The LMDh cars that comprise the new GTP class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship are more complicated than their predecessors, as has been well discussed. The hybrid systems and the accompanying intertwined components translate not only to more engineering — especially on the electronics side — from the outset, but new areas of expertise within the teams running the cars. For most of the teams, it’s meant growth in the number of personnel.
“The first part of it was training on how to how to work with the high voltage system of the MGU and the hybrid system,” explains Gary Nelson, team manager of Action Express Racing that will run the No. 31 Cadillac V-LMDh. “So a lot of training, a lot of safety procedures. Personnel wise, we’ve, we’ve probably increased our group, I’m guessing, maybe 20 percent, 25 percent.”
Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport Vice President and General Manager Travis Hogue says the team has experienced similar growth in personnel as it prepares for their inaugural season running the No. 10 Acura ARX-06. And, he notes, the specialized training doesn’t just extend to those working directly with the new high-voltage systems.
“It’s not just training the people that are working on the car, it’s the training for the people that are around the car,” he says. “It’s making sure that your marketing staff is being trained, it’s making sure that anybody that’s going to bring guests around understands what the systems mean, and then the levels of training for mechanics and determining who’s at what level and who can be around the car at different times.”
The increased complexity has made moving from DPi to LMDh more challenging than moving to a new prototype ruleset has in the past. It’s been a bigger change than a team moving from LMP2 to DPi. It’s not only more personnel, but more stuff as well — although some of that always comes with the territory of racing a new car.
“Every new car we’ve gotten takes on new equipment — the setup equipment is different,” says Nelson, before going into the different logistics with the LMDh car. “They don’t even fit in the trailer the same. So everything takes a little bit of an adjustment whenever you bring in a new platform, but I think over the year, that stuff has gotten so much better with the companies that provide the equipment that we need. They were on it a year ago or so. And when it shows up, it’s good.”
Nelson says, with a hint of a laugh, that he’s not sure he can pinpoint where all the new equipment came from, but notes that when AXR was a one-car DPi team, they could get everything to the track in one transporter. Now they’ve got two, plus another trailer towed by a dually pickup, to get everything to a test or race. Hogue says WTR is in the same boat.
“Tool stuff that we’ve had to order is things like specialty toolboxes. There are toolboxes that are just set up with certain color-coordinated things that are just for the high voltage system. Those are things that in the past, you could have two guys working out of a toolbox and put your car on the racetrack, and then roll that same box out to pit lane and you’re ready to go racing,” Hogue explains.
Despite all the new additions in personnel, expertise and equipment, the teams are also aware that there are things or people that they haven’t realized are required, but the necessity won’t be revealed until they go racing. Thousands of miles of testing can only reveal so much; going into real battle will reveal weaknesses in the armor.
“I think there’s things that we’re probably going to need that we don’t know we need yet, until we actually go and start racing each other,” declares Hogue. “Rolling into the biggest race of the year, the first time that we’re all out racing against each other, there’s going to be things that Gary (Nelson) or Mike (O’Gara, team manager for Chip Ganassi Racing) have that we’re like, ‘Oh, wish we would have thought of that.’ And we’re all going to kind of lean on each other to to develop this as we go.”