On the heels of back-to-back TUDOR United SportsCar Championship victories, Scott Pruett anticipates a tougher challenge ahead in this weekend’s Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix.
The Chip Ganassi Racing veteran, who along with co-driver Memo Rojas head into Sunday’s two-hour race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca second in the Prototype championship standings following wins at Sebring and Long Beach.
But with a recent Balance of Performance adjustment, along with the unknowns of how the new-for-2014 DP package will perform on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn circuit, Pruett is taking a mindful approach to the fourth round of the season.
“Going to Laguna, we very much expect a different story,” Pruett told Sportscar365. “The P2 cars have certainly been there and have shown great speed but haven’t had the result that they were looking for.
“Laguna is not one of those tracks that has fast straightaway speeds. I see a very interesting mix between the P2 and the DPs as we approach Laguna, more so than any other event so far this year.”
After having swept the opening three rounds this year, DPs have been slightly pegged back for Monterey.
The Chevy and Ford-powered DPs have been handed an estimated 10-14 horsepower reduction by IMSA in order to improve the raceability between the two different prototype platforms.
“I don’t see that being a big effect,” Pruett said. “I wish IMSA would have waited until after we got through Laguna because I think it’s going to be a different story for sure.
“Their momentum through the turns and because of the less weight, and more downforce, they’re just quicker through the turns. You just have to look at the split times and I see Laguna being one of those tracks.”
While DP cars are no strangers to MRLS, significant off-season upgrades to the platform could pose some question marks on how they’ll perform this weekend while up against the P2 entries, which have remained largely unchanged from ACO specification.
“There are so many things different,” Pruett said in comparison to last year. “You’ve got a six-speed gearbox instead of a five-speed. You’ve got carbon brakes vs. cast-iron brakes. You’ve got a different engine package and significantly more downforce.
“What we’ve learned from the past is that there’s only a few things we can carry forward. More so than anything else, we have a lot to learn.”
But with momentum on his side, Pruett is hoping for continued success for the Ford EcoBoost-powered Riley DP, a package that’s already proven versatile in 2014.
“When you look at the [Sebring] 12 Hours and Long Beach, they’re kind of the opposite ends of the spectrum,” he said. “For us to be able to set some milestones with our relationship with Ford and Telcel, it’s a great start to the season.
“Now we’ve just got to figure out how to keep doing what we do and get as many points every race weekend as we can.”