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IMSA Field On Track For Winter Test At Daytona

Plenty of intrigue ahead of 2018 in Florida

Entries from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge have been on track this week at Daytona International Speedway in Florida for a two-day IMSA-sanctioned test ahead of the 2018 Roar Before the 24 next month.

Of the WeatherTech runners, 18 entries across the three classes for next year (P, GTLM and GTD) took part alongside 12 CTSC cars also getting ready for the new season. During the running, no times were officially recorded, allowing teams to trial new components, packages, drivers and set-ups freely.

Penske Acura and Joest Mazda public debuts headline Prototype running

Acura Team Penske brought both of its ARX-05 DPis along to the test with their new driver squads, the #6 driven by Jaun Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron and Simon Pagenaud, with the #7 (a brand new chassis, turning its first laps this week) piloted by Helio Castroneves, Graham Rahal and Ricky Taylor.

Mazda Team Joest also took part with its updated RT24-P DPis, Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell in the #55 and Oliver Jarvis and Rene Rast sharing the #77. It marked new signees Jarvis and Tincknell’s first public runs in the car.

It was a positive two days for the team, which was making its public debut with Joest, as Acura was with Penske.

“The car is still very new, we’re still learning every time we go out, but so far everything is positive,” Jarvis said.

“The car has run well and I’m very happy with the balance. It’s the second test for me with the team, I drove at Sebring and then here at Daytona.

“It’s very hard to compare because it’s completely different tyres between the two tracks, but I have to say this test has already been a big step up from Sebring. The team has had time for a little more preparation and we’ve hit the ground running.”

The Mazda Joest effort is fresh from a tests at the Hockenheimring, Daytona, Donington Park and Sebring. The car is progressing apace from its 2017 iteration with Multimatic’s design team fully engaged. This run at Daytona co-incided with the news this week that SpeedSource – the outfit which operated Mazda’s prototype effort before Joest – is shutting its doors, auctioning off its cars and equipment in the wake of its Mazda partnership coming to an end.

Elsewhere, an ESM Onroak Nissan and Wayne Taylor Racing’s Cadillac also took part.

Ricky Taylor’s brother Jordan welcomed his new co-driver, Renger van der Zande in #10 Konica Minolta-backed Cadillac DPi-V.R.

“It’s good to have Renger,” said Jordan Taylor. “We haven’t had a ton of driving time together. Yesterday, he was in the car a little bit and right up to speed, as expected. He fits in really well with the team. He’s got a great personality and a good sense of humor. I think with our team, we’ve got a lot of guys that like to have a good time. We take things seriously, but at the same time, we can throw some jokes around. Renger fits in very well with that.

“Driving-wise, he seems to fit right in. It’s still going to take some time to understand driving styles, how we fit together, and how the engineer works with us both in compromising the setup. It’s a good start, and I’m glad we could have this December test as a little prep heading into the Roar.”

In addition to the team running its DPi-V.R, Wayne Taylor Racing also ran the Cadillac ‘Le Monstre’ which raced at Le Mans in 1950 as part of a demonstration to celebrate the brand’s achievements in 2017 on Tuesday.

The 5.4L V8, entered by Briggs Cunningham, finished 11th in the 1950 Le Mans 24 Hours and was driven at Daytona by Jordan Taylor.

And Tequila Patrón ESM, which closed out the 2017 season with a victory at Motul Petit Le Mans, ran Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel.

ESM’s Pipo Derani, who competed at Fuji last weekend in the Asian Le Mans Series (and scored Pole at the event) was also present at Daytona. The Brazilian flew straight from Fuji to ensure he could be in attendance, to drive an Onroak Automotive-run Ligier JS P217 Gibson with United Autosports’ Will Owen, who is preparing for his Rolex 24 debut with the Anglo-American team in January.

Of the LMP2 runners in the Prototype class, JDC-Miller Motorsport and CORE autosport’s ORECAs as well as BAR 1’s Multimatic/Riley Mk.30 were also on hand to turn laps.

JDC-Miller fielded regular Stephen Simpson, 2017 3GT Lexus driver Robert Alon (taking a look at the team with a view to 2018 potential) and IMSA newcomer Simon Trummer, who will join the team for the full 2018 season.

CORE took on the test with Jonathan Bennett and Colin Braun. The team, which is moving from GTD to P in 2018, is fully focused on preparing for its ambitious Rolex 24 run in 2018, which will see WEC champion and Le Mans winner Romain Dumas and former Audi LMP1 driver Loic Duval, also a WEC champion, join the squad.

“Jon and I have had a lot of fun getting back into the Prototype car, there’s not a lot more fun than driving a Prototype car with the grip and power,” said Braun after Day 1 of the test. “This ORECA/Gibson package has been in a lot of different series, so it was really sorted out right from the start.

“I think for us this first test is just about familiarity with the car, the seats, comfort and just getting all that sorted out. When we show up at the Roar hopefully we’ll have all of this out of the way and can focus on getting the setup dialed in and the race package.”

And PC regular, BAR1 Motorsports, tested a trio of drivers in its ex Ben Keating Multimatic/Riley: Don Yount, Tomy Drissi and Gustavo Yacaman. The car currently in 2017 spec but with the permitted updates for the car looking set to be on board before the Roar test in early January, Multimatic, under the rules of the ‘Joker’ process, supporting their new customer with the updates at their cost.

Corvette the only omission from GTLM

In the GTLM ranks, entries from Ferrari (Risi Competizione)- still not confirmed for a full IMSA season, BMW, Porsche and Ford all took to the world-famous banking, the BMW M8 GTLM in particular, the machine to look out for, testing in public for the first time. The only GTLM manufacturer due to compete in 2018 full time not trackside was therefore Corvette Racing.

For its public debut, John Edwards and newly-signed BMW works driver Connor De Philippi took the wheel. It was De Phillippi’s first public run in the M8 with Team RLL.

At Ford, its five of its six 2018 drivers took part; the ‘Blue Oval’s’ line-up for IMSA, like in the FIA WEC, will remain unchanged for season three of the GT.

Joey Hand, Dirk Muller and Sebastien Bourdais drove the #66, while Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Ford debutant Ernie Francis Jnr took the wheel of the #67. The cars were sporting a new look, with the red, white and blue now changed to the same shades that are available on the Ford GT production models.

Francis Jnr, a PWC, Trans Am (champion) and NASCAR driver, is not set to compete in IMSA with Ford next year, but nevertheless relished the chance to try out a GTLM car for the first time.

“I had a great day learning from the team and drivers about this amazing machine,” he said after the first day of action on his Instagram page. “At the end of the day I got my chance to get behind the wheel and take a few laps. All I can say is WOW… when do I sign my contract!

“After running a few laps in the car I was more comfortable and getting very close pace of the main drivers. I’m looking forward to going over data tonight and running again.”

Patrick Pilet and Laurens Vanthoor turned laps with Porsche, while Toni Vilander took the wheel at Risi solo in the #62 488.

A trio of GTDs get some valuable track time

Just three of the GTD teams headed to the ‘Sunshine State’, representing three marques.

3GT Racing, with British former IndyCar driver Jack Hawksworth, brought a single Lexus RCF GT3.

Last year’s GTD Daytona winner Alegra Motorsports was present with Jorg Bergmeister and Michael de Quesada. 18-year-old de Quesada is back at Daytona after racing on the road course recently, in the Classic 24 Hour as part of a fleet of cars run by Alegra with his dad Carlos, sharing a Porsche 962.

And completing the GTD entry was Jeroen Bleekemolen in the #33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports.

Five GS & seven TCRs for CTSC runs

Also present was a batch of the 2018 CTSC grid, preparing for next season in two hour-long sessions on Wednesday.

Five GS cars – including new Mercedes-AMG, Audi and BMW race cars – and seven cars from the new-for-2018 TCR class were present.

Of the five GS cars – all homologated GT4s – three made IMSA public debuts ahead of their first races in North America in January: the Mercedes-AMG GT4, Audi R8 and BMW M4.

Three of the five GS teams are also new to the class, including Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport and Audi of America, both new to the series altogether, and BimmerWorld Racing, formerly an ST class team.

The remaining two teams will return with the same car they competed with in 2017, RS1 with the Porsche Cayman and Multimatic Motorsports, which supported KohR Motorsports this past season, with the Ford Mustang.

And of the TCR cars, who will race in the CTSC’s new class

Audi were represented by five RS3 LMSs fielded by four teams – Audi of America, C360R, Racing and JDC-Miller Motorsports. Alfa Romeo and Volkswagen also had a car apiece from Alfa TCR USA and VW Motorsport, respectively.

Of the drivers, there were plenty of familiar faces to CTSC followers. Many of the drivers who tested, competed in the Continental Tire Challenge in 2017.

The list included Scott Maxwell and Jade Buford for Multimatic, Dillon Machavern and Spencer Pumpelly for RS1, James Clay and Tyler Cooke for BimmerWorld, Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson for JDC-Miller, and Roy Block, Pierre Kleinubing and Aurora Straus for C360R.

Andrew Davis drove in Audi of America’s RS3 LMS TCR entry, as he piloted the manufacturer’s R8 LMS GT3 racecar in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this past year.

After a Continental Tire Challenge hiatus in 2017, Lee Carpentier and Kieron O’Rourke return to Daytona with World Challenge team Racing in another Audi TCR, while New York native Nick Longhi joins the C360R Audi roster as well. VW Motorsport has listed former RS1 ST driver Jon Miller in its new Volkswagen TCR car.

Ford GT photo courtesy of Ford Performance. Acura & Porsche GT Team photos courtesy of Dayonta International Speedway. Oliver Jarvis photo courtesy of Mazda Motorsports. BAR 1 & BMW photos courtesy of IMSA.