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St. Pete Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday notebook from Pirelli World Challenge season-opener in St. Pete…

Photo: John Dagys

***Pirelli World Challenge teams unloaded Thursday in the streets of St. Petersburg, ahead of this weekend’s season-opener for the Sprint series, which features a total of 40 entries across the GT, GTA, GTS and GTSA classes. Click Here for the latest entry list.

***In a change for this year, a Promoter Test Session was not held, with competitors instead getting their first laps of the 1.8-mile circuit on Friday. WC Vision has made a concerted effort to reduce the number of at-track days, with teams only permitted to unload this morning, instead of Wednesday, as had been the case in 2017.

***PWC and SRO set the Balance of Performance for GT and GTS cars on Monday, taking into account data from last month’s weather-impacted BoP test at Paul Ricard that saw ice and snowy conditions. The BoP from last year’s California 8 Hours at Laguna Seca, also a Category D track, was used as a baseline, with the Paul Ricard test and other SRO/PWC-monitored tests also factoring into the changes, according to PWC VP of Competition Marcus Haselgrove.

***Ferrari’s 488 GT3, which is one of several cars to debut an Evo kit this year, has a 30kg minimum weight increase, while the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 has also been given additional weight but is now permitted to run the same-sized Pirelli tire that it campaigned in its title run in the Blancpain GT Series last year. Click Here for this weekend’s GT BoP and Click Here for the GTS table.

***The No. 50 Panoz Avezzano GT is fresh from Paul Ricard, where Ian James and SRO-nominated test driver Nick Verdonk turned laps in the car as it pursues GT4 homologation. An Avezzano road car was also air-freighted to France for the homologation process.

***Both the Panoz and Mercedes-AMG GT4 are currently under draft homologations from the SRO.

***The Panoz features a significantly smaller rear wing, as a result of confirming to GT4-spec, along with a revised cooling system, according to chief engineer Stefan Pfeiffer. 

***New-for-2018 Panoz driver Dr. Preston Calvert, in his role as Medical Advisor to PWC, oversaw baseline concussion testing with drivers on Thursday. Calvert helped develop the mTBI (minimal Traumatic Brain Injury) screening program as part of the protocol for concussion testing for all PWC drivers this year.

***Five drivers will race with PWC-adjusted driver ratings this weekend. FIA Silver-rated drivers Rodrigo Baptista, Parker Chase, Yuki Harata and James Pesek are being accepted as if they are Bronze-rated, while Shane Lewis, a Bronze-rated driver by the FIA, will be permitted to race in GTS, which is largely reserved for Silvers.

***PWC is not the first series to allow driver rating exceptions, with SRO and the ACO also permitting modifications on a case-by-case basis for its championships.

***K-PAX Racing, which has switched to Bentley Continental GT3s this year, is utilizing two of the chassis previously run by Absolute Racing. Alvaro Parente’s No. 9 Bentley is an ex-Absolute/Dyson chassis that’s been refreshed for 2018, while Rodrigo Baptista’s No. 3 car was used by ABT in ADAC GT Masters and at the Nürburgring 24.

***Team manager Thomas Blam told Sportscar365 they plan to have its third Bentley at the next round at Circuit of The Americas, but likely only to serve as a backup chassis and to be used for media hot laps. Blam, however, hasn’t ruled out the car taking part in races later this season.

***The team has sold Parente’s 2016 championship-winning McLaren 650S GT3 to a historic racer, with K-PAX’s two other McLaren GT3s still up for sale.

***$110,000 was raised Wednesday evening at the seventh annual Kart 4 Kids Pro-Am kart race in St. Petersburg, with proceeds going to the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. The event was hosted by 2017 PWC champion Patrick Long and IndyCar and sports car veteran Sebastien Bourdais.

***While featuring a 12-car grid this weekend, WC Vision President and CEO Greg Gill expects additional entries for the next round of the season at COTA, which will serve as the SprintX season-opener. 

***It’s understood Black Swan Racing has committed to a Porsche 911 GT3 R for the SprintX season, with AIM Autosport also a possible return entrant with its Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, along with several teams from GT Cup, which is still an eligible class despite none of the cars taking part this weekend.

***Jack Baldwin has taken over Series Manager duties of the GT class in addition to GTS, following the exit of former GT Series Manager Rob Morgan, who has returned to his family’s race team, TruSpeed Autosport. Robbie Montinola, meanwhile, has been named TC Series Manager and Brand Marketing, with Jim Jordan moving into the Director of Marketing and Communications for WC Vision.

***PWC’s TV deal with CBS Sports Network will be announced tomorrow, along with news on its online streaming platform later in the afternoon. Sportscar365 understands that the series no longer holds an agreement with Motor Trend onDemand, which is expected to broaden the online stream’s availability.

***Every race from the 2017 PWC season was recently uploaded to the series’ official YouTube page.

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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