IMSA’s first open test with the new DPi entries wrapped up on Wednesday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway. Since it is a December test, it is really difficult to truly tell who is on pace and who is taking it easy. However, one thing is pretty obvious coming out of the four sessions. Cadillac’s new DPi-V.R. will likely be a force to be reckoned with.
DPi-V.R.s topped the charts in all four sessions over two days. At first, the teams took it easy, gauging what they had on the 3.56-mile infield road course. By the second session on Tuesday, times were down fairly close to the best times in the dry from back in January during the Rolex 24 weekend.
Wednesday saw the times dip even further. During the final session in the afternoon, Action Express Racing’s Dane Cameron turned in a lap of 97.797 seconds (131.047 mph) to top the charts. The lap is faster than any lap run in an IMSA session at Daytona since full reunification in 2014. That lap was nearly four-tenths of a second faster than teammate Joao Barbosa in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling-sponsored DPi-V.R. Ricky Taylor was a half-second further back in the No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R. for Wayne Taylor Racing.
While the No. 10 didn’t necessarily have the best lap times, it did show the best straight-line speed of the test. Ricky turned in the fastest trap speeds in three of the four timed sessions (the team didn’t venture onto the track during the first session on Tuesday). During the final session on Wednesday, Ricky broached 200 mph in the tri-oval, something that has become a rare sight at Daytona for sports cars over the past 20 years.
Four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon took his first laps in the Cadillac DPi-V.R. during the open test. While he was not quite on the pace of the Taylor brothers, he was within a few tenths of a second of their pace. That’s quite an accomplishment for someone who has not driven a prototype in nearly a decade. Most importantly, he’s having buckets of fun doing it.
“Oh man, that was a lot of fun,” Gordon said to a scrum of reporters in Daytona after getting out of the car on Wednesday. “I’m thrilled to be here, and to finally get some laps in. It didn’t disappoint. To be able to drive a car that has that kind of downforce, and the kind of braking and cornering it’s capable of, it’s just an amazing piece of machinery.
Meanwhile, teammate Jordan Taylor found out what being Gordon’s teammate entails.
The Mazdas were towards the bottom of the Prototype speed charts for the whole test. This was for two reasons. One, the team wasn’t running the optimal downforce settings for Daytona. Also, the team had some gearbox cooling issues. The gearbox issues also plagued recent private tests for the team at Road Atlanta.
In GTLM, teams were more or less right on pace from the minute the test started. The fastest lap in the first session on Tuesday, set by Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia, ended up less than four-hundredths of a second off of the fastest lap in class during the two-day test. In addition, the close action that was a staple of the class in 2016 continued in the test. The top 5 GTLM cars in the first session were separated by roughly four-tenths of a second.
The top times were set by Corvette Racing and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing entries during the two days of the testing. During the final session of the test, Ryan Briscoe set the fastest GTLM time of the test with a lap of 105.405 seconds (121.588 mph). Even though it was fastest in the class overall, it was only a tenth and a half faster than Jan Magnussen could muster in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R in that session. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dirk Müller was third fastest, followed by Risi Competizione’s Toni Vilander and Porsche North America’s Patrick Pilet.
Speaking of Porsche, the two-day test marked the public debut of the new mid-engine Porsche 911 RSR. It is hard to gauge overall pace, but it appears that the team should be competitive with the new car.
In GTD, it was the ten-cylinder cars that appeared to be fastest. The fastest full-time IMSA team was Dream Racing. In the first session on Tuesday, Dream Racing’s Larry DeGeorge turned in the fastest lap of the opening day with a lap of 106.957 seconds (119.824 mph), a time that was right on pace with some of the quicker Lamborghini Huracan GT3’s during January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona (the Enrico Bertaggia-owned team was not entered in the race).
However, the fastest GTD team all weekend was the Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi team. Out of the 16 GTD teams that made the haul to Daytona, they were never out of the top 5 in any of the four sessions. Both of the team’s drivers (Connor de Phillippi and Christopher Mies) topped the class charts at some point during the week. Mies’ lap of 106.621 seconds (120.201 mph) in session No. 3 on Wednesday ended up being the fastest GTD lap of the test.
Both Michael Shank Racing and 3GT Racing were on-site to test their new factory-backed entries. The Shank Acura NSX GT3’s and 3GT’s Lexus were all over the place on the speed charts. Andy Lally was the fastest driver in MSR’s No. 93 for all four sessions. Lally was third fastest in the final session, less than a tenth of a second off of Stevenson Motorsports’ Lawson Aschenbach.
For MSR’s No. 86, endurance-only racer Tom Dyer was tenth quickest in the final session on Wednesday, but that lap was just over a half-second off of Aschenbach. In the Lexus, Jack Hawksworth, who will drive the No. 15 full-time in 2017, was third quickest in Tuesday’s second session, less than a tenth of a second off of de Phillippi.
For the most part, the test was relatively clean. There were no red flags for the entire first day. Manthey Racing’s No. 59 Porsche 911 GT3 R did have a spin in the infield, but no damage was done. On Wednesday, one red flag was thrown for Konrad Racing’s No. 21 Lamborghini stalling on-track.
No PC class entries made the trip to Daytona. As of right now, only one driver (James French with Performance Tech Motorsports) is even confirmed in a PC ride for the season.
IMSA teams will return to Daytona for one more open test, the Roar Before the 24 from Jan. 6-8, 2017. There, the vast majority of the field for the Rolex 24 at Daytona will be on site to test for three days.