Daytona International Speedway photos.
The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship came away with the kind of news it was hoping for after private testing among Daytona Prototype teams at Daytona International Speedway went mostly according to plan on Tuesday. The issues that were experienced did not involve tires or aerodynamics.
Action Express Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Michael Shank Racing and Starworks Motorsport represented the Daytona Prototype side of the Prototype class, while SpeedSource ran Mazda’s pair of P2 cars for the first time in public.
As RACER documented on Monday, aerodynamic changes and new tire compounds from Continental were on the docket for testing as the series looks to solve the problems that plagued the November TUDOR Championship test at Daytona.
CGRwFS turned its first laps with the No. 01 Riley-Ford EcoBoost DP on Tuesday with 2013 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon responsible for most of the driving, and found the revised 2014 aero package worked to their satisfaction.
“We had a good test today, it looked like the other teams did too, plus Continental got a fair direction on what to do with compounds for the 24-hour race,” Ganassi managing director Mike Hull told RACER. “They seemed pleased, which is a good thing. What we did was to run what we thought the downforce levels would be for the race, and that was with the flat bottom, no diffuser, the dual element rear wing, the opening in the fenders and a trimmed aero package.
“We’re told that’s probably pretty close to what teams will have to run for the race, and we may run tomorrow for the series with the diffuser installed on the car to give them some information there.”
Chip Ganassi Racing photo
The team worked through some new-car blues, and also gave Ganassi driver and oval racing phenom Kyle Larson his first opportunity to drive a sports car around Daytona. Based on his quick adaptation to the DP platform, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Californian get an invite to return for the big 24-hour race in January.
“It was a good day with Ford; we had an electrical issue at the end of the day, so we stopped early, but it was a turnkey deal with them on our first day with the new engine,” Hull continued. “We started right at 9 o’clock, and after 10 minutes, got past the shakedown part and got down to business. We also ran Kyle Larson for a solid hour in the car and he really impressed us. He’s a once-in-a-generation driver and just really soaked everything up.
“Scott [Dixon] gave him a lot of pointers and by the end of his time in the car he was just over a half-second off of Scott, about seven-tenths. He asked for this opportunity to try the car, and we sure were rewarded by his methodical approach and how easily he adapted to something that was brand-new to him.”
Dixon, who dealt with the effects of food poisoning throughout the day, said getting acclimated to the new Ford twin-turbo V6 DP power took a little while after years of managing naturally aspirated grunt in Ganassi’s DPs.
“It was pretty different; you’re dealing with production-based technology that’s still being adapted to racing, so we’re still working on throttle response, traction control and all the usual stuff, but I’m quite encouraged for where we’re at,” said the Kiwi who’ll use a twin-turbo V6 from rival Chevy when he returns to defend his IndyCar crown next season.
“I wasn’t here for the last test, but the tires we ran seemed like they’re going to be quite good like they got a handle on things and that’s all anybody wanted to see, I think. All in all, it was good to be back in these cars, and I think the race in January is going to be pretty crazy. I’m looking forward to it.”
Dixon also shared his thoughts on Larson’s road racing debut in a DP.
“Man, he’s a real natural talent and a really good kid,” he added. “It was really impressive to see how he adapted, especially for a guy who doesn’t really know his way around a road course. He took his time, kept it on track and did a fantastic job. It’s cool to see a young guy step up and handle stuff like this for the first time as well as he did. I’ve seen other guys come nowhere near to what he was able to do, which was really cool.”
Lap times were not provided, but it’s believed the fastest 2014 Daytona-spec DPs ran in the 1:40 range while using different downforce levels, while the 2013-spec DP run by Starworks lapped in the 1:42s with driver Alex Popow on board.
“Tires were probably the biggest thing we were here to help with,” Starworks owner Peter Baron told RACER. “They had two different constructions for us to try for next year, and they were very solid. The sidewalls were very stiff, but they didn’t sacrifice grip. The control tire and the alternate were significantly better than what we ran [in November]. The grip and overall feeling was better, they lasted a long time, and both were great. One was a little better than the others, and Alex was clicking off his best laps of the day at the end of a stint on the tires.”
Continental’s latest Prototype tires fostered confidence in all of the teams and drivers that RACER spoke with on Tuesday, and more data should be captured tomorrow, although the threat of rain could delay those plans.
The positive tire feedback was tempered by mechanical issues suffered by three DP teams. Ganassi and Shank were forced to make engine changes in the morning for MSR and the end of the day for CGRwFS, while the No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP suffered an oil fire caused by a faulty oil line, burning wiring and other components at the back of the car.
The team was working into the night to determine if enough spares were onsite to resume testing with the 5.5-liter V8 Corvette DP on Wednesday.