While IMSA’s new-look Prototype class is set to deliver an significant performance increase throughout next year, series officials will be keeping a close eye on lap times and top speeds for the season-opener at Daytona, a race that could see performance levels pegged back.
“The [new cars] are skinnier, narrower, slimmer and smaller. When you put more power in them, I don’t think any of us need to be an engineer to figure out that it will probably go faster right out of the box,” IMSA’s Director of Racing Platforms Mark Raffauf told Sportscar365.
“It’s just the question of how fast and whether it will need to be managed at a place like Daytona.”
Raffauf, who is overseeing development of the DPi and LMP2 platforms in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, predicts the modern-day lap record around the 3.56-mile infield road course/oval circuit to be smashed, by at least a few seconds.
The 2017-spec LMP2 and DPi cars are set to deliver an additional 50 horsepower over the current 2016 IMSA-spec P2 machinery, which were lapping in the 1:38 range at Daytona in January.
Coupled with more efficient aero and a new Continental tire developed specifically for the platform and its increased loads, top speeds are expected to surpass 200 mph, with lap times set to dip below 1:36 for the first time in decades.
“The biggest problem we will have at Daytona is potentially how fast these cars may go,” Raffauf said. “It might be a little too fast for comfort.
“These cars are much more efficient, therefore where we’ve played with 195 mph, 200 mph in a draft level, we might be going beyond that. Depending on far that is, we might want to do a Daytona kit that actually takes them back a little bit, dragging them up to slow them down.
“I think these cars, if not out of the box, but pretty shortly, they’ll do the 1:36 range, compared to the 1:38 or 1:39 we’re at now. I’d say that’s two seconds right now.”
Unlike previous years where the ACO-homologated low-downforce aero kit was utilized on IMSA P2 machinery, all LMP2 and DPi cars will run standard aero kits at Daytona, which could help reduce some top speed.
Raffauf said a final decision on possible class-wide performance adjustments will be made following data collected from the initial IMSA-sanctioned tests at Daytona, which begin in November.
The first DPis, meanwhile, will begin testing in the coming weeks, with Raffauf expecting a total of three to four cars to be “on the ground” by the end of the month, but not necessarily in its full DPi configuration.
He said the IMSA-specific cars are ahead of the LMP2 curve in terms of deliveries, but expects a mix of both platforms for the season-opener in January.
“Now is the difficult time, in the physical capacity people have to both build and test, and get everything in place,” Raffauf said.
“From IMSA’s perspective, we’ve done everything we can to be physically ahead of the original timeline we predicted. We’re looking for a few more bodies to do in the preliminary wind tunnel model testing, which occurs by mid-October.
“All of the tubs have been crash-tested and that stage is over. I think it’s just how many of them are going to bought, paid for and built by the time we go to Daytona at the end of the year for testing.”