***The No. 107 Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 is undergoing an engine change following a misfire that was initially diagnosed on Thursday. While believed to have solved the issue overnight, it proved to not be the case in qualifying, with Jules Gounon reporting a power-related issue in Q1.
***All of the Bentley’s qualifying times were erased and it will start from the pit lane as a result of the engine change.
***A number of notable GT3 entries missed the Top 10 Pole Shootout, including three of the four Merdedes-AMG GT3s and the defending race-winning No. 29 Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS Evo, which had a different tire strategy to the third-placed WRT entry.
***HubAuto Corsa requested a change to its qualifying driver order after Nick Foster came down with food poisoning on Thursday evening. The No. 27 Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo qualified fourth, in the hands of Foster, who arrived at the track later in the afternoon.
***Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke has welcomed the increased competition to the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli, which has seen a record eight registered GT3 manufacturers for the first time. “The more competition there is, the more value the title will eventually have and the more attention will be dragged into the paddock where we are a main part of.”
***Audi is the three-time and defending IGTC manufacturers’ champion, although heads into Saturday’s race with a points deficit following a challenging season-opening round at Bathurst.
***The prospects of ten, or if not more, manufacturers competing in IGTC next year is a realistic possibility according to SRO Motorsports founder and CEO Stephane Ratel, who told Sportscar365 that he hopes all active GT3 manufacturers would eventually sign up for the global series.
***Ratel admitted he expected additional Ferrari and Acura entries from local teams this weekend, with both brands represented by only single-car efforts from Hubauto and Honda Team Motul, which claimed pole in its series debut.
***GT3 manufacturers can nominate up to four cars per race, with the two top-placed entries from each brand scoring points towards the five-round global championship.
***GruppeM Racing is “stretching it” with resources this weekend in the wake of a late call to field a second Mercedes-AMG GT3. A manufacturer-owned chassis was flown in for the race, while shipping delays for other equipment resulted in the Hong Kong-based squad borrowing gear from KCMG.
***The team’s engineer/strategist Alex Zoechling told Sportscar365 they have no plans to field a second car in any of the remaining IGTC rounds this year, with a focus on season-long No. 999 entry of Maxi Buhk, Maxi Goetz and Raffaele Marciello.
***A replacement for Marciello for the Total 24 Hours of Spa has been finalized although not yet announced. The Italian driver will be with his full-season Blancpain GT Series team, AKKA-ASP, for that race.
***WRT’s Audi chassis has remained in California since last year’s race and was used as a show car at Volkswagen Group’s facilities in Silicon Valley over the winter, according to Reinke, who called it a “win-win” situation for all involved.
“We had an exciting show car available here in the Valley area and at the same time it saved flights back and forth for the chassis,” Reinke told Sportscar365.
***While the WRT chassis was upgraded to Evo spec in California, Reinke said the Land Motorsport-run Audi was flown in from Germany. Land’s IMSA GTD-spec Audi, which is fresh off the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, is also on-site this weekend but as a backup.
***BMW Team Schnitzer and Walkenhorst Motorsport are utilizing support equipment from BMW Team RLL this weekend.
***M-Sport team principal Malcolm Wilson is missing only his second-ever FIA World Rally Championship event in the last 20 years, with Wilson electing to be in Laguna Seca for Bentley’s program instead of the Tour de Corse.
***While not fielding a car here this weekend, K-PAX team owner Jim Haughey was spotted in the paddock on Friday, showing his support for Bentley’s factory effort.
***Porsche is out in full force this weekend, with Fritz Enzinger (Head of Porsche Motorsport), Pascal Zurlinden (Director of GT Factory Motorsports) and Sebastian Golz (GT3 Project Manager) all in California.
***Audi has essentially ruled out a future GT2 car, citing the lack of a suitable road car from the manufacturer. “With the R8 we have a great opportunity to be used as a GT3 and GT4, but at the moment we don’t have a [Lamborghini] Aventador or McLaren P1 as a base car. So we’d struggle a little bit on that side,” Reinke said.
***CBS Sports Network will carry both the start and finish of the race live on Saturday, with coverage from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. ET and 6-8 p.m. ET. Full streaming coverage of the race will be available on the official IGTC web site.
Rene de Boer contributed to this report