IMSA close to setting Prototype specs for Daytona

IMSA close to setting Prototype specs for Daytona

IMSA

IMSA close to setting Prototype specs for Daytona

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Recent tests by Daytona Prototype and P2 teams in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s Prototype class have helped IMSA to close in on a Daytona-only specification intended to increase safety and parity during the 24-hour race.

Speaking with RACER.com Thursday morning, IMSA competition and technical regulations VP Scot Elkins provided an update on the new configuration DPs will use at the Roar Before the 24 test and during the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona event.

“It has been a collaborative effort between IMSA and Continental Tire,” said Elkins. “They came up with two new specifications of tires we tested last week and then, in combination with that, we decided to remove the diffuser for the Daytona specification. And we’ve also specified a rear wing angle range to limit the top speed of the DPs.”

The diffuser will return for the rest of the TUDOR Championship races once the series leaves Daytona. With all of the new aero components installed on the DPs, a 1000-pound increase in downforce was seen during initial tests at Sebring and Daytona in November, and with the revised Daytona spec, Elkins says that number has been halved.

“It’s funny how that works out,” he added. “It ends up being about 500 pounds less than the full 2014 spec, and about 500 pounds more than what the 2013 Daytona spec was.”

IMSA had two different P2 models testing at Daytona to help with setting a spec for the other half of the Prototype class, although only one chassis, Extreme Speed Motorsports’ HPD ARX-03b, was running at its full potential. Its latest configuration included a 60kg weight reduction (down from 960 to its normal 900kgs) and more power, courtesy of a five-percent air restrictor break.

More P2 chassis and engine combinations will be seen at the Roar test on Jan.3-5, giving IMSA a chance to evaluate a wider range of P2 performance before locking in a Daytona spec.

“We were really focused on the DPs last week, but did have some P2s there and tried some modifications,” said Elkins. “We gathered a lot of data, but we’re still not at a point where we can do a full-on round of performance balancing. We’re about to go into the wind tunnel to do more tests on the Prototypes and then we’ll have a couple more P2 examples at the Roar to learn from.

“We’re pretty happy with the performance targets we saw from the P2s last week, so now is the time we’ll lock down the aero spec on the DP and do some more running to lock in the P2 and DeltaWing spec. From there, we’ll run the cars at the Roar and make final tweaks where necessary to get the cars as close as possible, but we’re not going to get them running identically throughout the course of a lap.”

One of the leftover items for Elkins and the DP manufacturer in the wind tunnel involves testing bolt-on items at the front of the cars to balance the spike in rear downforce created by the diffuser. Bigger dive planes and other items won’t be seen for Daytona, according to Elkins, but will be used afterward. IMSA is also expected to tailor track-specific Prototype rules for more than just the Rolex 24.

“That aero stuff will be strictly for Sebring onward,” he noted. “We’re working on the Daytona spec, and then we have a Sebring test in February and will work on a high-downforce spec to use there, and I expect that process to continue at the rest of the tracks we’ll go to.”IMSA carried over the ACO-based driver rating system, which assigns a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum status, into the TUDOR Championship. Depending on which rating a driver receives, they become eligible to drive in certain classes, and with ALMS drivers having been through the process, Elkins has been responsible for assigning ratings to Grand-Am and any other incoming TUDOR Championship drivers.

Where some classes (Prototype, GT Le Mans) allow drivers from any one of the four rankings to participate, other classes (PC, GT Daytona) limit the number of top-tier Gold and Platinum drivers a team can use, guaranteeing pro-am Bronze and Silver drivers have a place in the series.

With the Rolex 24 at Daytona just over a month away, IMSA has yet to publish its series-wide driver ratings, which has been problematic for some team owners wanting to sign drivers to their roster. It’s an issue Elkins expects to have resolved in a matter of days.

“We should have a list out just before Christmas so everyone can see where we’re at,” he explained. “We’re still working out the process internally to create a committee to get it done, so it’s taking longer than we’d hoped, but we should have it out pretty soon so people can get their deals done.”

The ALMS and Grand-Am had large car counts at marquee events throughout the years, but having as many as 60 cars sharing the track during some of the regular rounds could be a recipe for an increase in crashes and caution periods.

Grand-Am, in particular, drew the ire of its fans and participants for turning simple cautions into painfully long yellows, which IMSA is looking to remedy in the TUDOR Championship.

“This is something we look at every year, and I know we get a fair amount of stuff from the fans for extended cautions, so we’ve been trying to come up with processes for what we call short yellows’ where we might open the pits, or might not,” said Elkins. “If it’s a piece of debris, we might just go pick it up and get on with the racing, so we’re working on a few different options there. We’re trying to improve things and ways to reduce the yellow time.”

The 2014 version of the IMSA Safety Team is also rounding into shape, with some of the members of the 2013 ALMS team interviewing for positions. The next round of meetings on the topic will take place in Daytona on Monday.

With more Prototype wind tunnel testing right around the corner, and the recent inclusion of P1/P2-style wheel arch bodywork cutouts, Elkins closed the conversation by touching on whether more LMP-based aero stability items will be carried over to the DPs.

“We always work with [the ACO] hand in hand, and the cutouts are things we used because there’s no downside to them especially as the speeds we’re traveling at Daytona and they’ll remain on the DPs and PCs,” he remarked. “We went through a few different versions of those before settling on what we used last week.
 
“On the (engine cover) fins, there’s one event (Daytona) where we run those speeds and with the time at hand, there isn’t time to look at doing anything right away, but it’s something we’re continuing to look at for the future.”

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