The latest chapter in the story of Muscle Milk Pickett Racing began last weekend at Daytona International Speedway, as its new Oreca 03 Nissan turned its first laps in preparation for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season.
After claiming back-to-back ALMS P1 titles, and with the elimination of the top-tier prototype class, the Indianapolis-based team was forced to shift gears to the cost-capped P2 ranks for 2014. It’s also seen the Greg Pickett-led squad join forces with Nissan to become an official partner team.
“With our driver competency and experience in these cars and our engineering experience with these type of cars, [the P2 platform] was a better tool for our team to be able to work with, to come to the best benefit,” team owner Greg Pickett told Sportscar365. “We’re going to live with that choice and work hard.”
The new program got off to an encouraging start, with full-season drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr, along with newly signed Rolex 24 pilot Alex Brundle and Tom Dyer getting laps over the weekend.
It marked the first time an Oreca 03 Nissan had run on Continental tires, a new dynamic some ALMS teams have also had to adapt to.
“It’s still early,” Graf told Sportscar365. “We have to learn a lot about the tires and make the car fit to the tires. We’re trying a lot of different things and are learning. It’s part of the process when you get a new car.
“Obviously time is a bit limited with the race coming up in a couple of weeks but the race is very long. I think the race won’t be won over speed. You have to look at the aspects. There’s a lot of elements.”
One of the challenges faced was IMSA’s late release of the initial Balance of Performance regulations, which came out on Thursday. The team was forced to run the ACO-sized air restrictor instead of a 5 percent larger opening that’s allowed in the regulations.
Despite the performance disadvantage, the car turned a best lap of 1:40.692 in the three-day test, which was just under one second slower than the P2 pace-setting Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b.
“I think the series has done a pretty good job with trying to work out what’s a good Balance of Performance,” Graf added. “The DPs obviously have a higher top speed but it’s probably going to be that way all year long because they are heavier. To match lap times, they have to make it up somewhere.
“If you look at the lap times, we did a 1:40. it’s not far off. But it’s a lot of guesswork at the moment. We want to make the car so it’s driving and performing like we would expect from a car like that and then the lap times would come automatically.”
Pickett said the team plans to conduct further testing at Sebring this week, before returning to Daytona for the highly anticipated season opener later this month.