As the only driver racing two cars in this year’s Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, Ryan Briscoe has two important tasks at hand.
Primarily, his job is to assist Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette Racing C7.R in Garcia’s quest to capture the inaugural GT Le Mans championship in the first TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season.
But considering Briscoe will serve as third driver for both the Nos. 3 and 4 cars, he’ll also be tasked with acquiring data and figuring out the best setup compromise between the two cars.
It’s a challenge the Australian, who’s preparing for an upcoming move to Bristol, Ct., embraces as he looks ahead to his first TUDOR Championship start since the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.
“We’d talked since the beginning of the year about this,” he told Sportscar365. “The plan was to not have a third driver here, originally. But now that P1 cars aren’t here, the race is definitely going to be 10 hours.
“So now you could run into a potential situation with two drivers and drive times, where strategy could get affected negatively if you don’t have a third driver.”
Briscoe anticipates he’ll spend more time during the race in the No. 3 car with Garcia and Jan Magnussen rather than the No. 4 with Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner.
For one reason, the No. 3 is the car in title contention, and for the second, pit stops are easier with driver changes not requiring a seat insert. The No. 3 trio is of similar heights, while Briscoe requires an insert and gives up a few inches to his taller co-drivers on the No. 4.
Garcia currently enters the race seven points back of SRT’s Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer, who have been split between the Nos. 93 and 91 Dodge Viper SRT GTS-Rs this race.
Having not driven the car since Sebring, Briscoe did notice the extra weight added at first glance. But he still said the car felt fine, as it’s now gone through its first full season of competition.
Briscoe has past Petit experience in P2 machinery, both in the Team Penske-run Porsche RS Spyder and also last year with Level 5 Motorsports in their HPD ARX-03b.
“We were pretty slow last year, maybe down to (1 minute) 12s or 11s; I remember in ’08 we were doing 6s in qualifying. It was awesome,” Briscoe recalled. “Even last year it was a bit difficult in a P2, because our speed was the same on straights as GTLM.”
The adjustment of being in a car where he’s doing the overtaking to watching his mirrors both in overtaking and allowing the prototypes through, he’s handled well.
Yet the aforementioned pace differential, with the times closer on the whole, can make overtaking difficult in a GTLM car.
“Some of them are so much quicker in the corners but the same speed or slower on the straights,” he said. “That’s kind of how we are with GTD cars. You make moves from far back.
“You just have to learn to watch your mirrors. When you’re the top dog, you don’t. Almost every corner you need to have a look. On our screen, with the rear view camera, it’s a big screen, that’s a big help.”
So-called “half moves,” where a driver gets alongside but isn’t able to complete a pass, is one of Briscoe’s larger concerns heading into race day.
Alas, he knows his task, and knows what he has to do to aid in the goals. Corvette Racing seeks its third straight driver’s title this weekend, with Gavin and Milner (2012) and Garcia and Magnussen (2013) claiming the final two American Le Mans Series GT championships.
“I still feel pretty much at home,” he said. “I’m thankful they’re having me back. Daytona and Sebring I came in and it fit like a glove.
“I know everyone here is pretty excited and anxious to see what we can do.”