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Pirelli GT4 America

COTA Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ first notebook of the SRO America weekend at Circuit of The Americas…

Photo: John Dagys

***SRO America teams took to the track Thursday at Circuit of The Americas for test sessions. Kyle Marcelli was quickest among GT World Challenge America powered by AWS competitors, thanks to a 2:05.583 lap time set in the afternoon session in the No. 80 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 Evo.

***The No. 07 Squadra Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 and No. 14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, which paced the morning session in the hands of Jeroen Bleekemolen, were second and third quickest in the second session, respectively.

***Racers Edge has nearly tripled its staff for the 2020 season, which sees the addition of the No. 93 Acura for Trent Hindman and Shelby Blackstock, which is currently the only competitor in the Silver Cup class.

***Blackstock, a veteran of Honda’s TCR machinery, turned his first laps in a GT3-spec Acura on Thursday.

***Sportscar365 understands that unlike in GTWC Asia or the Intelligent Money British GT Championship, where cars in the class are subject to weight and/or pit stop time penalties, the Silver Cup in GTWC America will not run to such measures.

***Per the 2020 GTWC Asia sporting regulations, Silver Cup cars carry an “adjustment” defined by the SRO Sporting Board, typically between 15-85 kg, with an “alternative weight or time penalty” that could also be imposed to specific entries or other “means of adjustment.”

***GTWC America series director Staci Langham confirmed to Sportscar365 that there will be an overall podium and classification in races this year but no overall drivers’ champion. It comes amid the series’ shift to a largely Pro-Am format with seperate Pro-Am, Silver and Am class champions.

***Langham said the series expects an increased field of GT3 machinery beginning with the third round of the season at Virginia International Raceway in June, in the kick-off weekend for the new-for-2020 GT Sports Club America, which could see teams double-dipping in both series with GT3 machinery.

***It’s understood several Ferrari teams’ plans to contest the COTA season opener was thwarted by a clashing Ferrari Challenge round at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta this weekend. Both One11 Competition and Houston-based Risi Competizione would have likely been present here if for not the clashing event.

***GMG Racing team owner/driver James Sofronas confirmed that his Porsche 911 GT3 R entry this weekend for he and Bleekemolen could end being a one-off. “Let’s see where it goes,” Sofronas told Sportscar365.

***The California-based team has been a major proponent of GT Sports Club, which will feature current and previous-generation GT3 machinery alongside GT2 cars in Bronze-rated single-driver 40-minute races. Sofronas said he estimates the budget to be half of GTWC America, with GMG likely to field as many as six entries.

***Sofronas has sold the Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport that he drove in last year’s ‘GT2 Supersportscar Weekend’ at Spa-Francorchamps to a Thermal Club member and said he’s close to finalizing the sale of an Audi R8 LMS GT2 car to a customer as well.

***This weekend’s races will mark the global debut of Pirelli’s PZero DHE tire for GT3 competitors and DHB for the GT4 classes. As was the case in last year’s season-ending rounds, Sportscar365 understands that required camber settings are again imposed.

***Total has replaced VP Racing Fuels as the official fuel and lubricant partner of SRO America. The French brand is now the supplier for all three GTWC series globally.

***While having announced plans to pull out of the FIA World Endurance Championship as a team, Rebellion has inked a deal with SRO as its new global timekeeper, replacing Blancpain. The Swiss watch company’s logos are present on the number plates on GTWC America cars this weekend.

***SRO America has welcomed an influx of ex-IMSA staff, in the form of four pit lane officials, plus Brian Hughes, who has become the new director of operations, as well as Randy Hembrey as the new GTWC America race director. Hembrey replaces Alain Adam, who is understood to be focusing on GTWC Europe and Asia only this year.

***Pit lane official Tara Oran, who was hit by a Saleen Cup car in last year’s season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, has returned to duty this weekend after a lengthy recovery from multiple injuries.

***Rodrigo Baptista told Sportscar365 that his newly inked full-season ride with Squadra Corse was “super last minute” and fueled by the Brazilian’s desire to take part in more than just K-PAX Racing’s five-round GTWC Europe Endurance Cup program. Baptista will share the TR3-run Ferrari with reigning GT3 Am champion Martin Fuentes.

***Fuentes is one of several drivers to have received driver rating derogations this weekend that could change over the course of the season. The Mexican, along with K-PAX’s Patrick Byrne and 19-year-old Max Root, have been declared as Bronze* for the COTA event.

***Should Fuentes’ or Byrne’s derogation change, it would result in both entries being moved to the Silver Cup.

***Thomas Blam will be calling strategy on Flying Lizard Motorsports’ new McLaren 570S GT4 entry this year alongside team regular Jim Bell. Blam had typically been allocated to sister team K-PAX, which has scaled back to a single Bentley Continental GT3 in GTWC America this year amid its new GTWC Europe Endurance Cup effort.

***The K-PAX crew arrived in Austin after spending time at its new European base in Germany and are scheduled to fly to France next week for the series’ pre-season test at Paul Ricard.

***Marco Polo Motorsports has been forced to revert to its 2019-spec KTM X-Bow GT4 this weekend due to the constructor’s Evo model not being eligible until its homologation and SRO’s Balance of Performance testing is completed, in an apparent tightening of the regulations.

***Porsche’s 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport and the Panoz Avezzano GT4 were among cars that were eligible to compete at COTA last year prior to the BoP test having been performed.

***Saleen, which is understood to have presented its new GT4 car at a TC America BoP test at Homestead-Miami Speedway last month, has cited the homologation process for its delayed start, with the Saleen 1 GT4 car now slated to debut in the second GT4 SprintX round of the season at Long Beach.

***Marco Polo utilized its 2020-spec X-Bow GT4 for media hot laps on Thursday.

***OGH Motorsport and Nolasport announced a partnership that will see the New Orleans-based Porsche team enter a car in GT4 SprintX this year. 2019 GT4 East Am runner-up Sean Gibbons will drive alongside fellow Texan Zac Anderson in GT4 Am class.

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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