6 Things We Learned at IMSA’s Mandatory GTP Test at Daytona

Test was used in part to help establish a baseline for Balance of Performance at upcoming Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

02 cadillac racing, cadillac v lmdh, gtp earl bamber, alex lynn, richard westbrook

It wasn't the Roar Before the Rolex 24, but it was the next best thing as race teams representing Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche participated in a mandatory two-day IMSA test this week at Daytona International Speedway. The event marked the last time all the cars will be in one place before the Roar Before the 24 testing, Jan. 20-22.

The season, and IMSA's new GTP era kicks off for real with the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Jan. 28-29 at Daytona.

Here's some of the highlights from the December test days:

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All for One
7 porsche penske motorsport, porsche 963, gtp mathieu jaminet, michael christensen, nick tandy

The teams of Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche (pictured) put all nine of their new GTP cars on the same track for the first time at the mandatory Daytona test for the Rolex 24.

The first race in the new era of sustainable hybrid prototypes is also the series’ longest race and arguably the world’s toughest 24-hour on cars and drivers. Will they make it to the finish line?

“We are definitely more confident about the Rolex and finishing the race after the test and even before the test,” said Urs Kuratle, the project director for Porsche Penske Motorsports and its 963. “We had good learning for our own car. We had some very good talks with the sanctioning partners and the hybrid partners to finish up the open points we have so far. There are a lot of open points, yes.”

Since 1982 and the original GTP cars, IMSA has had new prototypes making their Daytona debut three times, including the World Sports Cars in 1994 and the Daytona Prototypes in 2003. Each time mechanical issues meant the new prototypes were beaten by a GT class car for the overall victory.

IndyCar Drivers to Spice Rolex 24
60 meyer shank racing w curb agajanian, acura arx 06, gtp colin braun, tom blomqvist

The biggest driver news in Daytona was Colin Braun’s arrival as the new co-driver to Tom Blomqvist in the defending champion Meyer Shank Racing team’s new Acura ARX-06.

As usual, a number of IndyCar drivers have signed up for Rolex duty, including Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud—but not any NASCAR drivers in GTP as of yet, which says something about the complexity of the cars and teams’ worry about getting them to the finish.

Three IndyCar drivers will race in LMP2 with an eye on moving up to the GTP as more cars and opportunities become available: Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin (Tower Motorsports) and Rinus VeeKay (TDS Motorsports).

Finishing Touches
25 bmw m team rll, bmw m hybrid v8, gtp jesse krohn, augusto farfus, connor de phillippi

Porsche Penske Motorsports, which has completed a 36-hour test at Sebring, introduced its second 963 chassis at the test. Team RLL (pictured) finished one of its BMW M Hybrid V8s in the garage and Chip Ganassi Racing likewise finished building a second Cadillac V-LMDh at the test.

“The challenge is hitting the target (on parts) for the teams,” said Max Angelleli, who coordinates the GTP program with the Cadillac teams for Dallara, the only builder that will have three cars in the Rolex. He said Dallara will be covered on spare parts, but sees other problems.

“I still see a high level of risk (for GTP)," Angelleli said. "Everything is new. Not any of us have enough miles to actually explore what it’s going to take to complete a 24-hour race. IMSA is so unique before the first race is a 24-hour on a race track where it rains, there is a lot of variables, banking, high speed. It’s so unique. That kind of race, a 24-hour, is normally in the middle of the season. Here, that is the beauty. It’s a first race. You go enter into an unknown. You have a number of cars, the electrical side we’ve never had in the past, we rely on that from outside suppliers. Will there be enough spares?”

It’s likely we’ll see some of the new GTPs being pushed back to the garage during the Rolex due to one failure or another. Maybe, a sidelined car will have to stay in the garage due to a problem in the parts supply chain.

IMSA used the test to enlarge the speed differential to the LMP2 cars, whose teams will be hovering in the wings and looking for a possible upset. The new GTP cars are slightly heavier and not as fast as their DPi predecessors.

Saving the Planet
10 wayne taylor racing, acura arx 06, gtp ricky taylor, filipe albuquerque, brendon hartley, louis deletraz, hybrid

Let the sustainability wars begin.

A full-blown push for improved environmental impact starts at the Rolex 24 with the headlining GTP cars. The week of the Daytona test, meanwhile, media releases touting their own sustainability came in from IndyCar, which will launch its hybrid era in 2024, the Le Mans organizers and the GT series of SRO.

While all series trail Formula 1’s longstanding hybrid commitment, IMSA can claim the high ground in North America with its common hybrid system for the GTP cars that will reduce fuel consumption, its all-new fuel from VP Racing, which is 60 percent sustainable. It replaces what was essentially an alcohol fuel. The Michelin tires that can double stint, which will reduce consumption, have sustainable components.

“We are going to use less tires,” said IMSA President John Doonan. “That coupled with a renewable fuel and a hybrid power train that will cause stints to go longer, we literally have the pillars of a proper sustainability message.”

IMSA has long been a home to sustainability, which started in the American Le Mans Series due to series founder Don Panoz’s interest in environmental issues. Panoz introduced the first hybrid to any major series at the inaugural Petit Le Mans in 1998, a Panoz GTR-1 known as “Sparky.”

What about NASCAR? Not mentioned in Le Mans’ announcement about sustainability, it remains unclear if the Hendrick Motorsports Camaro headed for Garage 56 at Le Mans will carry a hybrid engine. By design, the NextGen cars can handle a hybrid powerplant.

When asked about his expectations for NASCAR’s latest push at Le Mans during the announcement at Sebring earlier this year, Automobile Club de l’Ouest president Pierre Fillon, who issued the invitation to the Hendrick team, said that Garage 56 was about “an example of innovation.”

Doing the BOP
10 wayne taylor racing, acura arx 06, gtp ricky taylor, filipe albuquerque, brendon hartley, louis deletraz, 60 meyer shank racing w curb agajanian, acura arx 06, gtp colin braun, tom blomqvist
IMSA Photo

A significant part of the test was dedicated to establishing a baseline for the Balance of Performance. We are likely to hear fewer complaints about BOP in GTP going forward. One of the new elements tested at Daytona was a relatively new torque sensor. Telemetry now provides continuous data to IMSA officials with inalterable information about how much power is being delivered at the rear wheels.

What distinguishes the new torque sensors, already in use at Le Man and WEC, is the closed loop management of the data. Previously, IMSA has relied on an open loop torque sensor that theoretically teams could manipulate. The new sensor was run on the Corvette C8.R during the 2022 season in the GTD Pro races, since that car was modified to participate against the made-for-GT3 entries.

Given the weight of the GTP cars being the same and a tight aero package homologated at the Windshear tunnel in Concord, N.C., the adjustments to engine RPM to keep power output the same at the rear wheels are not expected to be radical—or complained about as much. Aerodynamic choices, suspension set-up, pit strategy and driving can be expected to play decisive roles.

Drivers are, needless to say, excited about talking about the cars and not the rules. “This new GTP car and this new class are so exciting because of the new evolution and technology,” said Ricky Taylor of Wayne Taylor Racing. “We're finally racing at the top, top level around the world. I don't think anywhere around the world can say they have such sustainability, technology, competition like we do here in IMSA.”

Future Is Now
9 pfaff motorsports, porsche 992 911 gt3 r, gtd pro klaus bachler
IMSA Photo

The future is now for Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini in GTD. Once a new version is homologated by IMSA, an older version of a manufacturer’s car cannot be raced.

The new era of Porsche’s 911 GT3 R, the Ferrari 296 GT3 and the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo 2 began with their track evaluation at Daytona. Porsche expects as many as six of its latest 911-based racers at the Rolex 24, led by defending GTD Pro champions Pfaff Motorsports. At least three Ferraris are anticipated – two from AF Corse and one from Risi Competizione. It remains to be seen how many Lamborghinis will be in the field. An Iron Lynx entry will be driven by F1 refugee and current IndyCar driver Romain Grosjean, who will be part of the Italian company’s introduction of a new GTP entry in 2024.

With the influx of GTP cars and the ongoing enthusiasm for the other classes, IMSA has received as many as 70 entries for a Rolex race where only 61 stalls are available on the pit road. That means some entrants have been designated as reserves. And, it means that traffic will be the usual nightmare during the race—especially during the long night.

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