***Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS drivers are set for one of the most wide-open championship battles in recent years, particularly in the Pro class, which has four of the five teams new to the new-look top category. SRO America is taking a new effort to help showcase the talent behind the wheel this year, which included the organization of a driver group shot.
***While featuring an 18-car field this weekend, Sportscar365 understands that additional entries are expected to join later this season, including the possibility of a Lexus RC F GT3. Vasser Sullivan crew members have been spotted in the Sonoma paddock this weekend.
***Samantha Tan has been named a BMW M Motorsport brand ambassador, with the 25-year-old Canadian set to support BMW with appearances at events in North America and Europe. Tan labeled the opportunity as an “absolute dream come true.”
***SRO Motorsports Group founder and CEO Stephane Ratel said he feels confident with the amount of data collected on the Type-992 Porsche 911 GT3 R and Ferrari 296 GT3 ahead of the SRO race debuts for two new-for-2023 GT3 cars this weekend.
***The Porsche is running with the same-sized 38mm air restrictor that IMSA utilized at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
***Ratel told Sportscar365: “Of course it’s challenging but we’ve done our BoP test at Paul Ricard. I think Claude [Surmount, SRO technical director] got a lot of information from that. He also gets all of the technical data from FIA, so with new cars, that’s what you have.”
***The Type-991.2 Porsche, meanwhile, is running 15 kg lighter and with a 3.5 mm larger air restrictor compared to the new-gen Porsche, with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo again the heaviest out of the GT3 cars, weighing in at 1335 kg this weekend.
***Four cars: the No. 9 TR3 Racing Mercedes, No. 011 Lone Star Racing Mercedes, No. 28 RS1 Porsche 911 GT3 R and No. 93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 were found by stewards to not have the FIA-required accident data recorder equipment installed, with each team having been given a $5,000 fine that’s suspended until the start of the Circuit of The Americas event in mid-May due to the current “short backlog” in delivery of the unit from the vendor.
***Racers Edge has been reunited with its Acura chassis that it campaigned in the 2021 GTWC America season with Taylor Hagler, Dakota Dickerson and Jacob Abel, which was utilized by Rick Ware Racing in last year’s IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup. The team’s Pro-Am championship-winning No. 93 car, meanwhile, has been designated for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races it will contest this year, including its now-confirmed Long Beach event.
***The No. 33 Triarsi Competizione Ferrari of Ryan Dalziel and Justin Wetherill is sporting a unique bagel-inspired livery with main sponsorship from Jeff’s Bagel Run, a Florida business that Wetherill told Sportscar365 that he recently acquired.
***Daniel Morad said his win in last year’s Indianapolis 8 Hour with Craft-Bamboo Racing, as well as the last-minute drive in the Rolex 24 at Daytona at Winward Racing, “cemented” his full season drive with TR3 Racing this year, which came as a recommendation by Mercedes-AMG.
***Erin Vogel, who contested GTWC America last year with Michael Cooper in RealTime Racing’s Acura, has shifted her racing focus to the World Racing League this year according to Cooper.
***RealTime has remained in the paddock with the operation of the Bartone Bros Racing team, which is making its GTWC America debut this weekend with its GT America drivers Anthony Bartone and Andy Pilgrim in a Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo. Bartone is among the numerous drivers pulling double between the two series.
***The No. 011 Lone Star Racing Mercedes has been withdrawn from the GT America event following an accident by Marc Austin in opening practice on Friday. Kyle Washington also had an off in his GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R although the car was repaired in time for the second practice session of the day.
***Other GT America cars to hit trouble during the event included the No. 70 Mishumotors Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R of Mirco Schultis and the No. 102 TKO Motorsports Bentley Continental GT3 driven by David Traitel, with both DXDT Racing Mercedes having been withdrawn from the pair of 40-minute races to focus on their GTWC America races.
***TRG, which is making its GTWC America return with an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 for Ross Gunn and Derek DeBoer, meanwhile, has filed a late entry for an Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in GT America, which is being driven by Tim Savage. The all-white No. 009 car took part in both practice sessions today but was not on the initial 26-car entry list.
***Esses Racing, which is making its GTWC America debut this weekend, is set to contest the first three rounds season plus the Road America event with its Mercedes for Will Hardeman and Adam Carroll according to general manager Dave O’Neill, who told Sportscar365 they’re eying a two-car full season effort for 2024 with discussions ongoing with multiple parties.
***2021 GT4 America Pro-Am champions Matt Travis and Jason Hart have been reunited in the No. 47 Nolasport Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport this weekend. It comes after Hart and Scott Noble earned the class championship last year. Both Travis and Hart were understood to have been late additions to this event.
***Isabella Robusto is set to drive solo in the No. 67 Smooge Racing Toyota GR Supra GT4 EVO this weekend due to an undisclosed injury for Joey DaSilva, who was scheduled to share the Am class entry with the TRD development driver.
***Per a stewards bulletin, Robusto must qualify in both segments as well as exit the car, step to the cold side of the pit wall before returning to the car to drive her second stint during the mandatory pit stop, which must be no less than 95 seconds. All other GT4 America competitors will have a minimum pit stop time of 92 seconds.
***Operation Motorsport kicks off its fourth season with SRO America this weekend, with six beneficiaries integrated into the Sonoma event. The organization supports the recovery of medically retired or retired military service members through motorsports opportunities.
***Among the beneficiaries this weekend include ret. U.S. Marine Corp. Tyler Einarson, who is working with Kevin Boehm and Random Vandals Racing, Rahsaan Reed (U.S. Army ret.), who is working with the SRO and CrowdStrike marketing teams and Matt Smothermon (U.S. Army ret.), who returns for his second season in SRO race control.
***Operation Motorsport executive director and co-founder Tiffany Lodder said: “SRO plays a key role in what we do at Operation Motorsport. All our beneficiaries have a focus and willingness to learn that makes them a huge asset for the team they are working with. Also, the experience that the teams provide the beneficiaries is invaluable to their recovery and helping give them a renewed sense of team, identity, and purpose. It’s a win win for everyone.”
***Live coverage of this weekend’s races will be available on SRO’s GT World YouTube page as well as the SRO Motorsports Group Twitch channel, with commentary led by Ryan Myrehn, Calvin Fish and pit lane reporter Amanda Busick.
***The first GTWC America race is set for a 3:05 p.m. PT (6:05 p.m. ET) start on Saturday, with Race 2 getting underway at 2:15 p.m. PT (5:15 p.m. ET). GT4 America race action is scheduled for 4:50 p.m. PT (7:15 p.m. ET) on Saturday and 10:55 a.m. (1:55 p.m. ET) on Sunday.
Jonathan Grace contributed to this report