***Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke admits they face a “long shot” on securing the Intercontinental GT Challenge drivers’ championship, with Markus Winkelhock and Chrisopher Haase at an 18-point deficit to Mercedes-AMG’s Tristan Vautier and Raffaele Marciello, who have been strategically placed in seperate entries this weekend.
***The tightest points battle is in the manufacturers’ championship, which sees only a nine-point separation between Mercedes and Audi. “For sure the focus will be on the manufacturers’ championship,” Reinke said. “We have a good lineup, good car preparation and had solid runs. At the moment we feel we’re well prepared.”
***Audi R8 LMS GT3 cars will roll off from first and third on the grid tomorrow, led by pole-sitter Christopher Haase in the No. 29 Audi Sport Team Land entry, thanks to a 1:23.660 lap time set in the Pole Shootout.
***Reinke said the stars and stripes liveries on the three Audis are a follow-up from August’s Suzuka 10 Hours, when the No. 66 Audi Sport Team WRT entry ran a design featuring the iconic Japanese ‘Hinomaru’ (circle of the sun).
***Wright Motorsports and Black Swan Racing will be subject to longer pit stops if they complete short stops in tomorrow’s race. The penalty, which will force both cars to be stationary and untouched for five seconds at the start of the stop, has been given because the refueling rigs for both Porsche 911 GT3 Rs don’t conform to the technical regulations.
***It only applies to the shorter pit stops, which have a maximum duration of 50 seconds and can include changing all four tires with no fuel, or fuel and a maximum of one tire changed. The cars won’t be penalized for the longer stops, which must be a minimum of 101 seconds.
***The tire allocation of ten sets, plus one additional set for teams that took part in the Pole Shootout, is consistent with other IGTC events, according to Pirelli circuit technical manager Matteo Braga, who explained to Sportscar365 that SRO has provided one set of tires for every hour of racing, plus two additional sets for Free Practice, Pre-Qualifying and qualifying.
***As was the case in Suzuka, a number of teams had completed limited laps in the official timed sessions, as part of tire conservation runs. Thursday’s Paid Practice sessions, which provided 4.5 hours of track time, were not subject to the tire limitations.
***Braga said they will discuss with SRO possible enhancements to the tire regulations for next year if needed, but praised the P Zero DHD2’s tire durability so far on the highly abrasive 2.238-mile circuit. The new-for-2019 tire makes its North American debut this weekend and will be used in Blancpain GT World Challenge America next year.
***Pirelli has brought 2,800 tires to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend, as part of a collaborative effort between the Italian tire manufacturer’s dedicated IGTC staff and it’s U.S. motorsports operations led by North America motorsport manager Orazio Mastracchio.
***Several GT3 cars have received Balance of Performance adjustments since the last SRO Category D track event (Ningbo, Blancpain GT Series Asia), with the Audi getting a 15 kg weight increase and a 10 kg increase for both the Porsche and Lamborghini Huracan GT3s. No weight changes have been made to the Mercedes-AMG GT3, new-generation Bentley Continental GT3 or Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo.
***The Panoz Avezzano GT4’s BoP, meanwhile, was only confirmed on Thursday, with the majority of GT4 cars getting weight increases for the race in a previous released bulletin.
***Nick Leventis has downplayed the controversy surrounding eligibility for IGTC Bronze points, after questions whether Tim Pappas would be able to fight for the title in a Pro car this weekend.
***The Strakka Racing driver and founder is one of three drivers in the Bronze cup, along with Pappas and points leader Kenny Habul. “For me, personally, I’m not too sure why the other guys are bickering so much about Bronze points. I think they should just suck it up and decide what category they want to race in,” he told Sportscar365.
***The Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo could make its long-distance race debut in December’s Gulf 12 Hours although is dependent on customer participation. “We have the car available and I know we have interested parties to receive delivery in time,” Reinke said. “Whether they run it or not, it’s not my call.”
***Reinke said he’s received interest from more teams looking to purchase all-new cars instead of upgrading its existing GT3 machinery to Evo specification for 2019.
***Blancpain GT World Challenge America, GT4 America and TC America series are all set to fall under the newly named SRO Motorsports America umbrella, replacing what was known as Pirelli World Challenge.
***Sportscar365, however, understands that Pirelli, which recently signed a five-year extension with SRO to be the the exclusive tire provider, could still have a prominent branding presence in the U.S.-based series next year.
***Details on the ‘Grand Finale’ event, which is widely believed to be held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on the already confirmed Oct. 18-20 date, are expected to be released in the coming weeks.
***In addition to representatives from Saleen, which revealed racing plans for its new S1 sports car, Electric GT Championship North America director James Chen was visiting the paddock on Saturday. The all-electric series, featuring Tesla Model S P100Ds, has been postponed until 2019 as it searches for a lead investor.
***The start and finish of Sunday’s race will be carried live on CBS Sports Network from 12-2 and 7-8:30 p.m. EDT. Motor Trend on Demand will provide flag-to-flag coverage for the U.S. audience, with the race streamed on the GT World YouTube page for international viewers.
***Greg Creamer, Calvin Fish and John Watson will lead the broadcast team in the booth, with Ryan Myrehn and Shea Adam on pit lane.
Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report