Team Hardpoint is expecting an “uphill battle” in a last-minute WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut for both the team and owner/driver Rob Ferriol.
The North Carolina-based operation announced less than three weeks ago that it would expand its existing IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge program to include the WeatherTech Sprint Cup races for Ferriol and Spencer Pumpelly in an Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo.
While boasting an experienced crew, including several key members that most recently worked at Park Place Motorsports, a testing ban for WeatherTech Championship competitors meant that Ferriol and Pumpelly’s first laps in the mid-engined GT Daytona class car came only on Wednesday at Sebring.
It has put the team at an disadvantage in terms of sheer data, particularly with all WeatherTech Championship teams coming off January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
However, Ferriol is entering the compact two-day event with realistic expectations.
“We’re realistic enough to know that we’re facing an uphill battle this weekend,” he said.
“It’s my first race in the car, and our competitors have almost 30 hours of track time and data at Daytona already this year dating back to the Roar and the Rolex 24.
“But our team, from engineer John Horton to team manager Gary Biehl to our mechanics and crew through Spencer behind the wheel, are really experienced.
“We’ll do the best we can, work within ourselves, and see if we can’t surprise some people.”
Pumpelly told Sportscar365 that the single-day test went well and the team was able to work out a few “mechanical kinks” ahead of this weekend’s WeatherTech 240 at Daytona, which marks the first Daytona sprint race for IMSA competitors since 2010.
“Most of my racing at Daytona has been in an endurance format where passing isn’t such a pressing issue until the later stages of the race,” Pumpelly said.
“But we do drive 100 percent for the entirety of the Rolex 24 so the only difference I anticipate will be the urgency will increase if we get stuck behind a slower car.
“The details like having clean pit stops and nailing the restarts will also be a bigger factor for us this time around.”
Hardpoint’s Audi is one of 12 cars entered in the GTD class for IMSA’s return to racing on Saturday evening.