The opening day of the IMSA-sanctioned Daytona test saw 17 of the 18 entered cars take to the track, with only the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P not turning laps as it underwent a precautionary engine change following issues from a recent test at Sebring.
No times were officially recorded or released, with the majority of teams running to set test plans as outlined by IMSA. However, the No. 54 CORE autosport Oreca 07 Gibson was clocked unofficially lapping in the 1:38.4 range, with the pair of Team Penske Acura ARX-05s consistently in the 1:39s.
The Ford GTs were reportedly quick, in the 1:43-1:44 range, within Joey Hand’s Rolex 24 class pole time from January, with the debuting BMW M8 GTEs clocked at 1:47 at one point today.
The only notable incident came in the morning when Don Yount nosed the No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports Riley Mk. 30 Gibson into the barriers, bringing out one of two red flags in the session. The car rejoined with spare bodywork, which was later replaced by a full carbon nose in the afternoon.
New and modified cars were prescribed short, four or five-lap runs testing various configurations, such as modified weight, power and wing positions. The team-nominated driver would complete the laps, return to the garage and make the mandated adjustments in IMSA’s scrutineering bay. Four or five cars cycled through the process at a time throughout the day, with more of the same set for tomorrow.
Both Onroak Automotive-built prototypes, nor the BAR1 Riley took part in IMSA’s testing on Tuesday. The Riley is running only updated bodywork, with its extensive mechanical updates not ready until the Roar, according to team owner Brian Alder.
The Evo kits for both the Ligier JS P217 Gibson and Nissan Onroak DPi, meanwhile, are en route to Florida and are expected to arrive in time for tomorrow’s running. Onroak team principal Philippe Dumas told Sportscar365 that the extent of the update is just front bodywork, primarily a new splitter.
Tequila Patron ESM is operating the Onroak-entered car this week, which is being tested by Will Owen and Pipo Derani. The Brazilian arrived at Daytona at 2 a.m., following a 30-plus hour travel day from Japan, where he finished second in the Asian Le Mans Series round at Fuji in a Ligier JS P2 Nissan.
Owen, meanwhile, got his first laps of Daytona ahead of the race, where he’ll be part of United Autosports’ star-studded lineup that features Fernando Alonso and Paul Di Resta. He feels this week’s experience is vital for him, particularly with what’s to come. “With everything going on with the team under the spotlight at the Roar, the testing will go by so fast, we’re not going to have time to think and analyze as much as we want,” Owen said. “Now I’ve gotten the real-life feel for it.”
The brand-new No. 7 Penske Acura DPi turned limited laps after a fuel leak and water pump failure in the morning, which sidelined the Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and Graham Rahal-driven entry.
Ernie Francis Jr. gained his first experience in the Ford GT, completing 15 laps on Tuesday. The 19-year-old was reportedly lapping in the 1:46 range, with the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing crew understood to have been pleased with his performance. Francis is expected to get more seat time tomorrow although will not feature in the team’s lineup for the Rolex 24 or WeatherTech Championship season, which was confirmed on Tuesday.
IMSA has introduced the use of fuel flow sensors for the first time, across all three classes, in an effort monitor fuel consumption. IMSA’s Geoffrey Carter said it’s not being used for regulation, as is the case in the FIA WEC’s LMP1 class. “As you know, [fuel] capacity and refueling times in the pit lane is related,” Carter told Sportscar365. “If your car has the wrong capacity, based on perhaps some erroneous ECU reporting, we’ll now be able to get a better handle.”
***Carter has clarified that not every GT Le Mans manufacturer was required for this week’s test, as initially communicated. Four of the five GTLM cars are represented, with the Corvette C7.R the only absence.
Spirit of Daytona Racing will announce its 2018 program on Friday, according to team owner Troy Flis, who along with engineer Rick Cameron, were in the paddock today. Flis said he already has his full-season drivers for the Prototype effort confirmed and indicated that Visit Florida is not likely to return as a primary sponsor.
Rumors have linked SDR to the purchase of a Cadillac DPi-V.R, although Flis would not confirm.
ORECA is set to be the most-represented prototype constructor on the grid next year, with four Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 cars and the pair of Oreca-chassised Acura DPis. An additional two Oreca LMP2 entries will be on the grid for Daytona, run by Jackie Chan DCR JOTA.
The French constructor has created an infographic highlighting the key numbers from the Oreca FLM09, which served as the spec car for Prototype Challenge from 2010-17, as well having raced in Europe. A total of 696 entries combined for 112 race starts, from the 42 chassis built that were campaigned by teams representing eight different countries.
Ex-Spirit of Daytona Director of Operations Michael Harvey has been named the new team manager for Porsche GT Team. Harvey takes the role of Morgan Brady, who steps up to a more overarching general manager role to look after both CORE autosport and the growing Composite Resources business, which is expanding into aerospace. Brady retains his position as the company’s Chief Operating Officer.
There have also been staff changes within the CORE team, with Brian Colangelo now serving as team manager and a number of new faces, including ex-Change Racing lead mechanic Steve Ragan, joining the organization, which has stepped up to Prototype competition. Jeff Braun remains as race engineer.
Penske has hired several former SpeedSource employees, with former Action Express Racing No. 31 crew chief Chad Gordon also joining the factory Acura DPi squad. Matt Martin, who was crew chief at SpeedSource, meanwhile, has joined Multimatic as part of its increased support staff for Mazda Team Joest that also now includes Guilherme de Castro.
CORE’s second Oreca LMP2 chassis completed a shakedown at Paul Ricard last week and left ORECA’s workshop on Monday. It is expected to serve as a spare car.
Romain Dumas has been confirmed for the three remaining Tequila Patron Endurance Cup races at CORE, in addition to Daytona as announced last week.
The Frenchman will have a busy month of June in particular, as he is scheduled to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche, is poised to return to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, followed directly by the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, all over a three-week period.
In all, Dumas has at least four 24-hour races planned (Daytona, Nürburgring, Le Mans and Spa), as well as a full-season campaign in the Intercontinental GT Challenge with Porsche.
Performance Tech Motorsports’ new Oreca LMP2 car, meanwhile, has completed build and is expected to be shaken down by the end of the week in France. The 2017 PC champions recently confirmed a step up tp the Prototype class for next year but has yet to reveal its driver lineup.
A number of drivers looking for rides have been spotted in the paddock, including ex-Stevenson aces Robin Liddell and Matt Bell, as well as Mike Skeen, who is hopeful of seeing Lone Star Racing return for either a partial GTD season or potentially a switch to Pirelli World Challenge with its Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Source: John Dagys - Sportscar 365