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.
Catch up on what took place on Friday and Saturday and be sure to check back regularly, and to follow us on Twitter @RACERmag and @MarshallPruett.
All photos by Marshall Pruett
WTCC champion Rob Huff hasn’t had a lot of seat time in his Starworks Motorsport PC car, but tells RACER he’s comfortable with how far he’s come at the Roar while dealing with a few challenges. “It’s been a tough three days we’ve had some issues with the car, we have four drivers that are relatively inexperienced in PC cars, we’ve had a lot of red flags,” he told RACER. “When it’s been red, we’ve been on the track; when it’s green we’ve been in the garageso it’s been tough that way. For me, the last time I drove anything like this was Formula Renault in the UK in 2000. It’s a case of me getting that feeling back. I’ve had six timed laps 12 laps total and I’ve been trying to adapt to driving an aero car again. I feel now I’ve pieced the whole track together, although I haven’t put it all together on one lap. But this place is awesome and I feel like I’ve got it by the balls and am feeling ready.”
The Spirit of Daytona DP team had an unremarkable 2013 season, but has been among the fastest cars at the Roar, leading the morning session with a 1:39.74. One of the men responsible for the year-to-year turnaround is Ricky Cameron, ace engineer and father to Turner Motorsport GTD driver Dane Cameron, who was brought on by team owner Troy Flis to get more speed from the No. 90 Corvette DP. “They rolled out their package and all I’ve done is work with it, try to do some damper development to give the drivers more grip and we’ve worked on the aero balance,” he told RACER. “We keep working on dampers and springs, we agreed on the diff setting we wanted last night to make the car easier to drive and it’s all working out nicely. There’s no magic. The drivers are very good they can give me great information in a lap or two and then I work on the simple things. We have a great data engineer and Troy is great to work for. It’s not an easy job, but we’re getting a lot closer to where we want to be.”
SDR driver Richard Westbrook, who says he’s been listening to a lot of songs from the rapper Nas lately, added to Cameron’s input on how the team’s chemistry has vastly improved. “I’m not going to say it was good to have a bad year, but it was a serious wake-up call,” he said. “Things clearly needed changing, and give all credit to Troy; things have turned around. It feels like an entirely new team. The professionalism is right there, the guys are very positive and I think you’re seeing that translate on track. It’s great when you have a car that’s quick on the infield and quick on the straight and that’s what we’ve got.”
Starworks Motorsport PC driver Sam Bird gave RACER another update this time on his IndyCar aspirations. “It’s a series I’d love to be doing this year, I’ve been speaking with some people and we’ve been working very hard on budgets, but I’ve been a paid driver for many years and don’t really want to change that,” he said. “I want to be part of the American scene so I’m hopeful we can find something that will work out to allow me to drive here.”
2:00 p.m. ET
Enjoy another look from inside the Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b, driven by David Brabham, from Saturday…
1:45 p.m. ET
Corvette Racing has had a productive Roar Before The 24 test, logging more miles and data with their brand-new C7.Rs. Program manager Doug Fehan gave RACER
his assessment of the progress they’ve made and revealed an interesting nugget on the car’s camo testing livery.
“We’re here primarily to work on durability and reliability,” he said. “Without that, you’ve got nothing and it doesn’t matter how fast you go. So we’re paying a lot of attention to that. We’ve got a whole book to write on chassis and aero. All in all, it’s been helpful being here, but for comparisons with our C7.Rs to the other cars at this point, it’s hard to tell. We’ll go out, run a fast lap, then everyone else in our class is careful not to go any faster. You know how that game goes. You always expect that. It’s too early to judge who brought what, but it’s safe to say everyone has made improvements.”
The Corvettes have run at the test in their camo vinyl wrap, and the proper livery is set to be revealed next week at the North American International Auto Show. Fehan revealed no livery work will be required after the test the C7.Rs have been running with them the whole time. “If you look at the bodywork seams you can see the yellow. We knew we wouldn’t have time after the test to do it, so we did the cars before the test and wrapped them with the camo. All we have to do is peel it off when we get back!”
Another member of the Mazda Road To Indy got a chance to turn laps at the Roar. Colombia’s Gabby Chaves, who impressed a lot of people in his rookie Indy Lights season last year, closed the Sunday morning session in the DeltaWing and hopes to get the call to come back and race at the Rolex 24.
“I hope to be back for the race it’s an opportunity I quickly took a hold of and I’m sure I’d fit right in with the team,” Chaves told RACER. “It’s certainly a different experience with the driving dynamics, the car is innovating, and you have to deal with traffic a lot which is new for me. In the five or six laps I got, I thought it was really cool and I’d love to race with them.”
2013 ALMS PC champion Mike Guasch expects the PC class to be even more competitive in 2014, and he’s taking a philosophical approach to the season ahead with the PR1/Mathiasen team. “It’s so hard to tell who’s going to be fast with so few of the lineups being in place,” he said. “There are so many moving pieces even in our team so we hope to have an idea by the time we race here. I’m not worried about it. You just need to be the least non-lucky team. We got beat up in the last two races and that hurt our chances, so you just want to avoid the nonsense and that will pay off in the long haul. That’s how I’m viewing things.”
BMW Team RLL VP of technology Jay O’Connell gave RACER a few insights on the ALMS-to-TUDOR Championship changes the two-car outfit will be working on today. IMSA’s new pit stop rules one where tires can be changed during refueling has led the team to move its refueling port rearward to allow the tire changer to do his job without blocking the refueler. With such a short tail section on the BMW Z4 GTEs, having both crew members occupying the same space something that was never a possibility in the ALMS has been addressed for 2014.
“The refueling buckeye on the Z4 is right over the rear tire, so I went to IMSA and got permission to move it, which we’ve done on car No. 56, only, to see how it works. It took about 40 hours of work to convert it over. We only did one car to make sure we got it right. It’s all coming together and we’re going to practice pit stops. You can only have four guys over the wall now, so that’s another thing we have to get used to. And in the ALMS we never had to change backs in a race the longest we did was the 12 Hours of Sebring. We’ll have to do changes for the 24 Hour so we have a new system where we can bolt the entire assembly in place with dry-breaks (like the prototype teams have done for years). So we’ll be practicing those hot changes, too. There’s a lot to learn, now, to get right while we’re here.”
10:45 a.m. ET
Marco Siefried crashed the No. 58 Snow Racing Porsche 911 GT America and has been evaluated and released.
Johannes van Overbeek crashed the No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b at the Bus Stop shortly after the 10:15 a.m. session began, telling the team the car snapped sideways before sending him into the barrier nose-first. He was evaluated and released from the infield car center. The car sustained a fair amount of damage, but looks to be easily repairable. whether those repairs can be made before the second and final of the event is unknown.
“The No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports Tequila Patrn HPD snapped turning left into the bus stop very suddenly,” said JvO. “We’re still looking into what happened. I was in control of the race car until I wasn’t. I tried hard to save it but ran out of room. It is too bad for the team; they’ve worked so hard to get here. I feel bad for Ed and Anthony short-changing them on track time. We’ll recover and come back stronger for the 24.”
8:00 a.m. ET
Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally told RACER the team, which has been uncharacteristically absent from the top section of the time sheets, is struggling to find the few tenths of a second to post competitive speeds. “It’s really strange because that usually isn’t a problem for us,” said the 2013 Rolex GT championship runner-up. “We’re struggling a little bit; there’s about fourth-tenths we’re down that we’re just not finding right now.” Asked if Porsche would share some of what it has learned with the new 911 GT Daytona GTD car, Lally said that’s not an option. “There isn’t a sharing deal like that, so we’ll have to find the speed ourselves.”
7:30 a.m. ET
Graham Rahal celebrated his 25th birthday at the track yesterday, spending most of his time in the pits with his father’s BMW Team RLL team as part of the No. 56 BMW Z4 GTE driving squad. He told RACER
the day event has gone quite well so far, and after winning the race overall in 2011 driving a Ganassi DP, says adjusting to life in the GTLM ranks has beeninteresting.
“John Edwards and I are about the same height, Dirk Werner is open to making things work and Dirk Muller has struggled because we’re all so much bigger than him, so getting in and out of the car has been the biggest thing to try and figure out,” said Rahal, who stands 6-foot-2 or so. “I’m not getting any shorter, the cockpit isn’t getting any bigger, so that part’s been kinda’ funnytrying to do driver exchanges and either shoehorning me in or yanking me out. I bet it’s made for some funny Instagram photos.
“The car itself is a blast to drive. It’s a rocket in the turns but we’re getting killed on the straights. The Corvettes are blowing by us. One went by me and they lifted as they went past I heard them lift so they didn’t go by too fast. So there’s a bit of gamesmanship going on. The car feels good, my pace has been good I’ve been right there with Joey [Hand] and it’s a challenge with the changing conditions.”
Rahal tested for Corvette Racing as a candidate for one of its vacant endurance racing seats, and although he wasn’t chosen, he believes that test helped get him ready for the Roar. “Coming out of an Indy car, you just don’t believe these [GTLM] cars can move that much vertically. When I tested the Corvette, it was a good reminder to me of how much they move around it’s hard to imagine how different the feeling is compared to an Indy car which is so stiff and has so much downforce. It was funny: I listened to Muller say how harsh the car was over the curbs, but I told him I could barely feel them. I didn’t notice they were there because compared to what I normally race, this is soft and smooth all day.”
Former Rolex GT champion Andrew Davis rejoined the Dempsey Racing team after Andy Lally, Patrick Dempsey’s co-driver and coach in 2013, stayed on with the Magnus Racing team, and after spending some time away from the Joe Foster-led program, he told RACER his actor/driver teammate has made big strides in every area. “Patrick’s had some amazing teachers with Joe and Andy, and I’m here to work with him as well, but honestly, there’s not a lot of coaching he’s needing right now,” he said. “He’s worked hard in the off-season and is really motivated to start the year strong and deliver his best performances. I’m really fortunate to have been asked back, and I’m seeing a lot of potential within the team this season. Everyone is ready to push hard from the beginning, and I know Patrick is right there with us the whole way.”