Longtime Prototype Challenge (PC) competitor PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports has made the step up to the Prototype class, with the intention of running a Gibson-powered Ligier JS P217 for a full-season IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship entry in 2017.
“It’s an exciting change,” team owner Bobby Oergel said on Wednesday. “We loved the PC category and what it was all about – still do to be quite honest. But the end result is that as a team, this is a move up in the direction that we ultimately want to go. We’re excited, it’s a lot of fun.”
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports partnered with Onroak Automotive to bring the new Ligier Stateside, a partnership that was important to both parties.
“The only way we were going to do this was by partnering up and working with a manufacturer like Onroak,” Oergel said. “The hardest piece for us is knowing and not knowing the ins and outs of the machinery, and they obviously know the machinery from when it was nothing. To me, it’s the only way to do it if you’re going to do it.”
Participating in the two-day test at Daytona International Speedway was the initial North American test for the new Ligier, but Onroak is no stranger to success on this side of the pond. In 2016, Ligiers collected four wins over the course of the WeatherTech Championship season, with Tequila Patron ESM winning the opening two races at Daytona and Sebring and Michael Shank Racing winning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta.
“We rolled in at 5:30 Tuesday morning and rolled it out of the freighter and started assembling things, but the car had already run around 10,000 plus kilometers overseas. We just needed to ready it for here,” explained Oergel.
On the technical and performance fronts, the car is definitely a big change for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports. Tom Kimber-Smith turned laps for the team on Tuesday and was very pleased with how the car drove.
“Yesterday was our first sample of the car, and so far so good. The car is super-fast, really good fun,” said Kimber-Smith. “All the power seems to be at the top end, so it feels more like a traditional race engine, whereas the PC car was very torquey all the way through the power band. This is much peakier. There’s a lot of aero, a lot of straight line speed.”
The car ran both days of the test without issue, and Kimber-Smith looks forward to the coming season in the Ligier.
“It’s great having Onroak here with us,” he said. “PR1 is more than capable of running the car, but having this extra support here is fantastic. They’re pointing out things that we can do better or procedures that we need to adapt. Having these guys here, and having them here for the year is a big bonus for us.”
SunEnergy1 Racing Brings New Mercedes to Daytona for Successful Two-Day Test
The lone Mercedes-AMG GT3 was nearly packed up and ready to go home by lunchtime on Wednesday after spending the last two days turning laps at Daytona International Speedway.
With drivers Kenny Habul, Boris Said and Tristan Vautier behind the wheel, the SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 tested alongside other new cars with great success.
“We were very happy,” said Team Engineer Marius Avemarg. “Obviously, it’s a new car to us. New team, everything new, but we’re very happy with how it went. I think we chose the best platform to be on for the next couple years. I think it will be very competitive come next season, but I’m confident that we can be very competitive.”
With veterans of the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona behind the wheel, the lineup will be ready to go against the GT Daytona (GTD) competition in January.
“(IMSA) is the greatest road racing series in America right now,” stated Boris Said. “In the way the field is shaping up with all these entries from Honda, Lexus and Lamborghini, Porsche and Mercedes and Ferrari and BMW, it’s going to be an awesome, awesome year. This is our first roll-out, our first real test and the car was really fast, reliable so knock on wood so far, it’s a perfect start to the season.”
Wednesday marks the conclusion of the two-day, IMSA-sanctioned November test. The next official test is less than a month away, on December 13-14, and again at Daytona International Speedway.
- CORE autosport’s Colin Braun on the transition from PC to GTD: It’s been a lot of fun and a great transition. The new Porsche GT3 R comes very well sorted out of the box, they’ve run this car for a long time and the CORE autosport guys are well-versed in Porsches thanks to the factory program on the GTLM side. It’s different, I do have to keep reminding myself that the kink is not flat out like it is when I go through there in a PC car, but it’s great to have a new challenge and we’re all enjoying it.”
- Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers on testing at Daytona: “We made some gains today versus yesterday. I think the first day in testing is always about exploring, trying things and not necessarily if it’s better, but also sometimes if it’s worse – trying to take some chances and see if you can find some big discrepancies. The second day is about putting all the best things together and starting to prep towards a race pace and a race set-up for here.
“I think this morning we were reasonably good compared to where we were yesterday, quite happy,” Sellers added. “But as the track temp comes up, it changes the car a little bit so we just have to keep adjusting through the day. We need to find something that works in all conditions, because obviously when we come back for the race we’re going to experience a little bit of everything, but so far, so good. A productive test, I’d say.”