***This weekend’s SRO America event at Virginia International Raceway marks the first time fans have been allowed into the paddock since the opening round of the 2020 season at Circuit of The Americas. It is also the first spectator event since last year’s Indianapolis 8 Hour, when limited portions of the grandstands were opened to fans.
***In honor of Memorial Day, VIR, in conjunction with Operation Motorsport and the USO, has turned the race weekend into a “Salute to Service,” offering free admission to all active duty service members and 50 percent off for veterans.
***Saturday’s Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS race will feature a flyover from a F22 Raptor as part of the military salute.
***The track has also organized a car corral where all proceeds will benefit Operation Motorsport, an organization that works with teams across professional auto racing to engage ill and injured service members and veterans affected by military service to aid in their recovery and rehabilitation.
***While Phillip Ellis and Giacomo Altoe are competing at the Nürburgring 24 this weekend, a number of drivers have prioritized VIR over the German endurance classic after SRO America’s date change to its event due to a knock-on effect from the postponement of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
***Andrea Caldarelli, Jordan Pepper, Jon Miller, Chandler Hull and James Clay are among those who are competing at VIR this weekend to keep their season-long championship hopes alive after initially having deals to contest the N24.
***Mercedes-AMG heads into the weekend as the championship leaders in the global GT World Challenge despite Lamborghini closing the gap to 135 points after its points haul in last weekend’s Paul Ricard 1000km Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup round.
***Audi Sport sits third in the standings with 3,616 points followed by Porsche at 2,935 points and Ferrari in fifth after eight races in the global season that encompasses GT World Challenge races in Europe, America and Australia. GTWC Asia has yet to start its 2021 season, which remains in doubt due to border restrictions and mandatory quarantines throughout Southeast Asia.
***Multiple teams utilized the “David Murry Track Days” event on Wednesday and Thursday to turn laps ahead of the start of official on-track action, including DXDT Racing and K-PAX Racing, which again saw three of its four drivers learn the 3.27-mile circuit for the first time.
***It was during Thursday’s session when Brendon Iribe wrote-off Inception Racing’s McLaren 720S GT3, with a replacement chassis, understood by multiple paddock sources to be Motorsport In Action’s car, having arrived this afternoon.
***Zelus Motorsport recently acquired Paul Miller Racing’s 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona class-winning Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, which it is utilizing as its second car this weekend between its GTWC America and GT America commitments.
***Madison Snow, who was part of PMR’s winning lineup at Daytona that year, has been reunited with the chassis, as Snow co-drives with Jason Harward.
***TR3 Racing is debuting a brand-new Lamborghini chassis this weekend, meanwhile.
***Electrical issues hampered Dexter Racing’s test earlier this week, with the team’s Aston Martin Vantage GT4 barely turning a lap. Both the team and drivers — brothers Ryan and Warren Dexter — have previously never been to VIR.
***Dexter is expecting to debut the new Ginetta G56 GT4 car at Road America in addition to its Aston Martin. COVID-related production delays ruled out the car’s debut this weekend.
***SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel is on-site this weekend as the only SRO European staff member to make the trip. IMSA President John Doonan is also present to support the IMSA-sanctioned Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America, which has been a late addition to the event.
***VIR now serves as the home track for DXDT, which made the move from Utah to Statesville, N.C. over the winter months. “Since we’ve moved the shop to NC, and being 2.5 hours away, it’s kind of become our home track,” said team owner/driver David Askew. “We’ve tested a bunch including just a few weeks ago and the AMG GT3 is usually pretty strong at VIR.”
***Two cars that previously competed in the now-defunct Saleen Cup have resurfaced as entries in GT America under an Invitational class.
***Dominic Starkweather and Zoey Edenholm are driving Saleen 1 Cup cars this weekend for EMG Motorsport, a new team run by Zoey’s father Eric Edenholm and former IMSA champion Eric Curran.
***Saleen is understood to still be pursuing GT4 homologation for the car, which was last seen in action as a support series during the 2019 SRO America season.
***BimmerWorld lost all three of its cars in a single accident in the second Pirelli GT4 America race of the weekend at COTA. The team’s No. 94 BMW M4 GT4 has had to be replaced with a chassis that had previous mileage in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, while the gearbox and engine from the crashed No. 94 car are now in the team’s No. 34 BMW.
***Nick Wittmer is again replacing Bryson Lew in the No. 38 ST Racing BMW GT4 this weekend. Lew came down with a non-COVID-19 related illness at COTA and has not yet fully recovered.
***Wittmer, who was with the team in a coaching capacity and co-drives with the Canadian squad in the 24H Series, had to borrow racing gear from four different people in order to get behind the wheel at COTA.
***Andrew Wikstrom is filling in for Al Carter in the No. 98 Random Vandals Racing BMW GT4 this weekend due to a running injury for Carter, who expects to be back by the next GT4 America round at Road America.
***DXDT driver Michael Cooper will be throwing the ceremonial first pitch at the minor league Danville Otterbots baseball game on Friday evening.
***CRP Racing team owner Nick Short is helping run Jason Daskalos’ GT America program. Daskalos’ Audi R8 LMS ultra was prepped at CRP’s North Carolina shop where it will remain between this event and the inaugural race on the streets of Nashville in August.
***Sportscar365 understands that the Nashville race has reached maximum capacity, with SRO America entertaining a reserve list for the GT America race on the NTT IndyCar Series weekend.
***Interest in the season-ending Indianapolis 8 Hour is also believed to be high, with as many as 30 GT3 cars potentially on tap when combined with full-season Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli competitors. It’s believed the track is homologated to accommodate a maximum of 42 cars.
***Michael Dinan and Robby Foley will enter two rounds of the International GT Open series at Spa in June and Barcelona in October. As reported by Sportscar365 in April, the Pirelli GT4 America Pro-Am champions will drive a TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
***Mikael Grenier said he will prioritize his full season GTWC Europe Endurance Cup commitments with Winward Racing at the Total 24 Hours of Spa over running with SunEnergy1 Racing at the event.
***Grenier is making his North American debut with Winward this weekend, filling in for Phillip Ellis. “There was a clash in Spa, and Kenny [Habul] told me I can do it with Winward,” Grenier said. “Kenny’s been really great to me so I need to respect my commitment with him.”
***Tune into live coverage of all SRO America races tomorrow on the GT World YouTube page, beginning with GT4 America Race 1 at 11:20 a.m. ET followed by GTWC America Race 1 at 1:15 p.m. and the opening GT America race of the weekend at 4:50 p.m.
Ryan Myrehn & Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report