Cetilar Racing has confirmed plans to enter its FIA World Endurance Championship Dallara P217 Gibson into the LMP2 class of the Rolex 24 at Daytona next January.
Team owner Roberto Lacorte told Sportscar365 that the Italian outfit will ship its Dallara chassis to the U.S. after this weekend’s WEC season finale in Bahrain.
It will mark the long-awaited IMSA debut of the Dallara in the LMP2 category.
Cetilar’s full-season WEC lineup of Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto and Andrea Belicchi will be joined by Ferrari GT driver Antonio Fuoco for the opening round of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The Daytona entry will be supported by AF Corse, which assumed running of the Cetilar LMP2 program at the start of the 2019-20 World Endurance campaign.
“We are working on the program for Daytona, confirmed,” said Lacorte. “We will send the car directly from here [in Bahrain] to Daytona.
“It will be an interesting experience for us. It’s a new race for every driver in the team.”
Lacorte reckons the 3.56-mile oval/road course will play to the strengths of the Dallara package, which has come up against stiff competition from the Oreca 07 Gibsons that currently dominate the WEC LMP2 class.
Daytona is set to be the final race for Lacorte’s own Dallara chassis, which contested two European Le Mans Series campaigns before Cetilar stepped up to the WEC for 2019-20.
While the Dallara P217 has not raced in IMSA before, the LMP2 chassis is the base on which the quadruple Rolex 24-winning winning Cadillac DPi-V.R has been developed.
“We are racing in Daytona because the design of the circuit is friendly to our car,” said Lacorte.
“The Dallara meets a lot of problems in the mid-speed corners [but] Daytona is a faster track. In the infield you need mechanical traction and downforce is not so important.
“With the Dallara, we can play with the other cars. Also the mandatory Bronze rule changes the condition, and the IMSA tires fit very well with the Dallara.
“For these reasons, we decided to do the last race of the No. 47 [WEC car] in Daytona. It’s a good way to close a chapter and open a new one.”
AF Corse manager Philippe Dumas, who works on the Cetilar WEC entry, added that IMSA’s decision to integrate its Roar Before the Rolex 24 test event into the Daytona race week enabled the team to green-light its plans.
“It’s sea freight from Bahrain to Daytona,” he explained. “It will be tight but it is fine. Fortunately, IMSA decided to move the Roar to the end of January. That was quite smart.
“It’s the right move, especially with the situation at the moment.”
Lacorte explained that Cetilar put in a request for IMSA to enable its car to race without the power reduction to 560 hp that is being mandated across all LMP2 series next year.
The global LMP2 fleet is being slowed in accordance with the WEC’s introduction of Le Mans Hypercar machinery that will have slower lap times than current LMP1 cars.
“IMSA has added the new regulations for next season but I was happy to stay with the same car [with the current power figure],” said Lacorte.
“We have asked to stay with the same [original] specification, but doing part of the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, I think that the rules will be the same for all the season starting from Daytona.
“I don’t know how many LMP2s will be present in Daytona but I hope to have many competitors. For us, it will be a new experience and the first time that I race in America.
“It’s a different way to drive and I’m happy and curious to meet [the IMSA series].”
Although Lacorte has never raced in IMSA before, he is keen to explore more of the American scene and hinted at ambitions of entering the Michelin Endurance Cup.
When asked if the Daytona entry is a one-off he said, “Yes, because we are busy with the WEC next year, but for the future I want to come back to the USA to race.
“I want to come back in the USA to race in the traditional races, in the four long-distance races. I don’t know in which category, but I think that we will [do it] in a GT category.”