NTT IndyCar Series star Colton Herta has raced the world’s fastest open-wheel cars, competed at the other end of the speed spectrum in touring cars with one of his father’s Hyundai Veloster N TCRs, and won a prized Rolex watch as part of BMW’s M8 GTE Rolex 24 At Daytona class-winning GT Le Mans effort.
Prior to the invitation from DragonSpeed to drive its ORECA 07-Gibson V8-powered LMP2 entry, prototypes were missing from the 21-year-old’s list, and after sampling the car last weekend at the Roar Before The 24, he’s become a big fan of the formula.
“It’s really cool and the car’s really interesting, a little different than what I expected,” Herta told RACER. “Not in a negative way. But it’s a fun car to drive, and really different to anything I’ve raced around here in Daytona. Coming from GTs, I’m not used to approaching cars so fast and passing them so easily. And the naturally-aspirated V8 engine is really cool. Nice throttle response, and it’s loud. I’m enjoy it so far.”
Herta’s sharing the No. 81 DragonSpeed car with fellow IndyCar drivers Pato O’Ward and Devlin DeFrancesco, along with sports car and team veteran Eric Lux. Among the foursome, he’s trying to overcome his lack of prototype experience as quickly as possible ahead of this weekend’s 24-hour race.
“It’s a lot more nimble than a GT car or TCR car, has a lot more downforce, stops a little bit better than the GT cars, goes a little bit sooner than the GTs, there’s more power, so just overall, it’s a different party,” he said.
“Some stuff that might be similar from the GT stuff is braking points, and how I’m releasing the brake into the corner and such. So I found, like with the BMW M8, with the LMP2 car, you can’t carry that much brake pressure into the corner. But that’s where the similarity ends. They are pretty different cars.
“On the braking, too, I’m still getting used to the closing rates on the GT cars and how much later we can brake, or how much more rolling speed I can carry over them in the corners, so there’s some stuff that I still don’t quite understand. It’ll be something where, once get 20 consecutive laps under my belt in the first part of the race, I’ll understand a little bit more on where I can attack; where I can really maximize the advantages of the car versus the GTs.”
Another aspect of the DragonSpeed’s Rolex 24 LMP2 program that Herta’s been enjoying is the reunion with O’Ward, his 2018 Andretti Autosport Indy Lights teammate who races for the rival Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team. The pair are expected to fight over IndyCar titles for many years to come, but in this temporary reunion at Daytona, the duo have turned the clock back to their Road To Indy days.
“Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun,” Herta said. “We’ve jumped right back into to where we left off after the Indy Lights season. So there’s still a competitive rivalry that we want to go faster than each other in the LMP2 car, but not to the detriment of the team.
“It’s been cool to see where he’s better than me in the car and where I’m better than him, and just overall, how we’ve related to feedback and how we feel the car is doing and what we need to do better. So yeah, I’ve enjoyed working with Pato again a lot.”