Having been the last team to take delivery of its DPi car and only having limited running so far, Tequila Patron ESM’s Ryan Dalziel is taking a cautious approach to this weekend’s Roar Before the 24 in the public debut of the Nissan Onroak DPi.
The French-built prototype, featuring Nissan’s 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 engine, turned its first laps in a two-day test at Sebring on Dec. 22-23, with the Florida-based team only having received its second chassis last week.
With both cars unlikely to take part in the Roar, at least initially in Friday’s running, Dalziel said the focus will be getting as much mileage under their belt with a single DPi entry with its six drivers in attendance.
“The focus for us will be reliability,” Dalziel told Sportscar365.
“We’re a little bit behind other teams and haven’t put a lot of miles on the car. We know what we’re up against coming to the test but I think the positives are that the car feels good, the motor feels strong.
“For us, it’s figuring out what’s going to break and reinforcing it and redesigning it to come back for the race.
“They’ve already done a significant amount of changes since the test, both in drivetrain and software. Obviously everyone’s had to adapt to the Cosworth [electronics]. We had similar issues to what the Cadillac had.
“I think the goal is to at least get one car running flawlessly and let all the drivers cycle through that. Hopefully we can get the second car out as quick as possible, without putting it out for the sake of it.”
Dalziel, who returns to ESM in a full-season IMSA capacity after a one-year stint with Visit Florida Racing, admits their weak point could come with the complexities of engine cooling.
While a proven engine in the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, Onroak and Nissan have had to adapt the GT3-based powerplant for prototype racing and the space constraints inside the LMP2-based car.
“That was something we faced at the [Sebring] test, making sure we had enough cooling in the intercoolers and not too much cooling to the oil and water,” Dalziel said.
“Those are the little things we’ve had to work on, like redesigning the sidepods to make sure the [vents] are correct.
“Electronically we know the [engine] from the GT-R GT3 car, as it runs strong. We’re not worried about the motor. It’s a lot of power to put through a P2 rear-end, so we’re going to make sure we can run for 24 hours and beat the thing up.”
The Scot said he’s been encouraged by the car’s handling and potential, especially when compared to Onroak’s previous-generation Ligier JS P2, which took the team to overall victories at Daytona and Sebring with Honda power last year.
“The car is quite different but in all the years I drove a Riley, whether I was driving the DP or the Viper, you always could tell it was a Riley design,” Dalziel said. “I feel the same with this; it still has fundamentally similar feelings.
“It drives very similar. You leave the pits and there’s obviously a chunk of more power. The tires are quite different but we hadn’t run on the new Continental tire, which seems like is going to be a big step forward.
“It’s more like we ran with the Honda. You have [turbo] lag and boost. I think as drivers we understand that.
“There’s a lot of things we learned, especially in the traction control and boost in the Honda that can help us out in the Nissan NISMO a little bit.
“But Nowadays, it comes down to BoP and what they give us. We ran a number of configurations at the test, per IMSA’s request. Who knows what everyone else has.
“I think we feel pretty confident that we have a reliable package.”
Friday’s start of track activity will provide ESM its first laps at Daytona with the new package, which according to Dalziel, should suit the 3.56-mile oval/road course.
“With speed, we’ll see what we get here; we’ve never run on the speedway yet,” he said. “We’re the only car that hasn’t run on the speedway.
“Based on top speed at Sebring, I think we’re going to be pretty slippery in a straight line. Hopefully we’re quick everywhere.”