Prototype Challenge teams competing in this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will have some added power under their drivers’ feet, following a further engine update from Katech for the spec Oreca FLM09 cars.
Updates had been rolled out on the 6.2-liter GM-based V8 powerplant for January’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 but did not show the full effect on the Daytona high banks.
Sebring will see the PC cars have up to 25 additional horsepower, resulting in an estimated 6-7 mph increase in top speeds, aimed to help separate the top-speed gap between the four classes.
“My expectation is to see it do what we were hoping for it to do at Daytona and that is getting us out racing ourselves instead of battling with the GT cars in top speeds,” PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports team owner Bobby Oergel told Sportscar365.
“The end result, you’ll see a lot better racing and people calming down because of it. The dive-bomb moves to get around GT cars should be minimized.”
Reigning PC class co-champion Colin Braun of CORE autosport is also in support of the move but admits that there are still some questions that come with the increase in power, such as fuel mileage.
PC cars at Daytona additionally were required to run a mandated rear wing angle that also reduced top speed. That mandate has been relaxed for this weekend at the 3.7-mile airfield circuit.
“There’s obviously some unknowns,” Braun told Sportscar365.”We don’t know what kind of fuel economy we’re going to get and what our windows are going to look like.
“Until we get out during practice and understand exactly what it does to on-track performance, it’s hard to guess what it’s going to do to the strategy.
“I’m hoping with more straight-line speed and the fact that we don’t have a required rear wing angle at a place like this, we’ll be able to trim enough to drive by the GTD cars fairly easy and that will make the whole race a lot less stressful for us and I think the GT cars.”
The Rolex 24-winning PR1 squad, meanwhile, completed a shakedown at Buttonwillow last week in the revised configuration, with both Tom Kimber-Smith and Mike Guasch getting a handful of laps in the more powerful PC car.
With a dropoff in PC car count this year, Oergel is hoping the changes will help rejuvenate the class and attract customers back to the competitive prototype class.
“It’s been needed for four or five years,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s rejuvenated the enthusiasm internally with the drivers and even the guys who are calling to talk about things for the future. It’s nice to say, ‘Yes, we’re out of the GT race.’
“I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction. The other piece is getting the class more respect and this will be part of that too.
“It felt like you were shoved in a corner for a while in a class that didn’t change or have any alternations from [the merger].
“In all fairness, [PC is the] best bang for the buck in the paddock and is the only one that took a small decline. I think you’ll see a little more rejuvenation.”