With nine new racecars making up the GTP class, there’s been much speculation that reliability is going to play a major part in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona. For Simon Pagenaud, the 2010 American Le Mans Series champion before he moved to IndyCars and also a Rolex 24 addition in the Meyer Shank Racing No. 60 Acura ARX-06, it’s a return to proper endurance sports car racing, where taking care of the car is paramount.
“It’s going to be a long, long day, 24 hours. Let’s hope it’s reliable enough. Honestly, we don’t know,” he says. “Nobody knows. All the prototypes, having issues, it’s just so young and so exciting in many ways. I think it’s going to be the ’24 hours of the mechanics.’ It’s going to be about the team that’s able to repair the cars fastest, where possible, the cleanest way possible, to get back out there and be able to turn laps at the end of the day. So it’ll be a bit more like it used to be. It’s going to be about reliability and making sure that you take care of the equipment.”
But it’s not just hope the drivers are relying on. Every time the teams find something they can fix and make better, they do.
“We have a lot of challenges coming on Sunday,” says MSR principal Mike Shank. “With regard to reliability, we address them literally every hour – we’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last.”
It’s an ongoing process to make the cars better. All the manufacturers have done as much testing as they possibly can. Still, the cars keep changing, especially on the software side. And that can be fraught with difficulty and potential problems.
“Just think about every system in the car,” says Shank. “I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. Sometimes we put them on the car and we take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with the electronics.
“So much programming, so many departments that have to talk to each other and then come up with a common product. The EV guys, the ICE guys, you have the performance, people all trying to put a car on a track, and they all have to communicate. When that bridge gets broken from a code not being totally cracked, the car won’t run, or the power steering turns off… you kind of name it. But the performance side of it, those aren’t the bits we’re talking about here. We’re talking about reliability bits, things that make the car last longer, happier, that kind of thing.”
While the LMDh cars may prove far more reliable than expected and there could be a multi-car fight at the end, chances are most are going to hit trouble at some point. But Pagenaud is fine with that.
“Things are going to break and it’s difficult to control,” he says. “We don’t have enough time yet to be able to control fully the reliability and we haven’t done enough laps to be able to say what’s going to break first, or second, or so forth. You’re going into it with a bit of jitter not knowing, which I think honestly creates some of that magic in racing. We’ve gotten to a point where the cars are so reliable that you can do a sprint race several times within 24 hours. So I think it goes back more toward what sports cars should be. Now, I want to my car to finish, that’s the key. But it’s going to be definitely a very, very different race, I think.”