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California 8H: Pre-Race Notes

News and notes before the California 8 Hours begins

Engine change for #107 Bentley

Bentley Team M-Sport completed an engine change on its #107 Continental GT yesterday. This means that Jordan Pepper, Steven Kane, and Jules Gounon will be starting the race from the pits.

Thursday’s running revealed a water leak in the engine and the team elected to take the first engine out, undo all the connections and reinstall the same original engine. All in the hopes to fix the problem and avoid incurring a penalty at the same time.

With the same engine reinstalled in the car for qualifying the issue returned and the team was forced to swap it for its second 4-litre V8 engine of the weekend.

A quick walk by the M-Sport garage this morning revealed the work had been completed ahead of the race.

Audi looking for three-in-a-row

One storyline to watch for in the race will be the performance of the Audi R8 GT3 Evos. Audi is going for its third straight win at this race, as too is Kelvin Van Der Linde who piloted both winning cars in 2017 and 2018.

The team starts from unfamiliar territory though, third on the grid. Audis started from pole in each of the last two races here in Monterey. The German-marquee has won the championship each of the last two seasons in the IGTC and it is an important championship for them.

“For us, the Intercontinental GT Challenge is the possibility to showcase the potential of the product, to show the potential and to motivate customers around the world to invest into our product.” Said Chris Reinke the head of customer racing at Audi Sport.

Look out for an extended piece and more from DSC’s conversation with Reinke later on.

GT4 America West

The GT4 America West Series played the role of support series this weekend at Laguna Seca with two one-hour races on Friday. BMW M4 GT4s took the victory in both races, but with two different teams.

Race 1 was won by Sean Quinlan and Gregory Liefooghe in their #19 Stephen Cameron Racing M4 GT4. They fended off the #5 USRD Ginetta G55 after a late race restart to secure the win. The Ginetta crossed the line just three-tenths of a second behind the winning BMW, the closest margin between two cars at the finish.

In race two the #28 ST Racing BMW M4 GT4 of Jon Miller and Harry Gottsacker took the win. This time around, the gap was between first and second was much larger, with the #28 BMW crossing the line just over eight seconds clear of second place. That second place was the aforementioned #19 Stephen Cameron BMW.

Miller and Gottsacker now lead the Pro-Am drivers championship by 17 points. Next up for GT4 Sprint cars is Long Beach on April 12/14, the same weekend as the IMSA and IndyCar round, while the next time out for the GT4 West series is Sonoma on June 1/9.

Bertrand Baguette on NSX Pole

DSC spoke to Bertrand Baguette about the NSX Evo and its pole position run in yesterday’s qualifying shootout. “Its a really good feeling especially because we put everything together quite late, we started preparing for this race a bit more than one month ago so we are very proud to be on pole for today.”

Baguette was pleased with the improvements the factory was able to make regarding the Evo kit that the NSX is now sporting.

“I think we did a very good job to cure the problems we had with the old version. We tried to improve the drivability of the car. On the old version, we had some issues, mainly on the rear like lack of stability, especially on the brakes and the Evo kit made that a lot easier. It’s a lot more consistent now.”

Gary Paffett on tyre degradation

Gary Paffett, running this race in the #44 Mercedes-AMG Team Strakka Racing entry thinks tyre degradation could be an issue in this race. Their Mercedes-AMG GT3 did not show the pace they perhaps would have hoped, they will roll off from eleventh.

“I think our long-run potential is pretty good. Our tyre degradation is normally pretty good with this car, anything can happen in eight hours.” Paffet said. “Some of the cars at the front that were quick in qualifying have really big tyre degradation, so there could be a queue at some point and it’s a matter of how we can get to the front of that queue with strategy.”

Paffett doesn’t imagine cars will be able to daube-stint tyres. “The tire deg is too costly, at the end of an hour, at the end of a stint you’re getting pretty tight on tire life and pace.”

The former DTM driver is also making his debut race in the United States. “It’s my first race in the US, it’s great to be here. Laguna Seca is a legendary place to come and race and this series is a great place to race. It’s a small grid but a really high-level grid, all the cars are so competitive and all the drivers are of a really high level.”

How to watch

Today’s race can be watched around the world on the Intercontinental GT Challenge website and on DSC, with CBS Sports Network also providing coverage.

The race is set to begin at 15:30 GMT (8:30 am local).