DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Throughout the first two days of the Roar Before The Rolex 24 test at Daytona International Speedway, the four Cadillac DPi-V.R race cars have resided at or near the top of the time charts.
In fact, through Saturday night’s fifth IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice session, a Cadillac has led every session, topped by a best overall lap of 1 minute, 36.973 seconds (132.154 mph) by Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi in the fourth session on Saturday afternoon. Defending series and race champion Jordan Taylor was able to pinpoint why Cadillac has been so strong prior to the Saturday night session.
“Obviously, we’re coming back for a second year with our car,” said the driver of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi. “As a team, we’ve been racing here for 10-15 years, so we have a lot of experience here at Daytona and with this package, so we expected to come on strong. As the testing has gone on – we started at the front, and everyone is kind of working their way up towards where we are.
“Our increments of improvement are very small, because we have our car pretty well sorted, and everyone else is taking big chunks. I think by the end of tomorrow, it’s going to be a pretty tight field. I think it’s cool to see all the European guys, the European teams and drivers, adapting to what we’re used to and they’re adapting quickly. I think it’s going to be a good race at the end of the month.”
Sunday’s on-track activities on the final day of the Roar will include a qualifying session that will determine each team’s pit and garage selection for the race weekend on Jan. 25-28. Taylor, who will go for his second consecutive Rolex 24 victory with an entirely new pair of co-drivers in Renger van der Zande and IndyCar star Ryan Hunter-Reay, isn’t sure what the qualifying session will show in terms of performance of other cars, but is satisfied with the No. 10 setup.
“It’s hard to tell what everyone is doing pace-wise,” he said. “I think for us, we’re just focusing on our own program. We can trust in our drivers and our engineers and team and understand that we think we have a good car. From a driver point of view, it’s comfortable to drive. We’ve improved the car from last year from a drivability point of view, so for us, we feel comfortable and we’ll just have to wait and see what everyone else can bring to the race weekend.”
NASCAR Rising Stars Learning New Discipline In IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge
Last month, Ford Performance announced a unique plan for four of its rising stars in the NASCAR ranks to enhance their road racing skills through participation in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge in 2018.
The same trio of drivers – Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Ty Majewski – who will share the No. 60 Roush-Fenway Ford Mustang in the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series, will be part of a rotating driver lineup in a Multimatic Motorsports-prepared Ford Mustang GT4 in the Continental Tire Challenge. Joining them will be Cole Custer, who will drive the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Mustang in the 2018 Xfinity Series, and all will race under the watchful eye of Canadian road racing Hall of Famer and longtime Ford/Multimatic driver Scott Maxwell.
Cindric is no stranger to Mustangs in the Continental Tire Challenge, as he raced in the series in 2015 and earned his first series victory at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Custer also has a reasonable amount of road racing experience in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. It’s a different story entirely, though, for Briscoe and especially Majewski.
“This is only my second time ever on a road course,” Majewski said. “The multi-class thing is a lot different, everything is just a lot different. It’s just a new experience for me. I’m leaning a lot on Scott Maxwell, my teammate, who’s had a ton of experience with this stuff. It’s been a big learning experience, but I think it’s gone pretty well so far. I’m looking forward to the next day and a half and sinking my teeth into it even more.”
With that in mind, what has been the biggest adjustment so far for Majewski?
“Turning right,” he laughs. “It’s something I’ve literally done none of in my entire life. It’s just a whole different set of instincts to get speed out of these cars. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can.”
Also learning as much as he can is Briscoe, although he does have somewhat more road course seat time. He and Majewski are expected to compete in several Continental Tire Challenge rounds this season – certainly more than Cindric and Custer – which is somewhat of a “pinch me” moment for Briscoe.
“I never thought in a million years that I would get to do what I’m doing on the NASCAR side, let alone get an opportunity to come to Daytona for a road course race,” Briscoe said. “Growing up being a sprint car guy, that’s probably the last thing you’d ever think would be a possibility.
“For Ford to decide that they would give me a chance to do it and not only run here, but I think I’m going to run six or seven other races, so it’s going to be really fun. I’m thankful to be in that position with Ford, where I get to do so many different things. As a driver, that’s all you can ask for is to get seat time in different cars and whatnot.”
Briscoe Quickly Up to Speed in No. 67 Ford GT Despite Late Start to Roar Weekend
Weather has made national news throughout the first week of 2018, and made things difficult – if not impossible – for some in the Northeastern United States to travel anywhere. In fact, a midweek snow storm did delay No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT driver Ryan Briscoe’s travel to the Roar, before he finally got to town Friday, a day later than expected.
“We got about a foot of snow where I live in Connecticut,” Briscoe said. “The day I was meant to be here at the track, I was actually at home plowing snow and working pretty hard out in the wind and stuff, but I enjoy that. Thankfully, the airport opened up in Hartford and I was able to get down here. I only missed the first one-hour session, so I didn’t really miss too much. It’s been really good to get back in the race car.”
The late start to the weekend hasn’t hampered his on-track performance, though, as the Australian posted the quickest lap of the test in the WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class Saturday afternoon before teammate Sebastien Bourdais eclipsed it by approximately two-tenths of a second in Saturday’s evening session at 1 minute, 43.798 in the No. 66 Ford GT. Briscoe is still pleased with the car’s performance, though.
“It’s been going really well,” Briscoe said. “A big change for us, at least on the 67 car, is we’ve got quite a lot of new personnel, so we’ve really just been trying to get everyone up to speed with the car. Everyone has a ton of experience, but maybe not necessarily on the GT. It’s been really good for that. The car’s been running well.
“We’ve been making a lot of setup changes, but we seem to keep coming back to a baseline. The car’s been quite good straight out of the truck. We’ve been really happy. Richard is missing a lot of it because he’s fallen sick, so hopefully he gets better soon. Other than that, I think everything’s been going quite smoothly.”