History was made Tuesday as the first 2017-spec LMP2 car turned its first official laps at Daytona International Speedway, in preparation for January’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Onroak Automotive’s Ligier JS P217 Gibson, run by PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, took the 3.56-mile oval/infield road course for the afternoon session with Onroak development driver Julien Canal and PR1’s Tom Kimber-Smith at the wheel.
It is the only Prototype class car taking part in the two-day IMSA-sanctioned test, which kicked off today.
The car, running its first laps in North America, had a late start, having missed the three-hour morning test session after only arriving at the track at 5:30 a.m. due to delays in customs in North Carolina.
“It was a nice, hard morning to come in and uncrate a car and run it in the afternoon,” PR1/Mathiasen co-owner Bobby Oergel told Sportscar365.
“Hats off to everyone involved. The Onroak guys, the PR1 guys, everyone did just what we had to do and get going and get on track.
“It’s very exciting. All the crew and everyone was excited to get moving.”
Kimber-Smith, a two-time LMP2 class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, was pleased with his initial impressions of the car.
“It’s good fresh out of the box for us,” he told Sportscar365. “Obviously Ligier have done a lot of testing beforehand. That was our first proper run in the car and it’s gone well.
“At the moment it was just gathering data and going through a test plan; it was not about speed but just familiarizing ourselves with the car.
“So far, so good. It’s way quicker than a PC car and way quicker than P2 cars I’ve driven in the past. It’s going to make the racing a lot easier because we’re going to be through traffic a lot quicker.”
The Englishman was clocked unofficially in the mid-to-high 1:39 lap range, although the team admits they are at the very early stages of development, with significant gains still to come.
Major setup changes were made in the final hour of the four-hour session, including rear wing adjustments, as well as the removal of the dive planes, which provided additional top-line speed.
“We’re figuring out the car,” Kimber-Smith said. ‘We’re running through aero and damper settings.
“The car is still under development with Ligier so they have their own test plan, we have our test plan and we’re trying to all fit it in two days. It’s hard.”
Oergel said both Jose Gutierrez and newly crowned European Le Mans Series LMP3 champion Mike Guasch will get seat time in the car tomorrow, as the data-gathering mission continues for both team and constructor.
“Tom did a fair bit [today] because Julien had to leave to head to Bahrain,” he said. “So Tom got a fair bit of what’s possibly there. Mike and Jose will do that tomorrow.
“We’re just going to gather and gather and run and run.”