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GT World Challenge America

St. Pete Friday Notebook

John Dagys’ Friday Pirelli World Challenge notebook from St. Pete…

Photo: PWC

***Friday’s opening day of track action for Pirelli World Challenge was clean and green, with no red flags or incidents throughout any of the four practice sessions between GT/GTA and GTS/GTSA competitors. 

***Turn 3 has returned to its original configuration from 2016 following the flattening of a bump, which caused adjustments in the track layout last year. Approximately 180 feet of wall on the drivers’ left side had been moved back and curbing installed in 2017.

***Johnny O’Connell has seen his streak of 113 consecutive race starts in PWC GT competition come to an end, with the four-time series champion not driving this weekend following Cadillac’s exit from the series. O’Connell, who made his PWC debut at Road Atlanta in 2004, had taken part in every GT race dating back to St. Pete 2011.

***While without any firm racing plans for this year, O’Connell remains with Cadillac as a Brand Ambassador. 

***O’Connell’s former teammate, Michael Cooper, is on-site this weekend to support Blackdog Speed Shop, which he will drive for in the GTS SprintX races this year. Cooper was released from his contract at Callaway Competition USA late last month following its decision to scale back to a single-car effort.

***WC Vision could confirm the addition of GTS cars for the Long Beach round, which is currently only for GT machinery. Sportscar365 understands that series officials met with Long Beach GP CEO Jim Michaelian on Friday to discuss the possibility of allowing a selected number of cars into the GT Sprint race on an invitational basis.

***The inclusion of GTS cars would be made in an effort to boost the field, with less than 15 GT/GTA cars currently confirmed for the race. It’s believed GTS cars would not score championship points, similar to the TC invitational held at Road America last year.

***CRP Racing could confirm its SprintX driver this weekend, according to team owner Nick Short, who told Sportscar365 there’s “a lot of interest” in the seat. Daniel Morad was confirmed to the team’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the full season earlier this week.

***TR3 Racing is set to have an all-new lineup for its No. 31 Ferrari 488 GT3 in the SprintX rounds this year, with Daniel Mancinelli focused on a Sprint-only campaign. An announcement on the Pro-Am class pairing is expected next week.

***The Florida-based team is helping operate the Squadra Corse Garage Italia Ferrari of Martin Fuentes, which is under TR3’s tent this weekend. Fuentes will be joined by Caesar Bacarella for the SprintX races.

***Team Panoz Racing will employ a split strategy for the SprintX races, with Ian James set to be joined by an already confirmed, but yet-to-be-announced co-driver in the No. 50 Panoz Avezzano GT4 and Preston Calvert set to drive solo in the No. 51 car.

***James battled brake-related issues in opening practice, having only set the 22nd quickest time. Driveshaft trouble, meanwhile, struck the No. 52 KohR Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4 of Nate Stacy in the morning session as well.

***GMG Racing team owner James Sofronas told Sportscar365 that he’s pleased with its transition to Audi R8 LMS GT4 machinery, with the cars having shown encouraging early pace, despite a raft of BoP adjustments handed down on many of the 2018-spec GT4 cars. The California-based team is coming off a pair of pre-season tests at Thermal Club and has an additional test at Circuit of The Americas scheduled next week.

***George Kurtz, who gave the Audi GT4 its North American debut in January’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season-opener at Daytona, said he’s unlikely to contest any additional IMSA races this year, although Sofronas wouldn’t rule out additional one-off events for the team based on other customer interest.

***RealTime Racing, which is absent from the GT grid this year, is expected to announce a two-car Honda Civic Type R TCR car effort for a COTA debut. It’s understood the Wisconsin-based team has already submitted entries for the TCR season-opening race.

***Flying Lizard Motorsports driver Mike Hedlund will be making a $1 donation per Twitter follower he has to charity if for each GTSA class win this year, or $0.50 per follower for a podium. Hedlund, who currently has 3,025 followers, said he attempt to make his donations to local charities near each track, whenever possible.

***The Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R shares only only part, the rear-view mirror housing, with the production Corvette, according to Reeves Callaway.

***The GT3-spec car is currently being built by the company’s German-based organization but Callaway has expressed interest to move construction of the car to the U.S., based on customer demand.

***Pirelli confirmed Friday its title sponsorship and official tire supplier role for PWC for the eighth consecutive year. Its current deal with WC Vision is understood to be up for renewal at the end of the year, which has prompted interest from multiple tire manufacturers.

Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report

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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