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Rolex 24 Hours: Pre-Race Paddock Notes

News and notes ahead of the 2020 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

Performance Tech will race

Performance Tech Motorsports has completed a rebuild of their #38 ORECA 07 (above) and the car is ready to run in the race this afternoon.

The team had already completed a majority of the repairs yesterday but had to vacate the garage by the 9 pm curfew last night. The crew was back in this morning at 6 am to put the final touches on the repair. The chassis did not need to be replaced and the chassis that will take to the track is the team’s original one.

The right side of the ORECA 07 was damaged in a crash at Turn 6 with Don Yount. Yount’s left foot caught the edge of the gas pedal when he went to brake for the tight left-hander leading onto the banking.

As a result, the car carried too much speed into the corner and slid into the tyre barrier on driver’s left, it came to rest lying on its side. Yount was uninjured.

Tim Pappas on the overnight resurrection of the Black Swan Racing Porsche

Black Swan Racing will take the start today, after a tough week which saw its mechanics forced to work overtime to prepare a new chassis (from Wright Motorsports) after Trenton Estep damaged the team’s Porsche behind repair in Practice 1.

Team owner Tim Pappas spoke to DSC about the team’s effort this week to source and prepare a new car for the race.

“I can take no credit for the turnaround,” he admitted. “I slept really nicely last night confident that when all the guys told me that we would be fine to make practice this morning they seemed really confident. A lot went on last night between Wright Motorsports, Porsche North America and our team. We found some additional damage to the engine wiring harness: we located that on a Porsche truck in storage in Lakeland, Florida… so we didn’t get the engine into the car until four o’clock in the morning. But just that sort of resourcefulness was the way this all managed to come together.”

In Practice 4 the team, with its newly-prepared Porsche, managed to set the third-fastest time, Jeroen Bleekemolen immediately on the pace. Pappas said that he feels the car is ready now for the 24 Hours.

“All I know is that Bleekemolen got out of the car with a big smile on his face; he said he thought it was really good and felt like a brand new race car ready to race in a 24-hour race, so we’re going to go for it,” he said. “These guys have worked really hard, and our job as the drivers is to pay back all their efforts by not leaving anything on the table.”

A strong week so far for Corvette

Corvette Racing has enjoyed a near fault-free week with its new C8.R. DSC spoke to Antonio Garcia and Marcel Fassler to get some more insight into the new car and the team’s progress with it during the sessions.

Antonio Garcia: “It’s pretty decent, to be honest. Obviously we haven’t had too much time to prepare with the car as a race team and every qualifying session is a new experience for us, each building on the previous level of information. We kind of guessed what we thought the car would be like in simulation testing, which was based on the first development laps with the car and we were able to combine that with wind tunnel testing and crunch the data. We have been testing the car for a decent period of time, this not just as a race car but also the streetcar on which it is based. It’s not just about data though; the car has to be driveable, and at the previous test here the car felt good.

“We’re close. We are three-tenths off the Porsches, which is not great, but it’s not bad either for sure. So I don’t know where we are going to end up with race pace, there are a lot of question marks. We know the old cars; we know the Ferrari, we know the BMW, as much as we knew the old Porsche and the old Corvette… now we definitely need to know not just the ultimate pace but also the average pace through the stint and what are the best points about our car and how they relate to the weak points on the other cars through heat, cold… we are kind of guessing at what would be the best thing until we prove or disprove it; everything is an unknown again, we are starting from scratch.

“So we cannot have much idea about how it’s going to be with our own car and I think we are prepared for that. How we will be against everyone else I don’t know either. I just hope we are fast when it counts, which is Sunday morning. That would be really good, but we have to be respectful that this is a new car and we need to be a little cautious maybe.”

Marcel Fassler: “This has been a good experience I have to say. I knew the car was good because I spoke to Ollie and the other drivers and they said it’s really different from the C7 and how it behaves. The first time I went into the car it was a cool thing and I could really feel it.

“In comparison, let’s say I had an experience of front-engine cars in DTM and also of course Corvette, but it never mattered what kind of car I drove. But for sure a mid-engined car compares better to a prototype and I can drive maybe a little bit closer to how I was say with the Audi. It’s fun to drive.

“The C7 was developed seven years ago so it was at the end of its development phase. The new one has the latest technology. With the old one you had to be super smooth…slow feet, slow hands…it was easy to get close to the regular guys, maybe half a second but that last half a second was always really hard. It was something that maybe some of our third drivers would struggle with a bit. We always had to have these ‘slow feet’ but still, you really want to push.

“With the C8 it’s more reactive and sharper and if you make a mistake it’s more forgiving. It’s closer to the R8 I was used to, but it’s a different driving style. How it will go here over the distance we don’t know, but it’s cool; I like it!”

Nicky Catsburg also chatted to DSC, and spoke about his new surroundings at Corvette after his lengthy spell at BMW: “Honestly it has been fantastic. From the outside, you always have an idea of what a team would be like and I kind of had this idea of a fairly corporate environment. But honestly, it’s so different. They have a really good way of getting a large group of people together and making them feel like a small family. That’s great for me because I always do well in an environment that is fun and you can work hard but still enjoy a joke.

“Obviously it’s new but the car has been fantastic so far. It has very good pace but we have to work on balance adjustments and see where we are, but I would say the basis is very, very good. To be honest I have done nothing in the development with this car. There was one testing opportunity in November I couldn’t make because of other racing commitments, but I did some Sim’ work. Actually the simulation modelling was very close to the actual feel of the car I got at the Roar for the first time, so that helped a lot.

“For me, GTs and Touring Cars is the place to be. What I personally like is to be active on many fronts, so if one market falls away I have a fall-back. I have driven prototypes, but that driver market can be quite difficult, there are many drivers bringing sponsors and budgets. Career-wise it’s better to be in GT’s from a business point of view, but I know the situation I am in now is quite unique and I have to choose one thing as what I want to do. Corvette is known for being extremely loyal to their drivers; if you look at Oliver Gavin, sixteen or seventeen years performance and that’s something we would all like. I don’t know what the future might be but I feel very lucky to be here.”

To go along with the always strong contingency of Corvette fans at the Rolex 24 this year to see the new C8.R, General Motors will have a large group of executive and board-level members at the race to see the new car race.

“There will be a whole bunch of them from the very top. We’re very excited they’re excited, they’ve been to the shop seeing the car.

“The excitement level inside General Motors is as big as it is outside, so they can’t wait to come to see it run,” said Corvette Racing’s crew chief Dan Binks.

Porsche the marque to beat in GTD?

Like GTLM, Porsche has been the quickest of the marques in the GTD class too, Pfaff taking pole position (breaking the lap record in the process). DSC spoke to a couple of drivers who will be in 911 GT3 Rs in the race.

“The baseline (for Pfaff’s set up) was at The Roar,” Larns Kern said. “We had a really good test and the car was super strong there, the engineers were really happy and to be honest we didn’t feel the need to change much; we don’t want to chase our tails because of the track changes during the race. Zach did a super job to put the car on pole.

“We feel pretty confident, but here anyone can win. The first eighteen hours it’s a case of don’t do anything stupid and stay on the lead lap; it’s that last six hours that count and you have to be in a strong position to fight. It looks a bit spread out in GTD qualifying, but we are sure it’s going to be a really close race.

“If you ask me who will be our closest competitor I would say, everyone. There are factory drivers all over the place on this grid and it’s going to be tough.”

Wright Motorsports meanwhile, could only manage 10th in GTD in qualifying, but the team feels it should still be strong in the race. Klaus Bachler said he expects this race, as usual, will come down to who can stay on the lead lap until the end.

“The situation is very good, to be honest,” he said. We are happy with the balance of the car and the way the team and drivers are all working together. We know that it is a long race and if we have luck we are for sure one of the cars there at the end of the race in terms of speed.

“We have seen in previous years that the race is not won in the first hours and it depends on how many course cautions occur. It’s important to try to stay on the lead lap, but if you do lose a lap there are often situations in which you can get that back and still be competitive. Many things can happen here and the prototypes can be quite aggressive: you have to drive smart and you have to be lucky too.”

Can Acura spring a surprise in GTD?

While it’s DPi effort may take much of the spotlight, Acura’s Meyer Shank Racing/Heinricher Racing NSXs will be pushing hard to score a result in the GTD ranks for the brand.

Alvaro Parente, who will drive the #57 Heinricher Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo said that despite the team receiving a significant BoP hit which has made the Acura significantly heavier than last year’s Rolex 24, the team remains optimistic that it can score a good result to start the season.

“The car hasn’t been exaggerated in track time this week, but we did all our testing at The Roar and we’re all feeling confident even though we came out of that with the news that we’d been hit with a bit of BoP.

“But we got to deal with that and keep focused and I’m really looking forward to the race. Trent did a good job in qualifying, not that it matters too much in a 24-hour race, but we’ll see what we can do from there. It’s going to be a hard race. Most drivers have done this race quite a few times and you get into this rhythm, knowing where the prototypes are likely to try to pass you.

“We have our mirrors and the rearview camera, but when you’re fighting in class and getting passed by prototypes it’s quite a challenge.

“I finished second in 2018, the most frustrating position when you’re seeing those boxes being handed out… we missed it by a narrow margin, so to get the job done this year would be amazing.”

Glickenhaus responds to convergence

Glickenhaus has become the latest manufacturer to respond to yesterday’s IMSA-ACO convergence news. The US-flagged marque, which has committed to the WEC’s Hypercar formula, said in a tweet:

“We are very happy that The ACO/WEC and IMSA have begun converging and that our Glickenhaus 007 Le Mans Hypercar will be able to race against IMSA’s LMDh around the world.

We congratulate Pierre Fillon and Jim France for this amazing coming together.

“In today’s crazy world more of this is sorely needed. We are fully committed to Le Mans Hypercar. We’re glad that the car we’re building will be eligible to race for the next five years.”

Helio Castroneves on Kerb Change at Bus Stop

Helio Castroneves explained that Acura Team Penske had to discover the change of kerbs at the bus stop the hard way after not being informed of the change by IMSA.

“Unfortunately, we’re the ones that had to be the guinea pigs for everyone. So, we’re aware of what not to do now,” Castroneves said of his teammate Ricky Taylor’s crash in qualifying.

The team first began to notice a difference in the kerbs when the car bottomed out when they took their normal line through the corner.

“I wasn’t even on the kerbs and it looked like the car was bottoming out there. Then we started hearing that the kerbs were a little bit different, but nobody official came by and said ‘the kerbs are different,’” Castroneves explained.

While a setup change could address some of the issues that the change in kerb is causing, it is a better option to simply adjust the line you take through the corner according to Castroneves.

Not wishing to compromise setup on the rest of the track for a simple kerb, “you just have to drive around it,” Castroneves said.

Resources

Links to everything from the event schedule, to live timing, to Andy Blackmore’s spotters guide can be found on DSC’s Rolex 24 Resources Page HERE >>>