Motul Petit Le Mans, Friday notes

October 12, 2018

Motul Petit Le Mans, Friday notes

October 12, 2018

There was quite a bit to recap on Friday at Road Atlanta. Here are some of the highlights of the day before the last day of the 2018 IMSA season.

GTLM contenders check in

Both sets of title contenders in GT Le Mans made a visit to the media center. Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen share the No. 3 Corvette C7.R, and seek to wrap their second straight GTLM driver’s championship.

Garcia and Magnussen admitted it was strange to enter this position without having had a win this season. However their consistency has put them in this spot to begin with.

Third driver Marcel Fassler will add to their effort this weekend. He’s one of many star third drivers in the race. Fassler’s amount of driving is yet to be defined, but it’s expected he’ll do at least one and possibly two hours in the middle of the race.

If the No. 3 car finishes fourth or better, they will win the GTLM driver’s title. They lead the Ford pairing of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook by nine points.

Briscoe and Westbrook also stopped in, joined by third driver Scott Dixon. Westbrook noted the torque and grunt of the Corvette’s V8 engine has helped it perform thus far this week at the track. However, he is optimistic of Ford’s chances, and says this track suits the car well.

Ford can secure the manufacturer’s championship provided at least one car starts the race to score points. For Briscoe and Westbrook to overcome the deficit in the driver’s standings, the easiest scenario is that they need to win and hope the No. 3 Corvette finishes fifth or lower.

P, GTD battles tighter than GTLM

Additional championship leaders in the Prototype and GT Daytona classes also paid a visit to the media center.

Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr of Action Express Cadillac lead the Prototype class points by four over Colin Braun and Jon Bennett of CORE autosport. Consistency has provided the No. 31 Whelen Engineering pair of drivers the top spot. Even with only one win, they have five podiums and top-eight finishes in all nine races. The race is Curran’s last for now as a full-time driver; he’ll be the team’s third for Michelin Endurance Cup races in 2019.

In GTD, it’s Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow with a six-point lead over Katherine Legge. The unique dynamic of this battle may come down to their respective third drivers.

Corey Lewis races with Snow in the North American Lamborghini Super Trofeo this year. As a trio, the Paul Miller Lamborghini won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring this year. Meanwhile beyond Legge and Alvaro Parente at Meyer Shank Racing, it’s Trent Hindman who will be one to watch. Hindman has two IMSA sanctioned series titles on his resume and actually was Sellers and Snow’s third driver this race last year. Now, he’s in their rival car. Both Sellers and Legge mentioned Friday that Lewis and Hindman’s stints should be pivotal.

A pair of Acura notes

Legge was in the media center to kick off the morning’s run of press conferences. She’ll continue for the full 2019 IMSA season in GTD as part of Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura NSX GT3 program. The difference comes with the additions of Jackie Heinricher, Heinricher Racing and Caterpillar as partners in the all-female driving lineup. This group will also include IndyCar veterans Ana Beatriz and Simona de Silvestro at the Rolex 24 at Daytona season opener.

Acura followed that announcement with confirmation of its new Evo package for the NSX. The updated car will be called the Acura NSX GT3 Evo. A chassis is on display at the Road Atlanta Fan Zone with Michelin tires.

Pfaff steps up to GTD

The announcements kept coming with Pfaff Motorsports up next. Pfaff confirmed a Porsche 911 GT3 R for the WeatherTech Sprint Cup portion of the 2019 IMSA season. They’ll run those seven sprint races plus Motul Petit Le Mans. Scott Hargrove, a multiple time sports car and open-wheel champion, joins Canadian countryman Zacharie Robichon in the effort. Robichon has won a multitude of races in other IMSA sanctioned championships this season.

Auberlen’s birthday celebrations

BMW factory ace Bill Auberlen turned 50 years old today. To celebrate, BMW Team RLL surprised him with a cake and a coronation of singing during Friday’s autograph session. You can see a video here. He shares the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE with Connor De Phillippi and Alexander Sims. BMW has the pole for Saturday’s race, and is in search of its third straight GTLM win.

More than just GTLM 

Michelin’s track naming rights announcement at Road Atlanta capped off a frenetic morning of activity in the media center over a three-plus hour period. A number of significant Michelin Motorsport executives and personnel are on hand this weekend.

Additionally, this weekend marks the second Michelin Pilot Experience special event at an IMSA weekend this season. There was also one at Sebring back in March.

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