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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Laguna Seca Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday notebook from opening day of action at California 8 Hours…

Photo: John Dagys

***A total of 32 cars are set for the California 8 Hours following the late withdrawal of M1 GT Racing’s Audi RS 3 LMS TCR car, which brings the TCR class down to the two Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai i30 N TCRs entries only. Prospects of a Compass Racing Audi TCR car, which had been on an early entry list, failed to materialize.

***Several additional cars, including the No. 24 Ian Lacy Racing Ginetta G55 GT4 and No. 13 RHC Jorgenson-Strom BMW M4 GT4, took part in Thursday’s Paid Practice test sessions. Both teams, however, are expected to focus on their primary entries for the race.

***The BHA Hyundais are running FIA-approved modifications for refueling, in the team’s endurance racing debut following its first season of Pirelli World Challenge TC competition. The i30 N TCR car, however, has completed several long-distance races including this year’s Nürburgring 24.

***Bryan Sellers heads into the weekend with limited experience of the Bentley Continental GT3, having completed only 15 laps in a shakedown at Sonoma Raceway with K-PAX Racing last month. The newly crowned IMSA GT Daytona class champion gained additional experience of the previous-gen car during Thursday’s media hot lap sessions in the team’s spare car.

***Sellers returns to the California-based K-PAX squad after contesting the PWC SprintX races with the team in 2017, when it ran McLaren 650S GT3 cars.

***Sunday’s race will mark the final professional outing for the previous-gen Bentley, with K-PAX set to take delivery of M-Sport’s 2018-spec Continental GT3s following the event. Two of the team’s cars, which are homologated for SRO competition through 2020, are up for sale according to program manager Darren Law.

***K-PAX is utilizing the same chassis this weekend that was raced by Rodrigo Baptista in PWC this year.

***A number of American teams, including PF Racing, DXDT Racing, and PPM are making their endurance racing debuts, with the Panoz Avezzano GT4 also set for its first race longer than 60 minutes.

***The Panoz is carrying special “For the Fans” graphics on the doors as well as a rear wing signed by fans during the Motul Petit Le Mans weekend, in memory of company and team founder Don Panoz. Don’s son, Danny Panoz, is expected to be in attendance this weekend, in the team’s first race since Panoz’s passing last month. 

***Mustang GT4 technical director Jay O’Connell is serving as race strategist and engineer on the No. 10 PF Racing Ford of Scott Maxwell, Jade Buford and James Pesek this weekend. The team is coming off its IMSA debut at Road Atlanta earlier this month, with the two-hour Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge round being its longest race run to date.

***European GT3 teams are likely to have an advantage with tires over PWC regulars as the Pirelli P Zero DHD2 compound, which has been used in the Blancpain GT Series this season, makes its U.S. debut this weekend. “We know the tire quite well and it’s good because tires are a very important factor in this race. Tire degradation, especially on the rear, will be quite high if it’s hot,” Audi’s Markus Winkelhock told Sportscar365.

***GT4 entries have remained with the same DH compound utilized in PWC and other GT4 championships worldwide this year.

***In a homage to the Total 24 Hours of Spa, which gets underway with the Belgian flag, the waving of the American flag will signal the start of the second running of the California 8 Hours on Sunday at 9:15 a.m. PDT.

***The race is set to run to revised sporting regulations from previous IGTC rounds this year, including seperate refueling and tire changes, minimum pitstop times of 101 seconds (GT3/GTC) and 145 seconds (GT4/TCR) and no specific pit windows.

***Additionally, Sportscar365 understands that the pit lane will remain open at all times, while wave-bys could be implemented at race director Alain Adam’s discretion.  

***SRO released a clarification regarding potential tie-breaker scenarios for the Intercontinental GT Challenge drivers’ and teams’ championships, adding that the highest-placed car from each manufacturer would be used to break a tie, and in the event, the second-best placed car. If that fails to produce a champion, drivers or manufacturers that ranked the highest in the last race of the season would break the tie.

***Mercedes-AMG holds a nine-point lead over Audi in the manufacturers’ championship, with Tristan Vautier and Raffaele Marciello, who are in seperate Mercedes this weekend, on 58 points apiece, 18 points ahead of Audi’s Winkelhock and Christopher Haase, who are also strategically split up.

***Kenny Habul has a 20-point lead in the Bronze Cup over Tim Pappas, who will be permitted to still score points in the new-for-2018 title despite his Black Swan Racing entry having been moved to GT3 Overall with the addition of Porsche factory driver Patrick Long to the lineup.

***It comes after Habul started the IGTC season in a GT3 Pro class entry, having finished 2nd overall at Bathurst.

***Robin Frijns says there could still be room for GT3 and DTM in his 2019 program despite his new ABB FIA Formula E Championship drive with Envision Virgin Racing becoming his focus. “[Formula E] is my main program but it all depends how the calendar comes out next year, if it’s DTM or GT3, or whatever. I will see what’s possible and what’s not,” he told Sportscar365.

***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

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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