Roar gave Michelin Pilot Challenge teams and drivers a mix of conditions throughout the weekend
FIVE PRACTICE SESSIONS GAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GET TO GRIPS WITH THEIR CARS AND ULTIMATELY GATHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR THE FIRST RACE OF THE SEASON
Being in Florida, you would expect it to be sunny and warm, mostly. The Roar, held over the three days, gave mixed weather and track conditions for everyone.
Some opted to run in all conditions as others waited out for a dry track. There were new cars, new teams, new drivers and lots needed to get done. From qualifying runs to long stints simulations, it seems the preparations were worthwhile as the first race will be a 4-hour race next Friday and times have been very competitive.
For Kuno Wittmer and AWA Racing, it was a return to the Michelin Pilot Challenge where, a year ago, they grabbed pole position. As we know, the team had to withdraw from last season due to the pandemic. The team arrived at Daytona International Speedway really looking forward to get back to business. They ended up with the ninth fastest lap of the weekend.
“Excited!” The word Kuno used to express how the team feels about being back at Daytona. “To be back in IMSA in a well structured, professional environment, it is great to be back in the paddock. Last year we were able to start the season by qualifying on pole here at Daytona and have a decent start to the race but had a mechanical failure. With what happened, we were really bummed not to be able to go to Sebring after that. We took a step back last year as far as traveling to the US (because of travel limitations due to pandemic, NDLR) being a Canadian team. We had other options to keep the team together (the team participated in the Canadian Touring Car Championship, NDLR) so being back here is not much of a change has it (the competition, NDLR) had not stop in 2020.”
“We ran every steps of our scenarios and run plans this past weekend. We were not necessarily going out on track to find the raw speed of the car, that wasn’t the idea. It was to have a good race car that could go the distance so, yes, we concentrated on the long runs as well as different scenarios (pitstops, driver change, ndlr) of what could happen in the pitlane during the race. As we know, a race can be won or lost in the pitlane.”
“There were zero mistakes all weekend long in terms of following the procedures in the pits. I am really confident we can gain several positions during the race just with the procedures AWA Racing has put in place when it comes to pitstops.”
“I believe we are stepping into the most competitive season for Michelin Pilot Challenge as looking at the timesheet there is only a second between 1st to 15th. And we were pushing hard trying to get everything out of the car. And I must say, Orey was very comfortable out there and put in really competitive times. We were in the top 10 but not quite quick enough yet to be with the top 3 but we are working hard in these off days with what we’ve learned by looking at data collected and coming up with scenarios on how we can get some pace out of the car to be ready for FP1 this weekend.”
Motorsports In Action was also back at Daytona with a good driver pairing (Sheena Monk/Spencer Pigot) and they have shown they are well prepared for the up coming race showing top ten and even top five in some practice sessions.
James Vance and teammate Alex Papadopulos, whose team moved up from TCR and into GS this season with an Audi R8 GT4, Took the weekend to discover the GT4 and clocked some good lap times.
Kyle Marcelli, with KohR Motorsports who switched form Aston Martin Vantage GT4 back to a Ford Mustang GT4, took part in some of the sessions with the team as three drivers were rotating throughout the weekend. Kyle finished the weekend with the fifth fastest time in practice 5.
The big story in TCR was Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian introducing the New Hyundai Veloster N TCR. The car had just arrived from the Hyundai Motorsports division in Germany and it was their first chance to get to know more about their new car.
“It was a very successful test for us being the first weekend on-track with the car. We had a lot of items we wanted to test and work through. Generally, making sure everything on the car worked correctly. There were a few small things that we learned and a few things that limited track time one of those being the weather. Being a new car with lots to learn and expecting a dry forecast this week and also being a very important weekend for Hyundai we did not want to spend a whole lot of time in damp/wet conditions.”
“We worked through our plan and made some gains throughout the test. I would say it was fairly clinical working through our work list but we always could use more time on track. All in all, it was a very positive weekend. The Elantra N is fantastic. The big takeaway is we came out with a very good base set-up.”
Most of our focus were a lot of ins and outs, just learning and collecting data and talking through it. Just trying different things with the car. When we do go back for free practice 1 on Wednesday we will be continue the development process and one of our focuses will be to try to do some longer runs to learn more about tire degradation over a stint, fuel capacity and such.”
“I think we are in a good position. There is a lot of competition, a lot of Veloster N and even more cars coming this weekend. I think it will be the strongest field of the TCR class in IMSA. We want to showcase the Elantra N really well in, I believe, its global debut. Our focus will be to bring it to the checkered flag and I think in a 4 hour race, if we could do that, we’ll be in a good position to have a pretty strong opening show and collect some points.”
Combining the five practice sessions, here is the timesheet showing individual fastest laps.
There is a short 2-day break for the team who will be back on track on Wednesday for a first practice towards the BMW Endurance Challenge At Daytona 4-hour race to take place on Friday afternoon.
Images: Jake Galstad / IMSA