Elton Julian’s DragonSpeed team maximized its performance – and the timetable – in its lone day of running over the two-day November test at Daytona International Speedway.
The team only tested on Wednesday, having unloaded the cars on Tuesday and preparing them in the garage.
The move nearly backfired as intermittent rain on Wednesday, sometimes falling heavier than others, negated running for most of the day until about the final hour or so from 4 p.m. onwards.
Frankie Montecalvo, Nick Mancuso and Victor Gomez Jr. split time between the Nos. 18 and 19 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3s, in the same chassis they raced in Pirelli World Challenge this season.
Montecalvo won the GTA class title, while GT veteran Mancuso and 2015 GTC driver Gomez enjoyed their first runs in the car.
Unofficially, Montecalvo clocked a 1:47.7 lap time in the No. 18 Mercedes to top the GT Daytona field. Montecalvo had roughly five laps on his set of Continental tires before setting the time.
“We accomplished what we came here to do,” team principal Julian told Sportscar365. “We ran the car at Blancpain BoP, so just like in PWC.”
Montecalvo last competed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2014, then driving with longtime co-driver Gunnar Jeannette among others in PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ Prototype Challenge entry, and also has Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge experience at the track.
Despite the pace, the question still remains whether DragonSpeed will actually be able to race in the Rolex 24 itself.
At issue is whether Mercedes reportedly will opt to become an IMSA official Automotive Partner; no Mercedes have been announced for the Rolex 24 or the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, and the new generation Mercedes-AMG GT3 was ruled out of a Rolex 24 debut earlier this week.
Julian told Sportscar365 earlier this month he remains hopeful of a Rolex 24 entry, but is waiting on whether the car will be allowed to race.
In other quick session notes from today’s running:
***There was very nearly a big accident between two of the leading Prototype class contenders, the pair of Corvette DPs from VisitFlorida.com Racing and Action Express Racing. The No. 90 VisitFlorida.com car spun at the entry to the International Horseshoe within the final 20 minutes, and the No. 5 Action Express car had to take evasive action. There was no contact.
***Stevenson Motorsports’ transporter arrived end of day Wednesday, and is set to take delivery of the new No. 76 Audi R8 LMS, which tested in factory hands this week.
***Two of the three Audi drivers here, Christopher Haase and Rahel Frey, hailed the car’s improvements and new aero – with Haase providing the best reference having raced the previous generation Audi for two years and scoring the pole here in 2014. This marked not only Frey’s first time at Daytona, but the first time for the young Swiss driver to test in North America. Neither driver is confirmed for a potential return in January.
***Conner Kearby tested for Starworks Motorsport in the team’s No. 88 Oreca FLM09 today. He’d been listed alongside IndyCar star Jack Hawksworth and IMSA Prototype Lites driver Robert Alon.