While not entered for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup this year, Compass Racing has been racking up considerable mileage with its McLaren 720S GT3 in recent weeks in preparation for a potential full-season IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship campaign in 2021.
The Toronto-based team, which is set for a return in the WeatherTech Sprint Cup rounds, took part in a 12-hour simulation at Sebring International Raceway late as month, along with multiple days of running at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta last week.
The tests, in cooperation with McLaren Automotive, marked the first significant mileage for the car in North America as the British manufacturer worked on developing several new components.
According to Compass team principal Karl Thomson, the tests, which saw team regular Paul Holton being joined by fellow McLaren Automotive factory driver Ben Barnicoat and new-for-2020 Compass driver Corey Fergus, proved successful for all involved.
“We’re working on some new components McLaren has been developing over the off-season,” Thomson told Sportscar365. “Obviously there’s a performance test but it was also endurance.
“The most punishing track in the world is Sebring so McLaren came over, we used our car and drivers plus Ben to do that work.
“We did a 12-hour race simulation into the night and I think we were pleased with how things went.
“By the time we finished, I think we had 36 or 37 hours on the car over the four days [between Sebring and Road Atlanta]. It’s a fair amount of time.”
When asked about the precise updates to the mid-engined supercar, which has not pursued an Evo kit for 2020, Thomson said they were mostly reliability-related.
“After the first year with the car [racing] around the world, there have been a few things identified that if we updated them it would help with reliability,” Thomson said.
Thomson said Barnicoat, who is fresh off a runner-up finish in last month’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour with fellow customer McLaren team 59 Racing, integrated well into the Compass squad.
“Ben works with the guys at Woking on a lot of the projects and Paul is sort of the lead driver in North America. So having the two of them work together and giving feedback was good for McLaren,” Thomson said.
“Paul knows the tracks in North America really well so he has the experience to say, ‘What’s happening at Sebring is also going to happen at these other tracks and this is how we can tune the car.’
“Both of them have been involved with the development of the car from the very beginning. Paul was at most of the tests they did in the early going.”
Full-Season Program in 2020 “Never the Intent”
Thomson reiterated that taking part in a full WeatherTech Championship campaign this year was never planned, despite the team having looked at contesting last year’s season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans.
That race is again under consideration for this year, if all goes to plan, along with a potential entry in the Indianapolis 8 Hours Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli round.
“If we go to Daytona with our car, I want to be really having a shot at the win,” Thomson said. “I think we know the Sprint Cup is a really good place for the car.
“We’ve got eight weekends and intense racing and some time. Maybe we do Petit at the end of the year.”