Mike Conway said he’s been pleased with his progress so far at the wheel of the Lexus RC F GT3 in coming to grips with a modern-day GT car for the first time.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing FIA World Endurance Championship star has joined Vasser Sullivan for this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, sharing the team’s GTD Pro class entry with Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat.
It comes after four previous Rolex 24 starts for Conway, who has typically been part of Action Express Racing’s Michelin Endurance Cup lineup in recent years, but has seen him move into the top GT category due to AXR’s new factory status with Cadillac.
“I love doing the IMSA races and to get the opportunity with these guys here and Lexus has been great,” Conway told Sportscar365.
“It was a new challenge. I’ve never driven a modern GT car.
“I’m glad we were able to put something together. It was really tight with the timing and everything.”
The two-time world champion, who was confirmed in the lineup just a few weeks ago, said adapting to the car’s ABS and Michelin tires have been two of biggest hurdles, although he hasn’t lacked pace.
Conway set the sixth quickest time in GTD Pro class during last weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24, where he got more than 50 laps behind the wheel of the Lexus.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “The team have been getting me up to speed and some of my teammates, obviously Ben and Jack, have been great. They have lots of experience here.
“I think getting used to the ABS and stuff; that’s quite different. You’ve got to trust it and use it, really.
“Getting used to being patient with the car. There’s a lot more weight and you can’t force it to do anything, you’ve got to be very precise.
“I’m [also] just trying to get used to how the tires are in the long stint. I think that will be something I’ll still be learning as the race goes on, is tire and fuel management.”
He said traffic management has also played a factor, particularly the interaction with the second and third-tier prototypes which now have similar top speeds.
“The race is going to be different, obviously, with the prototypes,” Conway said. “I’m now looking in the mirrors more than I was before, so that’s different.
“The LMP3s and stuff are a different challenge as well as their pace is a lot similar, depending on who’s in the car that can be a challenge.
“Whenever you’ve got the prototypes coming up behind you, you’ve got to read them where they’re going to be passing you, basically.
“Whether you need to stay a bit tighter going into the corner or give them the line going in and things like that. I think I got a good feel of it [on Saturday].
“More and more of that will be crucial as the race goes on.”
Having received advice from his regular co-driver and Toyota WEC team principal Kamui Kobayashi, who subbed for Hawksworth in the Lexus at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last year, Conway said the run plan for the start of race week is relatively straight forward.
“For me, night running and more driver change practice [is the focus],” he said. “There’s a bit more to do in the driver change, you have to do the belt yourself.
“You can’t just sit there and wait for it all to happen.
“It’s a bit more full-on but we’ve got a lot of time to get it right. I think being patient in the stops and making sure you do it right rather than try to rush it.
“I had quite a few long runs [already] in the session, so that was good to get myself dialed in and getting used to everything.”
While only confirmed for the Rolex 24, Conway said “we’ll see how it goes” on the prospects of additional Endurance Cup outings in the No. 14 Lexus.
Vasser Sullivan and Lexus have yet to confirm its third driver lineup for the car beyond Daytona, while it remains unclear if Conway would be permitted to contest the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring given his focus that weekend being on the WEC.
“I haven’t really thought about that,” Conway said. “At the moment we’re just focusing on this one.”