Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing has ramped up its IMSA staffing to support the expansion to two DPi-V.R prototypes in the next edition of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. With the addition of the No. 02 Cadillac to complement the existing No. 01 effort, the team has drawn from its IndyCar ranks and promoted championship-winning simulation engineer Danielle Shepherd to the role of race engineer for the second car.
Shepherd was part of the engineering team behind Scott Dixon’s 2018 NTT IndyCar Series title and added another with Alex Palou’s drive to his first IndyCar championship in 2021.
“She engineered the 02 car at the Daytona test last week, and she has great aptitude for the role,” CGR managing director Mike Hull told RACER. “She’s been excellent for us on the IndyCar side, and we’re confident that will continue in IMSA. She was with us in IMSA to close last season at Petit Le Mans for the test and the race, and so Danielle’s going over there full-time, so we’re looking for more like her to backfill what she was doing for us beforehand.”
For Shepherd, the goal has always been to reach the top in her profession, and thanks to the considerable depth in engineering talent and experience within the four-car IndyCar program, she’s learned from some of open-wheel’s best. With the move to race engineer, her skills and upward potential have been duly recognized by CGR.
“Everyone’s goal at Chip Ganassi Racing is to help you go in the direction that you want to.” she said. “I spent my first year here as an assistant engineer and I got to work with Eric Cowdin and Todd Malloy on Charlie Kimball’s car. And then my second year, I switched to the simulation engineering role and was with Scott Dixon on the 9 car for those two seasons, 2018 to 2019. That’s just a different standard, a different group of people to work with. Chris Simmons is a wonderful engineer, and he’s been a huge part in teaching me the ways of engineering and just learning how all of the structure and how everything is done.
“Mike Hull, being the strategist on that car, it’s an honor to work with people who put their heart and soul into making the car better and faster, all the time. Then I went to the 10 car for one year – Felix Rosenqvist, then Alex Palou – and I’ve just been working with Julian Robertson, who’s obviously been race engineering for a long time. He has a lot of precedents and ways in which he does things, letting me to learn more about what they do and what they need as a race engineer. I’ve learned by watching how it’s done and how the process works.”
Although her rise up the engineering ranks has come in IndyCar, the switch to a high-tech machine Cadillac DPi-V.R won’t pose a significant challenge for Shepherd in her new role.
“It has so many sensors and telemetry that are on both types of cars that are similar, and with how much data we actually get from both is common and will help how we engineer the car,” she said.
“And even getting to be to be a part of the program and to get to race a DPi Cadillac is really exciting for me. There’s obviously a bit of a learning curve just to make sure that I know everything I’m supposed to as compared to an IndyCar, but it’s a great role with a whole lot of learning, which is great. Even going forward with the new Cadillac LMDh program and learning all about the new hybrid car that’s coming up is a big opportunity as well.”
Sports car veteran Michael Harvey, who recently managed the Porsche factory GT Le Mans program facilitated by CORE autosport, among other major roles in racing, is another new member of the CCGR program.
“We’ve hired a competition director now for IMSA, Michael Harvey,” Hull added. “Steve Eriksen is still there as the operations manager, but we’ve hired Michael to join in the management structure with the expansion we’ve undergone in IMSA and with what we’re doing in the future with Cadillac with LMDh in IMSA and WEC.”
Along with Shepherd and Harvey, CCGR also welcomes Jamie Coates, who was part of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GT program, back from IndyCar where he’ll support Shepherd as crew chief on the No. 02 Cadillac.