***The No. 31 Team Hardpoint WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo has been given a five-position grid penalty due to an incident involving Spencer Pumpelly and the No. 2 GMG Racing Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport of Robin Liddell in Q2. All of Pumpelly’s times were deleted from the session although the car was still allowed to take part in the Pole Shootout, setting the seventh quickest time in the hands of Mirko Bortolotti.
***GMG has swapped cars as a result of the incident due to chassis damage, with Liddell, Andrew Davis and Jason Bell set to use Bell’s Pirelli GT4 America SprintX car instead of the the GT4 Sprint Porsche it started the event with.
***The Bentley factory trio of Jules Gounon, Jordan Pepper and Maxime Soulet will leave Indianapolis at least tied for the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli points lead, after being the only points-scoring drivers from the season-opening Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour that are present this weekend in GT3.
***Gounon, Pepper and Soulet scored 25 points for winning February’s IGTC season-opener M-Sport’s Bentley Continental GT3.
***Only three cars are now nominated to score points in GT World Challenge America powered by AWS: No. 93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 Evo, No. 1 Squadra Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 and No. 04 DXDT Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo.
***Both the No. 63 DXDT Racing Mercedes Evo and No. 20 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, which had been full-season GTWC America entrants, have elected to focus entirely on the eight-hour race and not be limited in strategy by running for points in the domestic series.
***Peter Baron has joined DXDT to call race strategy for the No. 63 car, reuniting with Ryan Dalziel, while Jeff Braun has remained on board with the team’s CrowdStrike-sponsored No. 04 entry, co-driven by Colin Braun, George Kurtz and Ben Keating this weekend.
***Wright Motorsports team owner John Wright revealed that he was initially in discussions with Porsche to run an all-factory crewed car this weekend which ultimately did not materialize due to COVID-19. “It was on our calendar then due to the fallout and what’s occurred that got pulled back,” he told Sportscar365.
***Black Swan Racing was on the initial entry list in what was believed to have been the German manufacturer’s second factory supported GT3 car.
***Wright, who is fielding the sole Porsche with its home-grown lineup of Max Root, Fred Poordad and Jan Heylen, is hopeful of a strong result on Sunday. The car underwent an engine change on Friday night due to a small oiling issue.
“Fred and Max have done a fantastic job all year,” Wright told Sportscar365. “The competition hasn’t been as stout as we’d like. We like coming here and beating ten cars not just racing ourselves sometimes. When we found out that there was no competition in Am, we simply said, ‘Hey, we want to do something overall.’”
***Ryan Briscoe is making his first race start in a Ferrari in nearly 20 years, with the open-wheel turned sports car ace having taken part in a support race for the 2002 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in a Ferrari 360 Modena, in what was his first-ever sports car race.
***Briscoe has joined Jeff Westphal and Trevor Baek in a Ferrari 488 GT3 fielded by Oregon-based Vital Speed Motorsports, a team the Australian has coached in Ferrari Challenge North America competition in recent years. Briscoe completed a test with the team at Portland International Raceway last month with the car.
***The current IMSA DPi points leader has one previous start on the Indy road course, having finished sixth in the inaugural Indianapolis GP with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2014. “It’s weird being here with IndyCars running and I just try to ignore it,” he told Sportscar365.
***Trent Hindman said the addition of open-wheel rising star Robert Megennis, who he previously coached in F1600, to Racers Edge’s lineup has helped deliver a fresh perspective to the Acura program despite the Indy Lights star making his GT3 debut.
“Between his track experience and his transition into the team, his mentality and attitude it’s all just awesome and we’re really happy to have him,” Hindman told Sportscar365. “He’s very, very good around this race track and won here last year in Lights against a couple really stout drivers.”
***Pirelli has brought more than 3,000 tires to Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, including around 1,000 tires in the event of the forecasted rain on Sunday, according to Pirelli’s North American motorsports manager Orazio Mastracchio.
***Teams are permitted to use up to 12 sets of Pirelli tires from the start of Free Practice on Friday, with an additional set allocated to the ten GT3 cars that made Saturday’s Pole Shootout.
***It has been clarified that tire warmers are prohibited for GT4 teams, as has been the case all season in Pirelli GT4 America. The warmers are “only intended” for GT3 cars according to a stewards bulletin issued on Saturday.
***The minimum pit stop times for the GT4 class has also changed to 170 seconds for any stop involving refueling. A one or two tire change without fuel is set to a minimum of 86 seconds, with 121 seconds for a three or four tire change without refueling.
***Previously, GT4 cars were to adhere to the event’s minimum full fuel stop time of 112 seconds and minimum short fuel stop of 73.99 seconds. This will now only apply to GT3 cars, including a prohibited range between 84 and 111.99 seconds.
***Mario Farnbacher revealed that he’s been confirmed in JAS Motorsports’ Honda NSX GT3 Evo for the remainder of the IGTC season. The German tested at Spa-Francorchamps with the Italian squad in July and has praised its commitment to the globe-trotting GT3 series despite the current travel challenges.
***The team is using an ultraviolet device to disinfect the cockpit of the No. 30 Acura between driver changes. An initial version of SRO’s COVID-19 operations protocol, released in May, required teams to clean the cockpit between driver changes.
***The JAS-designed system, which uses ultraviolet C (UV-C) radiation to sanitize the car’s interior, has been found to eliminate between 96-100 percent of bacteria according to tests by the Italian laboratory SILEA. It is planned to go on sale later this year for consumer use.
***Questions have surrounded whether the season-ending Kyalami 9 Hour will occur as planned on Dec. 10-12, with next year’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour also in jeopardy due to Australian border restrictions that are unlikely to be eased in time for the February enduro.
***Sportscar365 understands that the fate of both events will likely be confirmed by the end of the month.
***SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel expects to see a reduction of GT3 manufacturers in IGTC next year following the nine brands that were registered for this season. Seven manufacturers are present on the grid this weekend.
“We went from three to nine manufacturers in IGTC,” Ratel told Sportscar365. “It’s so exceptional and unique. No championship in the world has nine manufacturer entries. We will have less [in 2021] I’m sure, but so be it. The idea is to bring together these race events and that will continue.”
***While the FIA has yet to confirm details, Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke expects the new refresh of GT3 regulations to still debut in 2022 as initially planned. “We are all in longer committed cycles so I don’t really see the delay happening,” Reinke told Sportscar365.
***BMW is due to debut its new M4 GT3, which is built to the new regs, in 2021 ahead of a full customer rollout the following year while Reinke hasn’t discounted a new Audi GT3 model also coming for 2022, stressing its “long term commitment” to the platform.
***The new-for-2021 GT America series could see deviations from the recently released GTWC America schedule, with discussions ongoing with Long Beach and the new Nashville street race for possible inclusions, according to SRO President and CEO Greg Gill.
***Sportscar365 understands that GT America is not likely to be part of the event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in May.
***In another change for next year, the entire duration of the Indianapolis 8 Hour will count towards points for GTWC America competitors, unlike this year’s inaugural edition, which awards series points at the three-hour mark.
***SRO America confirmed a change to its TC America class next year, with the new TCX class replacing TCR, which will no longer be eligible. Sportscar365 understands that SRO plans to homologate TCR-based cars, such as the Audi RS 3 LMS TCR DSG, which is poised to be eligible alongside the BMW M2 CS Racing car.
***Complications surrounding WSC’s self-managed Balance of Performance for its TCR platform on North American circuits is understood to have played a contributing factor for the platform to not continue in SRO America next year.
***USAC appears set to serve as the sanctioning body for a new Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge series that will help bridge the gap between the newly announced Porsche Carrera Cup North America and several regional Trophy series in the U.S. Sportscar365 understands the series will be open to first and second-generation 991-based Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars.
***CBS Sports Network will carry coverage of the Indianapolis 8 Hour from 12-2 p.m. EDT and 4:30-6:30 p.m., with the entire race streamed live on SRO’s GT World YouTube page beginning at 10 am. EDT. The SRO America commentary team of Greg Creamer, Calvin Fish and Ryan Myrehn will call the first-ever professional long-distance endurance race at IMS.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report