intake, which was recently approved by SRO, will be making its global debut this weekend on all of the current-generation Porsche GT4 entries. 

***Only the No. 46 Nolasport and No. 54 Black Swan Racing entries are previous-gen Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MRs this weekend that also do not have the intake update.

***Drew Staveley (Sprint) and Kenton Koch (SprintX) led the way in Friday’s practice, ahead of the first rounds of the season for both series on Saturday.

***The new Honda Civic Type-R is making its competition debut in the TC class, with entries from VGMC Racing and Team HMA. Gradient Racing, which has been commissioned by Honda Performance Development for the build of the cars, has an initial batch of six cars, with “substantially more” planned. 

***BMW’s new M2 CS is also on display in the paddock, although not expected to be eligible to race in TC America this year according to series manager Jim Jordan. Jordan, however, confirmed to Sportscar365 that the car could take part in official practice sessions as part of potential evaluation for 2021.

***SRO America has announced its support of the Operation Motorsport Program Foundation, which puts American and Canadian service members and veterans into team and organization roles in the sports car racing paddock.

“It’s extremely important that we do our part to help the recovery of the brave women and men who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedoms and way of life,” said SRO America President and CEO Greg Gill.

***Live coverage of this weekend’s GTWC America races will be streamed on the GT World YouTube page. Saturday’s race starts at 1:35 p.m. CT, with Sunday’s round at 1:15 p.m. CT. TV coverage will be available on CBS Sports Network, beginning Sunday at 9 p.m. ET. 

***The SRO America commentary team of Greg Creamer and Calvin Fish, plus pit lane reporter Ryan Myrehn, will again be calling the races this season.

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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