Lamborghini teams are expecting to face a tough task in their quests to claim the Italian manufacturer’s fourth straight Rolex 24 at Daytona class victory in this weekend’s race.
Defending GT Daytona winner Bryan Sellers from Paul Miller Racing and Grasser Racing Team boss Gottfried Grasser both believe that the 2021 race is set to present a heightened challenge for the two teams running the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.
They each told Sportscar365 that a Balance of Performance tweak since last year’s Rolex 24, which has reduced the Lamborghini’s air restrictor diameter by 1 mm to 37 mm, is impacting the car on the high-speed sections of the 3.56-mile Daytona roval course.
Sellers added that the level of competition in the 19-car GTD field is also set to test the teams that are jointly responsible for delivering Lamborghini’s three wins since 2018.
The American, who is seeking to defend the GTD crown with his co-drivers Andrea Caldarelli, Madison Snow and Corey Lewis, described how the BoP change which came before IMSA’s short-form Daytona race last July is affecting the Lamborghini this week.
“When they did the Daytona race at July last year, the Lamborghini was on the 37 mm [restrictor diameter],” said Sellers.
“And I think you’d be a fool to think that was not based on the Lamborghini’s performance [last] January. And also to say that it wasn’t to test the restrictor coming back to the 24-hour.
“They had plenty of information on what it did and what they thought it would do, so here we are. Internally we’ve talked about it. It definitely makes it much harder to race towards the front, but we always look at those things and say that it’s not something we can control.
“We tend to not put too much on it. For us, the concerning part will be battling back towards the front with a car that’s down on miles per hour, when all you do is spend time on the banking.”
The Paul Miller Lamborghini is starting from 17th after pulling out of the recent qualifying race due to an electrical issue that had been manifesting on its brand-new car in earlier Roar sessions.
The team will start one spot ahead of GRT’s No. 19 Huracan GT3 Evo which was demoted for undercutting its required minimum weight, while the No. 111 GRT starts from third.
Sellers suggested that the team’s ability to climb through the field on-track will depend on its drivers locking into drafting scenarios coming onto the banking sections of the circuit.
“The top speed tends to not go too far away,” he explained.
“You spend so much time at top speed here that eventually you get to maximum velocity which is still a decent amount, two to three mph down. But how we get there is the bigger problem.
“Even if the top speed comes back, it just takes a little longer to get there. We have to hope that we have a good enough race car that we can be strong onto both portions of the banking, exiting T6 and the Bus Stop, and that we can catch enough of a draft to hang on and give enough of an opportunity in the braking zones.
“All Lamborghini teams are in a difficult position. You can cry about where we are right now, but you can also look at where we’ve been.
“A lot of teams would say that we’ve had a distinct advantage over the past four of five years. When you look at it from a whole, Lamborghini has accomplished something pretty amazing by winning three straight Daytonas.
“It’s been done before, but in the modern era of GTD certainly that hasn’t been done. That’s something to hang your hat on.”
Sellers stressed that the quality of this year’s GTD entry would likely make a fourth consecutive Lamborghini win difficult to achieve regardless of any BoP factors.
When asked which entries are looking particularly strong, Sellers picked out the Porsche 911 GT3 Rs from Pfaff Motorsports and Wright Motorsports, along with the pair of Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3s and Turner Motorsport’s pole-sitting BMW M6 GT3.
“When you truly look at the depth of GTD, you’re hard-pressed to say there’s anything better going on right now,” he said.
“DPi is a great battle, and I would never take away from those guys because there’s a bunch of wheelmen in there. But I don’t think we’ve ever seen GTD this strong either.”
Grasser Aiming to Extend Podium Streak
GRT team principal Grasser, whose organization won Daytona back-to-back in 2018-19 and finished second to Paul Miller last year, said the Austrian outfit intends to “make the best” of the situation despite noting that a fourth straight victory may be hard to come by.
“It’s quite hard on the straights,” Grasser told Sportscar365 when asked about Lamborghini’s chances of a Daytona quadruple.
“We have the slowest car at the moment, so it’s quite easy [for others] to overtake. Lap time-wise, we are OK. But for top speed, we are a little bit limited at the moment.
“Hopefully IMSA is changing some things. Our opinion would be a bigger restrictor and more weight to compensate, but let’s see what the outcome is. We have to make the best out of it.”
No BoP adjustments were made to the GTD class in a technical update issued on Wednesday, although Grasser believes the race will come down to more factors than that.
“The race is long so I’m not so worried,” he said. “There are so many tactics and knowledge that you have to bring in to get a result.
“I think it’s not a key point, to be one-tenths quicker or slower. We did not hide anything in the qualifying race. We pushed maximum and we tried to win it. This is important for us, not to play games.
“But I think IMSA is clever and they will sort it out. They’re doing a good job.”