Tuesday’s opening day of IMSA testing at Daytona saw the first proper run for Visit Florida Racing’s new Riley Mk. 30 Gibson, in what marks a radical change for the longtime Daytona Prototype entrant.
The Troy Flis-led squad took delivery of the LMP2 car last weekend, following a brief systems check at Carolina Motorsports Park, which saw Marc Goossens complete only a handful of laps.
“[Daytona is] pretty much our first shakedown,” Flis told Sportscar365. “We did do a couple lap shakedown at Kershaw a week ago, but [it’s] a lot of new stuff, not only to us, but to the manufacturers.
“It’s kind of been a struggle, just on that side… Right now it’s just learning a new car.
“But I’m happy with our choice, with what we made here and where we’re at. I think we’re going to have a good package and it’s just working through some of the hurdles.”
Goossens and new-for-2017 full-season driver Renger van der Zande turned a total of 25 laps in the first day of the two-day test, in what Flis admits to have been a challenge in coming to grips with the new package.
Like the three Cadillac DPi-V.Rs, which were plagued by electronics issues on Tuesday, the Gibson-engined Riley also faced some minor gremlins on Tuesday.
“From making the electronics work and then talk to each other, that’s the biggest hurdle that I’ve seen so far,” Flis said. “Mechanically the car has been very sound. I’m very happy on that side.
“I’m more [focused] on the electronics side; that’s one where we have to learn too.
“We don’t have the people here or the resources that we’ve had to be able to use, so it’s making new relationships with new companies and working through those problems.”
And after years of building their own cars, largely tube-framed-based chassis, Flis said it’s also been a change in essentially having a turn-key prototype delivered to them.
The Riley, chassis No. 2, is the first Gibson-powered global-spec LMP2 model to be produced.
“This car we got from Bill [Riley],” Flis said. “It was developed and built, and we were a customer. We hadn’t really been a customer [before].
“I told Bill, ‘I haven’t been a customer ever.’ Which was cool. It’s just a different mindset.
“Bill asked me a couple of times, ‘What do you think?’ And I don’t know! I think it was Monday night when I first went over the car by myself to see what I liked and what I didn’t like.
Flis admitted some elements of the LMP2 car, including its carbon tub, has taken some getting used to.
“It’s really hard to work on,” he said. “With the big tub, you can’t get in, you can’t get out, there’s no way to pass a wire through.
“The tubs are tough and you can’t drill a hole through them. The process of the tub makes it definitely a harder car to work on than the DP.
“But I do like the car. I’m very excited for this year, and I think we have a great partner with Multimatic-Riley.
“For our first day at Daytona, running a couple of laps around here and getting things done, our hurdles are getting smaller and fewer every day, so that’s a good thing.
“I’m hoping if we can make it through this [week], keep at this pace, when the Roar comes we’ll be in a pretty good spot.”
The team has been strengthened with the addition of Michael Harvey as director of race operations, with key staff from Riley Technologies, including Bill and Bob Riley, on hand this week.
Flis said they have yet to determine their third driver for Daytona but have three options on the table. A decision is likely to be taken by next week.