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COTA Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ first notebook from Circuit of The Americas ahead of SRO America weekend…

Photo: Fabian Lagunas/SRO

***SRO America is set for one of its biggest events of the year this weekend at Circuit of The Americas, the organization’s home track, with Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS, GT America powered by AWS, the first-ever endurance race for Pirelli GT4 America, plus TC America powered by Skip Barber Racing School and Toyota GR Cup North America action.

***This weekend also marks the North American debut of the GT1 Sports Club powered by Curbstone, which will see hyper and supercars take to the track for non-competitive sessions on Saturday and Sunday, plus a full day of activity on Monday.

***Unlike the last event at Sebring International Raceway that featured a test day, there was no track activity on Thursday, with teams only permitted to unload from the early afternoon. Showers and thunderstorms hampered the set-up day, although no rain is forecasted for the remainder of the weekend.

***As was the case so far this season, the No. 92 MMG Porsche 911 GT3 R of Alex Tagliani and Jean-Frederic Laberge is again a no-show, resulting in a 15-car Fanatec GT America grid for this event.

***Tommy Milner, who makes his Fanatec GT America debut in the No. 63 DXDT Racing Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R, holds four previous starts in World Challenge competition from 2008, at the wheel of a Team RLL-entered Aston Martin DB9 that took part in the events at Mid-Ohio, Road America, New Jersey Motorsports Park and Road Atlanta.

***Milner has been reunited with his sister, Erin Gahagan, who serves as DXDT’s team manager. The two last worked together on their father’s Prototype Technology Group team from 2004-05.

***Tommy told Sportscar365: “That was obviously a long time ago. It’s exciting. I’ve head some very nice things from a lot of the Pratt Miller guys about how DXDT operates very regimented in some ways and on top of everything. It’s exciting, for my whole family, for my dad (Tom Sr.). He can watch the race and cheer for one car and be excited about it.”

***The No. 63 Corvette for Milner and Alec Udell is currently confirmed for all remaining races, although the pair of 90-minute races at Barber Motorsports Park is still awaiting confirmation from the team but is “looking very likely” according to Milner.

***Jake Pedersen makes his first Fanatec GT America start of the season in the No. 85 RS1 Porsche, which took Trent Hindman and Spencer Pumpelly to a sweep of the weekend at Sebring International Raceway. Hindman partners Pedersen, who also competes in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and Porsche Carrera Cup North America this year.

***Esses Racing, which makes its second Fanatec GT America start of the season, is without its team boss, with Dave O’Neill having been announced as the new team principal of NTT IndyCar Series squad Juncos Hollinger Racing with immediate effect. Prior to his stint with Austin-based Esses, O’Neill was the the sporting director and team manager of the Haas F1 Team.

***Esses’ request to allow the same driver start both races was denied by the stewards on Thursday. Alan Metni joins Will Hardeman in the team’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo as the first Am class entrant of the season.

***Blackdog Racing’s Tony Gaples and Max Root gave the Nissan Z NISMO GT4 its first win in global sports car competition last time out at Sebring, with Michael Cooper returning to the wheel of the No. 9 car this weekend after missing the last rounds due to his Carrera Cup commitments.

***Nissan sports car program director Mike Carcamo said: “That first win was great, but now we need to continue the momentum and this three-hour race will be a great opportunity for us to shine at the amazing Circuit of The Americas.”

***Rodrigo Baptista, who has replaced Stefan Rzadzinski in the No. 5 Flying Lizard Motorsports Nissan, is currently only confirmed for this weekend according to team co-owner and chief strategist Thomas Blam.

***Baptista holds a successful history with both Flying Lizard and its sister team K-PAX Racing, winning multiple races in GT4 and Fanatec GT America competition. Additionally, the Brazilian has been reunited with his former engineer Sebastien Constans, who he worked with during the Bentley Continental GT3 years.

***Flying Lizard program manager Darren Law said: “It is nice to be welcoming Rodrigo back to the program in the Nissan Z GT4. He has raced for us for several years and is always fast. It will be nice to get his input on the car and see what we can do.”

***Wright Motorsports’ Elliott Skeer and Adam Adelson, who hold a 16-point lead in the Fanatec GT America Pro championship, are coming off another podium-finishing weekend in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, in a separate Wright-entered Porsche.

***AF Corse, which is making its first Fanatec GT America start of the season this weekend with Custodio Toledo and Riccardo Agostini in a Pro-Am-entered Ferrari 296 GT3, is running under the direction of team manager Ron Reichert, who oversees the Italian squad’s LMGT3 entries in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

***Former CART and IRL driver Johnny Unser, cousin of Al Unser Jr., is serving as a steward this weekend, alongside Elliott Forbes-Robinson and steward chairman Scot Elkins, who is fresh off last weekend’s ABB FIA Formula E World Championship round in Berlin as race director.

***SRO Motorsports Group has established a new partnership with Spark which will see the acclaimed modeler produce officially authorized replicas of its cars from SRO championships around the world, including Fanatec GT America and GT4 America.

***Track action begins on Friday morning with a 30-minute Bronze driver test at 8 a.m. CDT, followed by a pair of GT America, Fanatec GT America and GT4 America practice sessions.

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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