Countdown to GTP at Daytona: Sharing benefits... for now

Richard Dole/Lumen

Countdown to GTP at Daytona: Sharing benefits... for now

IMSA

Countdown to GTP at Daytona: Sharing benefits... for now

By

The cooperation between the four LMDh manufacturers competing in the initial season of Grand Touring Prototype in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has been a constant source of discussion in the run-up to the class’s debut at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. It’s also been a fount of pride for the manufacturers and for series officials that the manufacturers and partners are working together wherever they can to aid reliability with new, more complex race cars. But with a couple of manufacturers splitting their cars between different teams, it’s also been a different experience for them as they push forward in the dual role of supporting the manufacturer, but also working to beat the other team running the same car.

As Mike Shank put it, that first meeting of Acura teams at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, two days after his Meyer Shank Racing team beat Wayne Taylor Racing to the final DPi title in a fierce battle, was a tad awkward.

But with both teams running single Acura ARX-06s in 2023, the same as Chip Ganassi Racing and Action Express Racing splitting Cadillac’s efforts, there has to be a certain degree of cooperation before the task of beating each other in races becomes the focus, and perhaps will continue beyond that.

“We’ve had the luxury of working with our new partnership (with Andretti Autosport), but also with MSR, and that partnership has helped us move through a lot of different hurdles that we’ve had, I’d say, over the last six months,” explains Travis Hogue, vice president and general manager of Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport. That team will be running the No. 10 ARX-06 with Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque for the season, aided by Louis Deletraz and Brendan Hartley for Daytona.

That sentiment is echoed by Hogue’s counterpart at MSR, Justin Harnisfager. Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian has brought in Colin Braun to partner with returning driver Tom Blomqvist, with the team’s IndyCar Series drivers Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud joining the fun for Daytona where the team scored victory in 2021. “We’ve worked well together with our WTR counterparts, and we’re back and forth with them physically and also via emails and phone calls. So there’s a lot of preparation that’s got to be done for the 24 in a normal year, let alone with a brand-new car with brand-new components.”

CGR’s pre-season efforts for Cadillac Racing have been in cooperation with Action Express too, but that figures to change when the lap times start to really count. Michael Levitt/Lumen

Like the two Acura teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Action Express will be campaigning a single Cadillac V-LMDh each throughout most of the season, although CGR will have a second car at Daytona. To further the manufacturer’s efforts, they have been sharing as much information as they feel comfortable.

“It’s definitely been a learning experience for both teams and, quite honestly, a bit of a culture shift for Chip Ganassi Racing,” says Mike O’Gara, team manager for CGR. “We always pride ourselves on how well we communicate internally; at the Indy 500 last year, we had five race cars that were all capable of running at the front. So sharing info is what we do. But we haven’t often shared info outside of this building. But I think it’s gone amazingly well so far, sharing info with not just Action Express, but with our GM powertrain partners, with Dallara, with Michelin…it takes a village. So far, I think that the partnership with AXR has gone really well. We’re figuring out who is better at what things and we divide and conquer, and hopefully that’ll show.”

The CGR effort for the full season will be spearheaded by Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande, who took three victories together in 2021. Scott Dixon pops into the No. 01 for Daytona, while Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook will drive the No. 02 for Daytona.

AXR has been working for the last two seasons to beat its Ganassi Cadillac counterparts. They took the title in 2021, but went winless last season while CGR took four victories. The vastly experienced sports car team with Gary Nelson at its head would very much like to reverse that trend for 2023 with Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims in the No. 31 with Jack Aitken in for the endurance races.

“It’s been a pleasure working with Mike (O’Gara) and his group,” Nelson says. “We’ve, I think, advanced the technology a lot quicker, because each test we’ve done, one group would test one series of items; we were organized on who was doing what. Then we would get together at the end of each day, or sometimes partway through the day, and say, ‘We were having a little trouble with this part, you guys might want to check it on your car,’ or, ‘We just learned this, this change made a big difference. You might want to try it.’ We’ve had that back and forth discussion, and I welcome it very much.”

But when the season really gets down to business in a few days, will that spirit of cooperation continue? Will teams continue to share information when it’s time to compete for intra-manufacturer honors? O’Gara says that with the Rolex 24 likely coming down to reliability, they’ll be huddling up together to help each other survive, but as far as how much information will be shared once the lap times count?

“We haven’t had that meeting yet,” Nelson declares with a smile.

MX-5 Cup | Round 1 – Daytona | Race Highlights

More RACER