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GT World Challenge America

COTA Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ first notebook from SRO America action at COTA…

Photo: Fabian Lagunas/SRO

***Rain impacted the opening day of track action at Circuit of The Americas, with a one-hour hold on activity due to thunderstorms in the area. It delayed several afternoon practice sessions for competitors in SRO America as well as the IMSA-sanctioned Porsche Carrera Cup North America and USAC-sanctioned Porsche Sprint Challenge North America.

***This weekend’s event is being run behind-closed-doors as a “VIP only event” according to SRO America President and CEO Greg Gill, who said the organization is at a “transition point” in the rapid evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.

“If I knew what we know this weekend right now, I think we would have been able to have fans,” Gill told Sportscar365. “But 30 days ago when we had to make the decision, we weren’t in the position to do that.”

***Fan attendance is expected to resume beginning with the next round at Virginia International Raceway in June although the level of access remains to-be-determined. “Going forward for the remainder of the season it’s our intention to have the public into whatever the local rules are,” Gill added.

***VIR has already begun ticket sales, with Road America and Indianapolis Motor Speedway set to follow in the coming weeks.

***The main parking lot at COTA is being used as a COVID-19 vaccination site. COTA has joined numerous other tracks across the country, including IMS, in playing a key part in the vaccine rollout. 

***HPD GT3 Academy graduate Jacob Abel makes his Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS debut this weekend in the No. 93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 Evo alongside full-season driver Taylor Hagler.

***Abel will be splitting co-driving duties this season with fellow academy graduate Dakota Dickerson, who competed in the pair of opening rounds at Sonoma Raceway last month.

***Two-time and reigning IMSA champion and Honda Performance Development factory driver Ricky Taylor is on-site this weekend serving as a driver coach for Hagler and Abel. It marks Taylor’s return to the SRO America paddock since driving for Cadillac Racing in Pirelli World Challenge SprintX competition in 2017.

***Inception Racing plans to contest the remainder of the GTWC America season according to team manager Bas Leinders. The Optimum Motorsport-run operation, which is giving the McLaren 720S GT3 its series debut, has established a U.S. base in nearby Buda, Tx. and purchased a transporter from former SRO America outfit CRP Racing.

***Brendan Iribe, who is sharing the wheel of the mid-engined supercar with Ollie Millroy, is the co-founder of Oculus VR, which was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $2.3 billion.

***While other SRO America series will revert to a single lap, the pair of GTWC America races will remain with two formation laps prior to the green flag. The minimum pit stop time for series’ competitors is 77 seconds this weekend.

***In addition to Wright Motorsports, GMG Racing is another busy team this weekend with multiple entries across various series. The California-based operation is fielding a total of eight cars in three series, headlined by James Sofronas’ Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo in GT America powered by AWS, four additional entries in GT America, two in Pirelli GT4 America and a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car entered in Porsche Sprint Challenge.

***Sofronas’ Lamborghini is an ex-FFF Racing Team chassis that claimed GT3 class honors in last year’s Road to Le Mans race with Andrea Caldarelli and Hiroshi Hamaguchi. It also has mileage from competition in Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup in 2020.

***Zelus Motorsport will take delivery of TR3 Racing’s Lamborghini at the conclusion of the weekend to utilize as a second chassis for its dual GTWC America and GT America campaign. It’s understood TR3 will acquire a brand-new Huracan GT3 Evo in time for the next round at Virginia International Raceway in June.

***Chris Ward, the senior manager for motorsport at Automobili Lamborghini America, told Sportscar365 that he feels “a bit like a used car salesman” having brokered deals with various customer teams in recent months to fulfill the increased demand of Huracan GT3 Evos in SRO America.

***A GT2-spec Lamborghini makes its debut this weekend in GT America for TPC Racing’s Scott Schmidt, who is gaining experience of COTA ahead of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America season-opener at the Texan circuit next month with NASCAR.

***Ward said that he was surprised that more Super Trofeo teams didn’t take advantage of the additional track time by entering the GT America event. Only minor modifications, including a change of air restrictor, weight addition and removal of front dive planes, is required to the Huracan Super Trofeo Evo to make it GT2-compliant.

***While Schmidt’s entry is the only GT2 car competing this weekend, GMG’s Sofronas hinted that Elias Sabo’s Audi R8 LMS GT2 could be seen in race action later this year. Sabo has been using the car primarily for track day purposes.

***Audi Sport has launched a series of “Color Edition” R8 LMS GT2 cars that’s aimed at collectors. Six unique cars with colors such as ‘Kyalami Green’, ‘Sebring Black’ and ‘Misano Red’ are being made available at 349,000 euros ($419,778 USD) each.

“For the first time in the 13-year history of Audi Sport customer racing we are offering such a color concept to our customers,” said Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke. “With one model per color, our Color Edition guarantees pure individuality and will not be issued a second time like this.”

***The No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 is a brand-new chassis after Jean-Claude Saada’s accident in opening practice at Sonoma. The crashed car was patched up for the pair of season-opening races but has since been replaced.

***Former Rahal Letterman Lanigan technical director Jay O’Connell has been reunited with the BMW M6 GT3, with O’Connell engineering Turner Motorsport’s entry this season in GTWC America. O’Connell told Sportscar365 that many of the setup adjustments on BMW Team RLL’s GTLM variant still applies some five years later.

***Mercedes-AMG has a record ten entries across three series this weekend, highlighted by the debut of CJ Moses’ DXDT Racing Merecedes-AMG GT3 Evo in GT America and a second RENNtech Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 for Guy Cosmo and Chris Cagnazzi.

***Moses missed Sonoma due to kidney stones, the same ailment that sidelined SRO America TV broadcaster Calvin Fish, who is back in the booth alongside Ryan Myrehn for this weekend’s action.

***Cosmo and Cagnazzi plan to contest the majority of the GT4 America season except for September’s Watkins Glen round due to previous commitments for the Ferrari Challenge North America graduate.

***Live streaming coverage of all SRO America races will be available on the GT World YouTube channel, including Saturday’s GT4 America (12:30 p.m. ET), GTWC America (2:15 p.m. ET) and GT America (5:45 p.m. ET) action. CBS Sports Network will carry live coverage of GTWC America Race 2 at 2 p.m. ET.

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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