***All 32 cars and nearly 100 drivers taking part in Sunday’s Intercontinental GT Challenge season-ending California 8 Hours assembled for a group photo on Friday evening.
***The No. 19 WRT and No. 29 Land Audi R8 LMS GT3 cars, as well as the No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 did not take part in Free Practice on Friday morning as part of tire-saving efforts for the race.
***Each car is limited to a total of 10 sets of Pirelli P Zeros for the weekend, with an additional set given to cars that advance to Saturday’s Pole Shootout. Tire allocations did not count towards Thursday’s Paid Practice sessions.
***Pirelli circuit technical manager Matteo Braga believes that tire strategy will be dictated by weather conditions. “We expect quite big differences in temperature between morning and afternoon, which means that different levels of performance will need to be managed throughout the race,” he said.
***A loophole in last year’s rules, which allowed the WRT and Land Audis to gain time by ignoring the minimum pit stop time and complete drive-through penalties, has been eliminated with the addition of a stop-and-hold penalty equivalent to the time difference gained in pit lane.
***While teams will no longer be able to benefit from the loophole, devised by Land’s strategist Peter Baron, WRT team principal Vincent Vosse admitted to Sportscar365 that they’re “looking for something else.”
***Baron, meanwhile, has returned with the Land squad and is engineering the car for the first time this weekend, in addition to race strategy duties.
***Similar to last year’s race, Audi has flown factory-prepped cars over for WRT and Land to utilize, with Land’s Audi that was run in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans also on-site this weekend in the paddock but undergoing a rebuild.
***A ruling on Black Falcon’s appeal from last month’s Blancpain GT Series season-ending round at Barcelona, which stripped the team of the race win and Endurance Cup title, is expected to be made next week. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 was found to have had tape inside the air intake.
***Sportscar365 understands the decision could be overturned by the RACB, which would give the Endurance Cup drivers’ title to Maro Engel, Yelmer Buurman and Luca Stolz and the teams’ championship to Black Falcon.
***K-PAX has yet to make a decision on whether it will enter next year’s California 8 Hours, which will take place on March 29-31 as the second round of the 2019 season. “It’s a tough one,” Law told Sportscar365. “It’s right in the middle of the season. I can’t say that we are or aren’t, but it makes it difficult, with the timing.”
***Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Stefan Wendl, however, believes the revised date fits “quite well” with other schedules. “I think it works better,” he told Sportscar365. “The biggest problem so far is that it’s so close to Petit Le Mans. Last year, it was one week, now it’s two weeks. Sebring next year is two weeks in between but if you have enough time to prepare properly, it should be possible.”
***SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel says to expect the first wave of manufacturer announcements for its new GT2 platform “soon.” At least three manufacturers are understood to have already committed, with as many as six likely by 2020. “All I know is that there are programs on the way,” Ratel told Sportscar365.
***Ratel said the objective is to have six registered manufacturers in IGTC next year. Both Honda and Lamborghini have been tipped as possible additions to join Audi, Mercedes-AMG, Porsche and Bentley. “We could potentially have more. But I think six is a reasonable possibility,” Ratel said.
***An announcement on Ian Lacy Racing’s 2019 GT4 America program is expected in the next few weeks. Sportscar365 understands that the team could switch to a new manufacturer following two seasons campaigning Ginetta G55 GT4 cars.
***The team has taken lessons from its endurance debut here last year, including installing a fresh engine and other brand-new components, after a mechanical failure ended its run in 2017. Of note, Lacy got his start in motorsports in 1995 at Laguna Seca as part of the Jim Russell Racing School mechanic training program.
***In addition to the California 8 Hours, the Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup North America is holding its season-ending round. The WC Vision-sanctioned cup is the only support series in action this weekend.
Jake Kilshaw & Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report