Testing for Daytona Prototypes, P2 and Prototype Challenge cars was suspended Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway on the grounds of safety, due to a number of tire-related incidents, two of which caused airborne accidents for newly upgraded DPs.
According to IMSA VP of Competition & Technical Regulations, Scot Elkins, the decision to ground all prototype machinery, except for the DeltaWing coupe, was a joint decision with partner Continental Tire, as they work to come to the bottom of the issue.
“We all made the decision together,” Elkins told Sportscar365. “The fact is that every [Prototype and Prototype Challenge) car is running the same tire. The fact that we don’t know what’s causing issues, whether it’s tire or car or whatever. We just don’t know.
“The right thing to do was to say that we’re not going to run today. Knowing all of those cars were on the same tire, that was the only decision we could come to.”
Both the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona and No. 5 Action Express Corvette DPs suffered right-rear tire failures and subsequent airborne accidents, with Richard Westbrook’s Coyote-chassied car destroyed following a series of rolls at the exit of the high-speed tri-oval section.
Tire issues were also reported for two other DPs, along with an isolated incident for the No. 05 CORE autosport Oreca FLM09 PC car, although not resulting in any accidents. There were no reported problems for either of the P2 cars in attendance.
“Safety is our number one priority and I’m glad Richard Westbrook and Joao Barbosa are both okay,” said Travis Roffler, director for marketing for Continental Tire. “We are working with IMSA to uncover the source of the issue and subsequent solution.
“I know that, with the help of IMSA and all the teams, we will have a solution to the problem before we race. At this time, it’s too early to speculate as to what’s causing the issue so we are conducting a detailed analysis.”
A Continental tire spokesperson said the same tire construction, P1000, had been used on the high-banked oval/road course for the last two years but under a different nomenclature (DP-I), and that no developments for this tire have been made on this track.
The same tire was used on Conquest Racing’s Morgan-Nissan P2 car when it tested at Daytona late last year, with no issues as well.
“The fact of the matter is that both IMSA and Continental are confident we’re going to solve the issue,” Elkins said. “We’ve got the process going and I don’t think we have any concerns about the upcoming testing.
“We made the decision today because of the unknowns. We’ll answer the questions and move on.”
The other issue stemming from Tuesday is the nature of the accidents, as both Westbrook and Barbosa’s Corvette DPs took flight after being turned around.
Elkins said that is another area they are looking into, particularly with aero updates introduced to DPs for 2014. Four cars were running with the new diffuser, tunnels and dual element rear wing package issued by IMSA, which had yet to be evaluated in a full-scale wind tunnel until Monday.
“We don’t design these cars to go backwards,” Elkins said. “We got on the phone last night with all of the relevant aerodynamicists that have worked on the project from every aspect, from Ford to Pratt & Miller to Multimatic. We’ve got everybody on the horn and we’re looking through it and seeing where we’re going.
“It is an unintended consequence but I think anything that goes backwards at 180 mph has the potential for doing that. We don’t necessarily know that the diffuser is what caused that but we’re going through and doing some studies on that. We started last night.”
Elkins was unable to give a specific timeframe on any possible changes that could be in the works. A number of DP teams have private testing scheduled at Daytona next month, in advance of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 on Jan. 3-5, 2014.