CORE autosport race engineer Jeff Braun believes they now better understand the Nissan DPi package and are targeting wins in the second half of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
The championship-winning IMSA squad made the late off-season switch from Oreca 07 Gibson to the Ligier Automotive-built Nissan DPis, in an effort to still be in the mix for overall victories amid IMSA’s DPi/LMP2 split for 2019.
While having more-or-less struggled in the opening races of the season, Braun cites a recent two-day test at Watkins Glen as a turning point in the program, in what he called their first proper test to understand the car’s full potential.
“We’ve had enough races where we’ve learned areas we don’t understand the car well enough to really use it,” Braun told Sportscar365. “When you go to a normal race weekend, you have a one-hour session.
“There’s some of those bigger, experimental things, you don’t dare try in a one-hour session because if it’s wrong, it screws the rest of the session.
“So we were able to go to Watkins Glen and knock a bunch of that stuff out.”
With supplied data from Extreme Speed Motorsports not typically being relevant due to the series’ switch from Continental to Michelin tires, as well as lacking aero data on the car, Braun said it’s been “more of a struggle” in coming to understand the DPi package.
“It’s very different in the way it operates and what it needs,” he said. “Aerodynamically, suspension, geometry-wise, engine… It’s a much more complicated car.
“But going to Watkins Glen for two days and running through a list of things… We were testing things that wasn’t for Watkins Glen but could work for Laguna, or here or someplace else.
“We understand the car better now so hopefully our toolbox is a little fuller.”
Despite the change of car, Braun said they’re taking a similar approach to last year, which saw a breakout second half of the season for drivers Colin Braun and Jon Bennett that was highlighted by wins at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Road America and a runner-up finish in the Prototype championship.
“It’s not unlike what we did last year with the Oreca,” he said.
“That was new to us too and we tried to figure out the questions to ask in the first four or five races, then go and test and figure out and try an answer those questions and use it for the rest of the year.
“Hopefully that works this time [too].
“I know we’re working as hard and smarter than we did last year. When Jon Bennett and Morgan Brady started this thing, it was to win races. That was the goal.
“I think we still have a shot. We’re coming from way behind. Most of the other [DPi] teams have some amount of years of experience with the cars and we don’t.
“But yeah, in reality, we think we can win a race.”
Nissan DPi now “100 Percent” a CORE Car
Braun says the the team has now had the time to make the Nissan DPi ‘their own’ in configuring various elements of the car to its own standards.
“That’s what we didn’t have at Daytona and we did a little bit for Sebring, and then the guys took it apart, massaged it the way they wanted it,” Braun said.
“It’s not that ESM did a bad job with them, but every team and group of mechanics have their own way of doing things. It’s fully 100 percent a CORE car now.”
Having purchased both chassis from the now-defunct ESM squad, Braun and Bennett have switched to the second chassis for this weekend, following the successful Watkins Glen test.
Braun explained the switch was planned, in order to keep both cars in rotation and ready-to-race condition.
“It was a good way to have both cars set up and ready to go,” he said. “Now the chassis we took out of service is fully ready to be used as a backup, if we need it.
“There’s basically four sets of back-ends, gearboxes, engines and then two tubs.”