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Rolex 24 Hours: Friday Paddock Notes

News and notes ahead of the ACO-IMSA conference and Pilot Challenge opener

Black Swan makes final practice

Black Swan Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3.R is stickered up and ready to go for tomorrow’s race (above).

A replacement car (from Wright Motorsports) was built up overnight after terminal accident damage in Thursday’s Free Practice 1. The team was completing the final balance and wheel pointing duties when DSC arrived at the circuit prior to this morning’s “imperative” fourth and final Free Practice session, this time in dry conditions.

Thankfully all drivers had completed their night laps during the Roar, so the penalty is lost track time. Expectations are realistic but the car is back in the game.

Heinricher Racing Expand Partnership with ExxonMobil

Heinricher Racing and Acura have expanded their partnership with ExxonMobil, the #57 Acura NSX GT3 – which is the only women-owned race team in IMSA – will utilise ExxonMobil’s Mobil 1 full synthetic technology for the second season running.

“Our team took on many challenges in year one, and most importantly we continue to prove my theory that the car can’t tell the difference between a female and a male driver,” Jackie Heinricher said.

This season, the #57 Heinricher Racing Acura will be driven this season by Alvaro Parente and Misha Goikhberg. Trent Hindman will join the team for endurance races and AJ Allmendinger will race with the team this weekend.

“Jackie continues to not just set the pace for the next generation of women in motorsport, but to accelerate a shifting mentality for what women can achieve on and off the racetrack,” said Andrew Hanna, global motorsports and sponsorship advisor for ExxonMobil.

Acura #7 Completes Technical Inspection Following Rebuild

The #7 Team Penske Acura ARX-05c has completed its technical inspection this morning following a substantial rebuild to the front half of the car last night.

Ricky Taylor was on board when the car went off track at the bus stop after being unsettled by new kerbs put in place at the bus stop. The car hit the tyre barrier heavily with the front left.

The car completed just two laps in the night practice session after it spent much of the session in the garage being repaired.

Paul Miller Racing confident of strong Rolex 24

Paul Miller Racing’s sports car programme began in 2010, competing in Grand Am and the ALMS. Four years now as a Lamborghini customer team, the GTD Championship win in 2018 was a significant high water mark. The Rolex 24 at Daytona presents a unique challenge, but with the team returning on a high, and having shown well so far in the Free Practice sessions, the driver squad is upbeat about their prospects.

Corey Lewis: “We hit the ground running at the Roar and throughout today we’re right on cue for what we want to accomplish. We have night practice coming up and were pretty hopeful this year we may be in with a shot at some little piece of wrist hardware..!”

Madison Snow: “ The conditions weren’t great but the sessions were good today. I’m really pleased to be back in the car after the break and am really looking forward to taking things forward into this race and this season.”

Bryan Sellers: “Daytona historically had most competitive field we see all year. By its nature you see an increase in competition. Time was, if you had a good car and a couple of good guys aboard you were in with a chance. Now you need four good drivers who are going to be flat out all the way. The GTD class continues to grow in strength and competition and as that continues the more you want to win this race. Other teams have the same quality as us and that’s what we are up against and why it’s one of the world’s greatest races.”

“Lamborghini’s information exchange is very good, as it has to be to have a successful customer race programme. To be a successful manufacturer you have to do that from the top down, but as you go further down the chain that exchange is nearly nothing and it’s all those small things that win races.

Grasser’s programme has been fantastic, their record speaks for itself. But at the end of the day you try not to worry about what everyone else is capable of; it’s out of your control. You have to focus on doing the best job you can and you benchmark against their results: if you’re quicker, you’ve done a good job, if not you have some work to do.”

Andrea Caldarelli: “My fourth year in a row here and maybe the most competitive race I have ever done. We’ve had a podium before – hopefully this year is going to be the one. The level of the race in the last three years has been so close in GTD, but you win this race in strategy more so than in performance. We four are strong as a team and we are confident we have the best people around us to make the best of what happens.”

Ellis quickest in final MPC practice

Philip Ellis topped the timing sheets in the first session of the day, a practice session for the Michelin Pilot Challenge runners in preparation for their four-hour race this afternoon.

Ellis’ time in the #57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 helped the team secure a 1-2 finish in the session. Indy Dontje was second quickest in the #4 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4, Dontje’s time of 1:53.819 was just 0.087 seconds behind Ellis’ leading time.

Spencer Pumpelly was third quickest in the #31 Team Hardpoint Audi R8 GT4. His best time was a 1:54.125.

In TCR, Speed Syndicate Motorsports ended the session with a 1-2 with their pair of Audi RS3 LMS TCR cars. James Vance in the #23 Audi RS3 bested his teammate Mikey Taylor in the #32 Audi RS3 by 0.276 seconds.

Matt Pombo ended the session in third in the #73 LA Honda World Civic, his best time was a 1:59.994. Roughly half a second behind Vance’s session-best 1:59.518.

There were no notable incidents in the session.

GT lap records

In the IMSA debut of the Porsche 911 RSR 19, the car smashed the lap record with Nick Tandy setting a 1:42.207.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better qualifying result. Both of our vehicles on the front row of the GTLM class. At its North American premiere, the new Porsche 911 RSR has underlined the great performance potential that we’ve already seen in the FIA WEC,” said Pascal Zurlinden, the director of GT factory motorsport at Porsche.

Porsche has dominated the timing sheets thus far, leading ever practice session and securing a 1-2 in qualifying. Such a start is a boost of confidence for Porsche, but the brand knows that the race is a different beast. Porsche has not won this race since 2014 – an uncharacteristic stat for the brand that has long-dominated the series it competes in.

A Porsche also broke the lap record in GTD with Zacharie Robichon setting a 1:45.237 in the #9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

“Despite not having a lot of grip in the free practice sessions, we didn’t change anything and simply trusted the setup we had tested at the Roar. The plan worked. The car already felt great in the out lap,” said Robichon.