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GT World Challenge America

California Friday Notebook

Ryan Myrehn’s Friday notebook from MRLS…

Photo: Ryan Myrehn

***The No 23 M1GT Racing Audi R8 LMS did not make the trip to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, bringing the total number of cars in the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge race in North America down to 19 entries.

***The final 2018 Pirelli World Challenge schedule will not be released this weekend as initially planned. It is understood that there was a delay with at least one of the tracks the series is in negotiations with. The final schedule could be released as soon as early next week.

***Johnny O’Connell is an interested spectator this weekend as his son Canaan fights for the Pirelli World Challenge TCB championship. The younger O’Connell sits in a tie for second in the class standings after winning the class pole on Friday, and is just two points behind championship leader Jake Pipal.

***O’Connell said he has taken a hands-off approach to his son’s racing career. “I let me him come to me,” he told Sportscar365. “He’s a kid and you never listen to your Dad when you’re a kid! He’s really grown so much as a driver. If the guys give him a good car I think he’ll be good.”

***The four-time PWC champion said his own racing future is still uncertain following Cadillac’s decision to shutter its PWC program. While he praised his longstanding relationship with General Motors and made it clear he would like to stay under the GM umbrella, O’Connell noted he is exploring his options.

“GM has been so good to me over the years, so I’m hopeful that I’ll maintain some role with Cadillac,” he said. “That stated, I should be a Silver driver next year. I’d love to get back to Le Mans, to do Daytona, Sebring, the big races again. I think I’ve proven I’m still as fast as the fast guys, so it’s not really time for me to quit yet.”

***Sonoma-based K-PAX Racing had a frantic week dealing with the wildfires that have ravaged the northern part of the state. Program Manager Darren Law said he was awoken in the middle of the night on Monday with the news that the team’s shop would have to be evacuated.

***The team managed to move most of the equipment off-site, but had to leave their shop when the evacuation notice went into effect. “We couldn’t get to everything,” Law told Sportscar365. “We had to leave everything in the shop. We moved everything we could, and once they opened the roads we went back.”

***Several team employees also were forced to evacuate their homes, and the continued threat of fire damage remains a concern. “It is tough, but there’s no control over the fire so it is what it is,” said Law. “Whether we were sitting up there or sitting up here, there’s nothing we can do. We’re going to focus on trying to get the win and deal with it after the weekend.”

***Seven Porsche Motorsport race cars will be competing in the California 8 Hours, comprising 35 percent of the field. In total, four 911 GT3 R machines are entered along with three Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR entries.

***Five Porsche factory drivers are entered across two 911 GT3 R entries. The No. 17 HK Motors-GMG machine features Wolf Henzler and Sven Mueller at the controls, alongside team regular Alec Udell, while the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche has Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Long and Romain Dumas in the same lineup.

***It is just the second time Bergmeister, Long, and Dumas have shared a car, the first time coming in the 2007 Rolex 24 at Daytona in a Porsche-engined Crawford DP03 for Alex Job Racing.

***Jules Gounon is set to take part in the California 8 Hours in the No. 93 RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3, the sixth different GT3 machine he has driven this year alone. The Frenchman started the year in a Konrad Motorsport-entered Lamborghini Huracan GT3 at the 24 Hours of Dubai before racing an Audi R8 LMS at the Rolex 24 at Daytona for Land Motorsport. He competed in the Blancpain GT Series in a Mercedes-AMG GT3 for AKKA ASP, and added the Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R in ADAC GT Masters competition.

***This weekend marks the first U.S. race for Blancpain GT stalwarts Team WRT. The No. 11 chassis that is entered this weekend is the same that Robin Frijns and Stuart Leonard took to the 2017 Blancpain GT Sprint Cup championship. That duo is joined this weekend by British driver Jake Dennis.

***Occasional PWC Touring Car driver Will Rodgers has been drafted into the MARC Cars Australia driver lineup in the No. 194 Marc Mazda 3 V8 alongside Keith Kassulke and Morgan Haber for Sunday’s race. The Murrieta, Calif. native also competes in the NASCAR K&N Pro West Series and will be racing in that series at All American Speedway in Roseville, CA Saturday night following the race.

***Other additions to the entry list include Morgan Haber in the sister No. 193 MARC Cars entry, Andy Lee in the NO. 8 HKG Racing / GMG Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport, and Sven Mueller in the No. 17 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.

***Qualifying for the California 8 Hours is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. PT on Saturday, with the Super Pole session to follow at 1:40 p.m. PT.

Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report.

Ryan Myrehn is an Indianapolis-based broadcaster and reporter. In addition to his work covering primarily domestic sports car racing for Sportscar365, he is a pit reporter for SRO America's TV coverage as well as for IndyCar Radio. Myrehn, a graduate of DePauw University, is also the host of Sportscar365's “Double Stint” Podcast.

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