On Friday afternoon, Spirit of Daytona Racing (formerly Visit Florida Racing) announced that they will switch from the Ligier JS P217-Gibson (pictured above) to a Cadillac DPi-V.R. for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. In addition, the team will have an all-new driver lineup. The No. 90 Cadillac will be driven full-time by Matt McMurry and Tristan Vautier.
Team co-owner Troy Flis is very excited to move into the DPi ranks.
“Last season was so difficult,” Flis stated. “Even though we were on the back foot for a lot of the year, I think we learned a lot as an organization and improved as a team. Winning at Laguna Seca was a great way to demonstrate that, and now we are focused on taking that momentum and getting a quick start with this Cadillac DPi. We just want to give our drivers a solid platform with the car to learn and just get better as the year goes on.”
For Vautier, the opportunity with Spirit of Daytona will be his first in a Prototype. He’s up to the challenge.
“I’m honored to be joining this team, they achieved well in difficult circumstances last year so I think it is a good group,” Vautier said. “I want to race against the best drivers and the best teams, and that is what IMSA is becoming with the DPi so I’m very excited. It is so competitive and I think it will be difficult to compare the depth of field in 2018 even to last year. As a racer, that is very exciting for me. I’m also very happy to be working with Rick [Cameron, Spirit of Daytona engineer] again because we have a good history together and hopefully Matt and I can continue that this season.”
Vautier comes to Spirit of Daytona Racing after spending the 2017 season driving a Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT Daytona class for SunEnergy1 Racing. Vautier had two third-place finishes (Sebring and Circuit of the Americas) and won the class pole at Sebring. However, the team struggled for much of the year with mechanical issues and a revolving door of teammates. An example of a mechanical issue was this brake/rim issue at Detroit.
Rim split in 2….
For those of you who thought I F$&#ed up…. pic.twitter.com/4QpI12DPiw
— Kenny Habul (@kennyhabul) June 3, 2017
As a result, Vautier finished 19th in GT Daytona points. In addition, Vautier drove in the Verizon IndyCar Series Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway in place of the injured Sébastien Bourdais. Despite qualifying fifth, Vautier was caught up in “The Big One” and ended up 16th.
For McMurry, he’s also never raced a Prototype in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship before.
“The Prototypes have so much grip, these cars are really amazing to drive and I cannot wait to see what this Cadillac is like,” McMurry said. “IMSA is so competitive and I’m very excited to be stepping up into Prototypes with a winning team like Spirit of Daytona. I think Tristan and I will mesh well together, we’ve got similar personalities and approaches. We’ve also both raced GT cars so have experience being the slower traffic so we understand what that perspective is like and hopefully we can put that to good use this year.”
McMurry comes to the team after racing the full 2017 European Le Mans Series season for Algarve Pro Racing in their Ligier JS P217-Gibson alongside Andrea Pizzitola and Andrea Roda. However, the team had a terrible season with only two classified finishes out of six races. McMurry’s best finish was eighth at Paul Ricard in August. Le Mans was not much better as the team finished 15th in class, 36 laps down.
In IMSA, McMurry was the third driver for Park Place Motorsports in the GT Daytona class. In four starts, McMurry had three top 10 finishes with a best run of third in the Motul Petit Le Mans in October.
McMurry and Vautier will replace Marc Goossens and van der Zande with the team. Van der Zande has already been announced as the replacement for Ricky Taylor in a similar Cadillac DPi-V.R. at Wayne Taylor Racing. Goossens has not been announced in any new ride for 2018.
Spirit of Daytona Racing did not announce any additional endurance drivers in their press release. Those drivers will be announced at a later date.