Two IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship programs have wasted no time since the season’s end three weeks ago getting prepared for the 2019 campaign.
Both GT Le Mans class Porsche 911 RSRs from the Porsche GT Team were at Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday, in addition to the GT Daytona Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 for two days of testing at the “World Center of Racing.”
The Rolex 24 At Daytona kicks off the 2019 WeatherTech Championship season on January 24-27 and takes place three weeks after the Roar Before the Rolex 24, which is a three-day, IMSA-sanctioned test for teams participating in the twice-around-the-clock event.
In the Meyer Shank Racing garage were team owner Mike Shank and full-season co-drivers Katherine Legge and Jackie Heinricher. Tuesday’s on-track activities mark the first time in the car for Heinricher, whose previous motorsports experience includes the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series.
“After driving it, I’m being incredibly conservative,” said Heinricher. “I’m learning the car, learning its brakes, learning how to go flat in the car. I have a lot to learn, so I’m crawling before I walk and walking before I run.”
But if there’s anything Heinricher isn’t conservative about, it’s her praise for Meyer Shank Racing and her co-driver Legge, who finished runner-up in the 2018 GT Daytona (GTD) championship.
“Partnering up with Meyer Shank Racing, bringing my partner Caterpillar, I don’t know if you could have more supportive people,” she said. “I think everything they’re doing right now amounts to taking me up Everest basically. I’m just really grateful and I’m really glad to be here with Mike and this team.
“(Katherine’s) obviously one of the top, if not the top, women racers in the world right now. Having her help and having her here, she has so much experience in this car which she can relate to me is everything. I think this team, Katherine, they have a proven track record and that’s really helpful when you’re trying to condense all this learning down. I just think the world of her and I’m excited to be here.”
Meanwhile in the Porsche camp, Nick Tandy was one of the drivers making laps at the 3.56-mile circuit. Tandy is fresh off a GTLM victory at the Motul Petit Le Mans three weeks ago in the No. 911 with co-drivers Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki. He describes how the team already has shifted its focus forward.
“We’ve been to other places during the season where we test,” he said. “But this is really the first time we’re focusing on 2019 and the championship coming up ahead of us, rather than the end of season stuff where — the lead all the way up to Atlanta — you’re looking to the future, but also thinking about how you can make the car better for the upcoming round.”
Tandy also described how earlier testing this season doesn’t quite transfer over to the data that is collected at Daytona. It’s also a good chance to keep the team in sync during the offseason.
“Obviously it’s the offseason, but it’ll very quickly be time for Daytona and Round 1 of the championship,” he added. “We’ve got new tires basically in GTLM. It’s a new program for Michelin that we’re going to be using, so the main thing we’re testing is the new tires we’ll be using.
“Daytona is a very different track to a lot of other circuits we’ve tested at already, so it’s going to be very important to see what works here and see if we can trim a bit more speed out of the car. We’ve got some new people coming on board to strengthen the team as well, so it’s just a case of keeping everybody in the game and making sure we’re ready for January.”