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VIR Weekend Notebook

Sportscar365’s weekend notebook from SRO America’s return to racing at VIR…

Photo: Regis Lefebure/SRO America

***SRO America has implemented a comprehensive COVID-19 operations protocol for its resumption of racing this weekend at Virginia International Raceway, mirroring many of the same procedures in place in Europe. All participants have been subjected to medical screenings upon arrival, with the mandatory wearing of face-masks and social distancing between designated ‘cells’.

***Fans are not permitted to attend this weekend, although Phase 2 of its COVID-19 protocol calls for events with limited spectators and no public access to the paddock. Phase 3 will see no restrictions to the number of spectators but with limited access to the paddock.

***The debut of GT Sports Club America, which sees four entries this weekend, will come as a “race within a race” with GT World Challenge America powered by AWS, although the Bronze driver sprint series will retain its 40-minute single-driver format with a checkered flag displayed to the GTSC America leader at the 40-minute overall mark of the race.

***GTSC America cars will then be instructed to keep a “reasonably fast” pace on their cool-down lap and pit. Cars will be impounded in their pit box until after the pit window for GTWC America competitors closes.

***The two series are separated on pit lane, with GTWC America competitors located towards pit-out and GTSC America teams near pit-in.

***The combining of the races this weekend has resulted in David Askew being unable to contest the single-driver sprint race as originally planned. DXDT had entered an additional Mercedes in the Titanium Cup for Askew, who drives with Ryan Dalziel in GTWC America.

***A SRO America spokesperson told Sportscar365 that car count and circuit length will dictate whether the two series will run combined races in the remainder of the season.

***The Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport is the only GT2-spec car taking part in GTSC America at VIR, with entries from GMG Racing for Stu Frederick and Jason Bell, who plans to contest eight races between three series this weekend, as well as Karl Leinsing for ATech Design and Ryan Gates in 311RS Motorsport’s Porsche.

***Of note, Carlin Sanderson, daughter of longtime Goldcrest Motorsports team owner/manager Bob Sanderson, is making her debut as team manager for 311RS this weekend. Carlin has previously worked in PR/marketing for a number of teams as well as SRO America, before electing to follow in her father’s footsteps into management.

***While SRO’s GT2 platform makes its official race debut on North American soil this weekend, several Porsches as well as the Audi R8 LMS GT2 car took part in SRO’s Winter Invitational at the Thermal Club during the off-season.

***Winward Racing has a revised lineup since the season-opener at Circuit of The Americas in March with Kris Wilson filling in for Bryce Ward in the No. 33 Mercedes. Wilson was due to share the wheel of the car with Russel Ward at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park round, which was canceled. 

***Both Bryce and Russel Ward took part in last month’s Hankook 24 Hours of Portimao, in what was considered the first professional sports car race to be held worldwide since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

***Bill Sweedler has returned to the cockpit for the first time in two years, sharing the No. 31 TR3 Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 with John Megrue this weekend. The former IMSA GT Daytona class champion and Rolex 24 at Daytona winner last drove in the 2018 Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in a Ferrari run by Scuderia Corsa.

***Jeff Segal is serving as driver coach to both Sweedler and Megrue in what is currently a one-off event for the drivers.

***Veteran engineer and race strategist Jeff Braun has joined DXDT Racing this weekend, helping run the No. 04 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo that’s driven by his son Colin Braun and George Kurtz. Most recently with CORE autosport and now Era Motorsport in IMSA, Braun has largely worked with prototypes in recent years.

***The No. 93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 Evo collected some extra mileage recently, having been used in HPD’s GT3 Academy. Pirelli GT4 America and TC America regular Karl Wittmer was joined by Taylor Hagler, Jacob Abel and Dakota Dickerson in the two-day session at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, under the supervision of HPD-contracted drivers Ryan Eversley and Dane Cameron.

***Three additional sessions are planned this year, including one at Mid-Ohio next month for the drivers, who could become part of HPD’s customer racing lineup next year.

***The No. 80 Racers Edge Acura lost time in Friday morning’s opening practice session due to a small electrical fire with Martin Barkey at the wheel.

***Michael Dinan will utilize the No. 210 Flying Lizard Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage GT4 for all six GT4 America races this weekend after the team discovered an issue with the differential in the No. 21 car on Thursday. Flying Lizard has typically has typically allocated dedicated cars for the Sprint and SprintX races.

***An exhaust leak with Erin Vogel and Michael Cooper’s Flying Lizard McLaren 570S GT4, meanwhile, will see the No. 30 car start from the rear of the field in all three GT4 SprintX races due to missing qualifying on Friday morning. According to Vogel, the team spent more than 12 hours making repairs, including taking the car to a local shop to be put on a lift.

***Vogel started Race 1 some 15 minutes late due to last-minute repair work to the car.

***MarcoPolo Motorsports debuts the 2020-spec of the KTM X-Bow GT4 this weekend. The team was forced to run its previous-gen model at COTA despite having the new car on-site, due to it not having received final SRO homologation at the time.

***Turbo issues took the Mads Soljehaug and Nicolai Elghanayan-driven car out of the race in Friday’s GT4 SprintX round, while the No. 10 Blackdog Speed Shop McLaren encountered similar gremlins in the opening GT4 Sprint race of the weekend. Cooper was given a hardship lap following the SprintX race.

***Former SRO America VP of Competition and Operations Marcus Haselgrove, whose position was eliminated in March, is working with GT4 America squad RS1 this weekend.

***RecStuff Racing had planned to run two Mercedes-AMG GT4s although travel issues for Canadian Fred Roberts has resulted in only a single-car entry for Jeff Courtney this weekend, although Sportscar365 understands Roberts is working on returning later in the season.

***The border between the U.S. and Canada has remained closed, although drivers and teams have been able to travel in recent weeks but are subject to possible 14-day quarantines on each end.

***Students enrolled in the University of Alabama College of Engineering will have the opportunity to be part of a sports car racing internship program with GT4 America SprintX team John Allen Racing. Allen, a 1979 UA College of Engineering graduate, began a pilot program with up to three interns at several races last year but has revealed plans to increase its commitment in the coming years.

***With guests not allowed trackside, CrowdStrike is working on providing “virtual in-race entertainment” and interactive events for its VIPs during next month’s round at Sonoma Raceway. Among the events planned include Q&As with team members and drivers and presentations.

***Saturday’s track action begins with qualifying for GTWC America competitors at 8:30 a.m. ET, followed by Race 2 for GT4 Sprint (9:25 a.m.), Race 1 for GTWC America (1:45 p.m.) and Race 2 for GT4 SprintX (3:45 p.m.). All races will be streamed live on the SRO’s GT World YouTube page.

***The broadcasts are being produced remotely by Mike Scott, SRO’s global head of TV, from his home in the UK.

Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report

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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