***Maxime Martin will lead the field to the green this afternoon after inheriting pole from Audi Sport Team WRT, which has been penalized for an illegal modification to the No. 1 Audi R8 LMS GT3’s air intake. Click here to view the final grid.
***Audi Sport released a statement following the ruling, in which it explained that the stewards discovered tape, used for fastening, in the air intake system. “We respect the penalty and apologize for the situation. It has never been our intention to influence the race car’s performance,” said Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke.
***Audi and Porsche were given weight increases in a Balance of Performance change issued three-and-a-half hours before the race. The Audi R8 LMS GT3 will run 15 kg heavier, while the Porsche 911 GT3 R will carry an additional 5 kg of ballast.
***Rinaldi Racing’s No. 488 Ferrari 488 GT3 is subject to a five-place grid penalty as a result of Pierre Ehret accumulating three Behavior Warning Points. His third point was given during night practice for speeding in the pit lane, along with a €625 fine.
***A last-minute driver change sees Sven Heyrowsky replaced by Rory Penttinen in the No. 666 Attempto Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3, with Heyrowsky unable to race for “confidential” reasons. Penttinen will co-drive with Juergen Krebs, Tim Mueller and John Louis Jasper in the Am Cup entry.
***AKKA ASP repaired its No. 88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 overnight following a heavy crash for Raffaele Marciello, which red-flagged warmup yesterday evening. The Italian driver will start the race from 20th after being unable to set a time in Super Pole.
***The car, along with the rebuilt No. 6 Black Falcon Mercedes and penalized No. 1 Audi, was permitted to complete a shakedown lap of the circuit following the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Benelux race.
***The minimum pit stop time has been increased by two seconds to 112 seconds, which gives teams more of an advantage in their four joker pit stops.
***Talinda Bennington, the wife of Linkin Park frontman Chester who took his own life last year, is in the paddock this weekend. Black Falcon is supporting her charity 320 Changes Direction, with a special livery on its works-supported Mercedes-AMG GT3. Maro Engel has personally donated €7500 (c. $8750) to the cause.
***Audi’s Reinke says it was a “brave decision” for WRT to scale back to a three-car Audi R8 LMS effort, following the Belgian squad’s six-car program in last year’s race. “We assume if you enter more cars, with the prestige of a team like WRT, it can be profitable here,” Reinke told Sportscar365. “For me, having two strategic entries entered by that partner, it’s probably more privilege than it’s not. They have more focus on fewer entries.”
***Reinke said it hasn’t yet been decided which teams Audi will support for the Intercontinental GT Challenge season-ending California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in October, with the German manufacturer taking its IGTC campaign “race by race.”
***WRT, Absolute Racing and Hitotsuyama Racing are expected to be the factory supported teams for next month’s Suzuka 10 Hours, according to the latest entry list, although Reinke would not confirm.
***Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser told Sportscar365 that its lineup for Laguna Seca is also undetermined, beyond its full-season Manthey Racing entry of Dirk Werner, Fred Makowiecki and Romain Dumas. “We expect to bring more U.S. teams there but it’s not finally confirmed,” Walliser said. “I think it also depends on the result and what we can achieve here.”
***Audi has yet to officially confirm details on the Evo package for its R8 LMS GT3 car, which was spotted testing earlier this year.
***While Lamborghini’s Huracan GT3 Evo is understood to feature a upgraded version of the 5.2-liter V10 powerplant from the new Huracan Performante, Reinke downplayed any significant mechanical updates for the Audi, which currently shares the same powertrain as the Lamborghini.
“I won’t rule out anything at the moment but it has always been our philosophy to keep the running costs to a minimum,” Reinke said. “When it comes to an evolution we will try to keep the content as little as necessarily because in the end it will add to running costs because if you invest into an upgrade kit it has to be handed down to the customers.”
***A marshal and driver have been taken to a local hospital for medical checks following an accident in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe race this morning. Four marshals and one driver were involved in the race-ending incident, although no-one involved has life-threatening injuries. Track activities resumed after a 90-minute delay.
***The official Blancpain GT Series video game, Assetto Corsa Competizione, will be available on Steam Early Access soon ahead of its release on Sept. 12. The game was presented during the SRO press conference on Friday and is on display in the paddock this weekend.
***SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel says the Suzuka IGTC round is quickly becoming the “second largest GT3 race in the world” with up to 40 entries expected for the Aug. 24-26 race. A total of 12 manufacturers are currently confirmed.
***Race coverage begins Saturday at 4 p.m. CEST (10 a.m. EDT), with uninterrupted coverage available on the GT World Youtube channel (geo-blocked in North America), Motorsport.tv in Europe and Motor Trend on Demand in the U.S. CBS Sports Network will air highlights of the race on Sunday at 7 p.m. EDT.
John Dagys contributed to this report