***Daniel Mancinelli, who scored a surprise overall pole for Saturday’s GT season-opener, has been upgraded from GTA to the GT class by WC Vision. The 28-year-old Italian, who has past Ferrari Challenge and Italian GT experience, is Silver rated by the FIA and makes his Pirelli World Challenge debut with TR3 Racing.
***While Mancinelli’s amateur status in PWC didn’t even last a race, it was not the first time a GTA classified driver had scored overall pole in the series. Nick Mancuso claimed top overall honors in qualifhing at Barber Motorsports Park in 2014, also in a Ferrari, before being upgraded to GT later in the season. Bryan Heitkotter, meanwhile, was the most recent driver to have moved from GTA to GT, based on his overall results in 2015.
***Competitors were greeted to significant changes to the track on Friday, with modifications having been made to Turn 3, after both Alex Riberas and Ryan Eversley crashed in practice after cresting a bump. Approximately 180 feet of wall on the drivers’ left side was moved back and curbing installed, which reduced cornering speeds.
***With GTS teams not having any time on the altered track, the first four laps of their race was run behind the safety car.
***Lawson Aschenbach took the new Camaro GT4.R to a second place finish in its competition debut in the GTS race, after scoring a debut pole for the Pratt & Miller-built car, entered by Blackdog Speed Shop. “The fact we were able to take a brand-new car, shake them down, bring it here and get second is a testament to everybody behind this car,” he said.
***Third place finisher Jade Buford received a late call-up to drive this weekend, after Racers Edge Motorsports’ regular driver Chris Beaufait was unavailable. “I was at a driving school on Thursday and got a call during the lunch break. John [Mirachi, team owner] was like, ‘Are you available?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ I booked that flight… I did not expect to be here.”
***The same day, Buford, an avid rock climber, received news that he’ll be taking part in Season 9 of American Ninja Warrior, to be held at Daytona, next month.
***While having claimed victory in GTS Race 1, Andrew Aquilante’s future in the series remains unclear, as the Phoenix Performance driver is in a one-off appearance this weekend. “It depends. VIR is a great place; it’s close to home. We’d love to [continue] but we’d need a little bit more sponsorship,” he said.
***Aquilante said they’re on a shoe-string budget this weekend, having hired three local crew members to support their two-car effort, alongside the No. 77 Calvert Dynamics Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car of Preston Calvert, who missed GT qualifying due to an accident on Thursday.
***The No. 43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 also didn’t return to action today, as the team was still waiting on replacement parts to arrive from Michael Shank Racing. The sister Acura of Peter Kox qualified 14th overall.
***The Panoz Avezzano GT, which retired in GTS Race 1 with mechanical issues, ran unrestricted in qualifying, in a permitted in-event BoP change by WC Vision. “The sanctioning body was very good in saying, ‘We want you to be competitive.’ We discussed it in the pits, they were there. They said, ‘Do this, do that,'” team manager Tom Milner told Sportscar365.
***Both the Panoz and Race 1-winning Phoenix Performance Mustang Boss 302R are the only two non-GT4 cars on the GTS grid this weekend, running to legacy GTS homologation. It’s understood WC Vision is handling the BoP for the two cars, with all GT4 machinery controlled by the SRO, as usual.
***GT3 and GT4 cars took part in SRO’s Balance of Performance test at Paul Ricard last weekend, which saw the Camaro GT4.R gain official homologation. SRO Technical Director Claude Surmont told Sportscar365 that the Mustang, while present at the test, has still yet to gain final approval, but is expected to do so by next month.
***Surmont said a second BoP test is scheduled for mid-July, also at Paul Ricard, to certify a number of new-for-2017 GT4 cars, and potentially one additional GT3 car, for end-of-year competition in SRO championships. The BMW M4 GT4 and Mercedes-AMG GT4 are expected to be among the cars to take part.
***It’s unclear when the Panoz Avezzano will pursue GT4 homologation, although Surmont confirmed that a minimum production run of 25 units per year, for the base model, would be required to achieve homologation for a low-volume car manufacturer such as Panoz. A total of 300 units per year is required for GT4 homologation for mainstream car manufacturers.
***Rolex 24 at Daytona winners Ricky and Jordan Taylor are in the paddock this weekend, preparing for their SprintX debut with Cadillac Racing beginning with next month’s round at Virginia International Raceway. The brothers underwent seat fittings for the Cadillac ATS-V.Rs, which they’ll share with full-season drivers Johnny O’Connell and Michael Cooper. Driver pairings have not yet been announced.
***Watch Saturday’s opening round of GT/GTA/GT Cup live on Motor Trend on Demand, as well as World-Challenge.com, beginning at 9:35 a.m. ET. The second and final GTS race of the weekend, meanwhile, gets underway tomorrow at 12:55 p.m. ET. CBS Sports Network will broadcast the GT event Sat. March 18 at 2 p.m. ET, with the GTS races set for Wed. March 22 at 10:30 p.m. ET.