RACER.com is reporting live from the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s three-day Roar Before The 24 test at Daytona International Speedway, and will provide an ongoing series of brief updates, news items and quick analysis from Friday through Sunday.
END OF DAY NOTES
The 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay posted the fastest GTLM lap during the night session in his No. 91 SRT Viper GTS-R (TOP, Marshall Pruett image) and told RACER he’s a big fan of how far the chassis has come since he last drove it at Petit Le Mans in 2012. “It drives like a totally different carit just does everything better, which was a really cool thing to feel,” he said. “The car is smoother; the electronics work a lot smooth with things like the traction control, the ride is smoother a lot less harsh and it carries a lot of speed in the corners. Altogether, it’s just a big, big change in the right direction from when I was last in the car and the SRT people and Bill Riley’s guys have done a phenomenal job with the Viper. I’m really enjoying myself.”
Mazda rebounded from an unforgiving Friday where both cars spent the majority of the day in the garage being repaired or having components replaced. The team didn’t turn a ton of laps with its pair of P2 diesels on Saturday, but did complete the goals they set out for themselves. Most of their activity took place during the night session where the Nos. 07 and 70 each turned 27 laps, with team owner/driver Sylvain Tremblay posting a fast lap of 1:48.88, well shy of the 1:39.9 recorded by David Brabham in the Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b P2 car. “We’re getting some wind back in our sails,” Tremblay told RACER. “Yesterday we had a shaky day. We’re working on engine reliability and some new driveline components, so we focused today on getting our cars and drivers dialed in during the night session. The cars are very conservative on the engine tune, and that’s on purpose; we’re very good on the infield sector times and way down on the straights, but we knew that would be the case going in. We’re working on the chassis, and you can’t do that if you’re pushing the engine too hard this early in the program. We were here until 2 a.m. getting everything ready to run today, met our objectives, and we’ll be back out tomorrow completing more things on our list. We’ll generate more data, which is the whole reason we came here.”
For those who came to love the ALMS-style timing and scoring system, former ALMS T&S guru Lee Driggers has created a similar option for viewing TUDOR Championship sessions.
At just 18 years old, reigning Indy Lights champion Sage Karam has come incredibly far in his career at such a young age, but as he told RACER Saturday night, the world of endurance racing is unlike anything he’s experienced. “When I drove the car for the first time it was all very new to me–I’d never driven a car with carbon brakes or had as much power as the Ford has,” said Karam. “The only other time I’d driven something with a roof over my head was my street car, so it’s a different thing to experience, but I like it a lot. To hop into such a fast car was a challenge, but with such a great team, I’ve felt comfortable right away.
After about 10 laps, I was lapping right with Tony Kanaan and Scott Pruett, I adapted a lot quicker than I thought I would. We ended up not doing the night session, which is too bad because I think that’s what I’ll be doing a lot of in the race. But I know whatever I learn here, I can apply to the other cars I race, so it’s great for me to get this opportunity and to get to try and incorporate so many things I wouldn’t have seen if I only drove open-wheel cars.”
The Flying Lizard team is making vast strides with its new GTD Audi R8s after years of working with Porsches. Team manager Eric Ingraham credited the support he’s received from Audi Customer Sport North America for helping to bridge their knowledge gap, and with the fast time from Friday afternoon and the second-fastest time in night practice, the Sonoma-based outfit is making its presence felt at the Roar.
He also questioned whether some of the other teams were trying their hardest “Audi’s assistance has been very thorough, and I think that is what has given us such a positive start with the R8s,” he said. “And we took IMSA’s message about not sandbagging very seriously. We think, and Audi thinks that honesty and transparency is the right tack. Things are going really well, they’ve been good out of the box, but I think part of what it looks like on the timesheet is because some teams are not going as fast as they can. All we can do is concentrate on what we’re doing and show up for the race as prepared as we can be. What the other teams are or aren’t doing isn’t something we can control.”
8:30 p.m. ET
RACER has learned the Michael Shank Racing team will follow Ganassi’s lead and conclude their test effective immediately. The Ford EcoBoost-powered cars suffered exhaust header failures, and with the extreme heat generated by the turbo systems, the risk of fire was too great to continue. “We’re still getting everything in shape and we’re making great progress, but there’s still work to do,” said Shank. The Ganassi team pulled both cars after the third practice, while MSR ran the fourth and final session, and with their departure, Ford’s three-car DP fleet has exited the Roar Before The 24 with one day left on the schedule.
“Anything, compared to an F1 car, is going to be a night and day difference. The DeltaWing isn’t that different to drive. It’s not difficult to drive. You can get in it and drive straight away and be there or there about on pace. Getting the last second or two is the hard part, which is the same of any car. With this, you take a different approach than that of a standard caronce you adapt to it, it’s fine. The feeling is the same as any formula car. I went out of pit lane wondering how I was going to judge the rear of the car to the front of the car, but it comes naturally. Understeer, oversteer, the car stepping out, it’s the same. It’s wicked quick in a straight line. We lose out to the P2s because they’re downforce cars, and we’re down on the straights to the DPs, but overall, our pace is quite good. I’m happy I was able to get up to speed pretty quick.”
The DeltaWing, at least by my visual estimation, has been the fastest car through the International Hairpin. It’s mechanical grip is simply staggering, and Rossi was particularly adept at carrying entry speed into and through a turn that usually requires hard braking, a slow, off-power turning phase and re-acceleration. Rossi is only scheduled to do the Rolex 24 with Don Panoz’s team, and says his full-season plans for 2014 should be revealed soon. “My focus is on Formula 1, and I should have an announcement on what I’m doing before the Rolex 24. Getting the invite from Dr. Panoz to drive for him here, at Daytona, is a huge honor and one I definitely want to put on my resume. After Le Mans, I gained such an appreciation for endurance racing and when I was asked, it was an immediate yes. It’s an honor and a privilege to be here.”
5:50 p.m. ET
Big news coming out of Daytona. The Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates team is concluding their Roar Before The 24 test and heading home after persistent problems beneath the engine cover have continued. The Michael Shank Racing team, which uses the same Ford EcoBoost turbo engine, will continue running, but lost time at the end of Friday when it suffered an engine issue.
The Ganassi team is known for focusing on the future, rather than any issues of the day, which is reflected in a quote from Ganassi managing director Mike Hull: “We had a successful two days testing the new No. 01 and 02 Target and Telcel Ford EcoBoost Prototype cars at Daytona this weekend,” he said. “The No. 01 car set the fastest time of the day today with Jamie McMurray behind the wheel, which we were very pleased with. We reached a point where we made the decision to head back to the race shop and start working on the two cars for the race in a few weeks, so we will not be testing on Sunday.
5:10 p.m. ET
Videos! Enjoy three videos from todayone serious, one funny and one that will blow up your speakers…
3:15 p.m. ET
2:45 p.m. ET
2013 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport IndyCar Series driver Tristan Vautier is back for his second consecutive run at the Rolex 24 with Mazda, this time piloting one of the team’s brand-new P2 cars. Unfortunately, the 2012 Indy Lights champion might not have a lot of on-track activities this year unless a few opportunities come his way. “It’s really quiet for me in IndyCar, and even in sports cars,” he told RACER. “Everyone wants money, which isn’t easy to get right now. I don’t want to sit out a lot this year, but it’s not looking good.”
I’d made a few inquiries regarding the fate of the Michelin Green-X Challenge during the short off-season, and got an update from TUDOR Championship COO Scott Atherton on the subject. “We haven’t finalized it, but our intention is to announce it at the Rolex 24,” he told RACER. “We’re in the process of renewing our relationships with the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and SAE International. They affectionately refer to it as Green Racing 2.0, and we want to take what we did with the Green-X Challenge and build upon it. There’s a slightly different format we have here, but some of it is similar. I would prefer to not go into the branding element of it; internally we’re referring to it as “IMSA Green Challenge.” It’s not limited to just on-track competition, but the whole focus of the sanctioning body on green practices, green initiatives.”
12:45 p.m. ET
The No. 911 factory Porsche RSR broke a halfshaft during the morning session. The car was taken back to the garage where the CORE autosport team investigated the source of the failure, installed a replacement and readied themselves to run the second session.
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing driver Lucas Luhr hasn’t been shy about expressing his displeasure at the deletion of the P1 category in the TUDOR Championship, but says he’s enjoyed his first taste of the ORECA 03-Nissan V8 P2 car the team will field this season. “This is the first time we’ve run the car,” he said before offering his view of how it compared to MMPR’s championship-winning P1 car. “It’s slowbut it’s a very good, sorted out car. Everything is a little smoother and not so aggressive; it starts with the engine sound, the throttle, the steering. It’s a little more made for customer racing so everyone can use it. It’s still a high-downforce car, but it’s a shame because the rules doesn’t let it have the kind of power it wants to use. It’s different to drive, which is obvious. The P1 car rewards you the harder you go, the harder you push. With this car, you have to be smart about how hard you push. It’s a little like an F3 thatwithout the power to match the downforce and grip. So you have to roll into the corners more instead of powering through them. It’s not as much of a knife-edge car as the P1 was, but I’m liking it quite a lot.”
11:45 a.m. ET
The TUDOR Championship cars have run during the Roar without the new digital class position lighting systems installed, but the surprisingly large units (9.5″ x 8.5″) arrived today (BELOW). They install via adhesive backing and could pose an issue for some classes where sponsorship branding is normally sold.
Frdric Makowiecki (aka Fred Mako) was named as a factory Porsche GT driver in December, yet has not taken part in any of the factory testing in the GTLM category at Daytona. The French ace is here with the NGT Porsche GTD team, and it’s believed that while the rest of the factory drivers cycle through the Nos. 911 and 912 RSRs, he’s been kept out of the rotation due to contractual issues. I was told Porsche Germany will be back open for business on January 12 where it’s possible Mako’s contract could be finalized.
A rendering of the Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 went out earlier this week with branding from watch maker Chopard on the GTD machine featured prominently on the sides a carryover from the team’s ALMS program but the No. 48 has run without Chopard on the car at the Roar (TOP, Marshall Pruett pic). With language contained in each entry form effectively prohibiting competing watch branding (in deference to series sponsor and watch maker TUDOR), some questioned whether Chopard was essentially legislated out of the championship, but a team representative told RACER it was unlikely the PMR and Chopard association was going to extend beyond the ALMS finale last October.
10.20 a.m. ET
IndyCar Series driver E.J. Viso will join Beatriz in the second session in the No. 87 PC car entered by Brian Alder’s BAR1 team.
9.30 a.m. ET
Brazilian IndyCar Series driver Ana Beatriz will step into a Starworks Motorsport PC car for today’s second practice session. “It’s just a test right now, but I hope to be able to come back and do the race with the team,” she told RACER. “I would like to do more races here. IndyCar is something I still want to do, but the costs are very high right now.”
9.00 a.m. ET
I bumped into ORECA owner Hugues de Chaunac who expects to attend a few TUDOR Championship races this season in support of the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing P2 program and to further establish his brand in the series. “Now that the series is under the NASCAR umbrella, it is a very good chance for sports car racing to grow in America and ORECA would like to be a bigger part of it,” he said. “It’s very exciting now, and I want ORECA to have a home in this series with our cars today and the new cars we are building.”
8:00 a.m. ET
Former Dyson Racing engineer Vince Wood has joined the Riley Technologies GTD team to engineer Ben Keating’s GT3-spec SRT Viper (RIGHT, Marshall Pruett photo).
Who’s that Corvette DP driver wearing an Audi DTM firesuit? 2013 DTM champ Mike Rockenfeller told RACER he’s indebted to Audi Sport boss Dr. Wolfgang Ulrich for letting him cross manufacturer lines to try and win a second Rolex 24. “Here I’m driving a Chevrolet, and it’s cool; I’ve always liked the different races and categories, and Dr. Ullrich understands it’s important to have a happy driver,” he explained. “He said it wasn’t a problem because Audi isn’t competing with the Prototypes in this serieshe has a very sporting view of things. I am very thankful for Audi letting me come here again.”
Guy Cosmo spent 2013 with Extreme Speed Motorsports before switching to Level 5 Motorsports, but was the odd man out when Level 5 chose to halt its North American P2 efforts and focus on customer-driven PC and GTD programs in 2014. The popular American tells RACER he doesn’t have anything in the works for the Rolex 24, but hopes to find an open seat for the great race or to secure a season-long ride for the 12 hours of Sebring.
It isn’t easy to tell ESM’s Patron-sponsored P2 cars apart, but the team did make the effort to alter the flow conditioners at the front of each HPD ARX-03b. [LEFT, Marshall Pruett photos]
The best Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates managed Friday morning was 12th in the Prototype class, but their pace improved in the afternoon when the No. 01 leapt to fifth. As Scott Pruett told RACER, teething pains consumed too much of the morning to set a representative lap time, but steady progress was made late in the day. “The first session, both cars had issues getting going. They didn’t want to go into gear so we looked at telemetry and got that sorted, but then there were engine issuescommunications issuesand we had to get that worked through. Virtually, it’s a new car. The afternoon was goodwe got Sage [Karam] a full stint, got Memo [Rojas] in, got [Jamie] McMurray in. This project is a huge undertaking for us, and we’re off and running now.”