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Teams View Reliability as Only Threat to GTP Rolex 24 Win

GTP class teams confident about pace; reliability the big topic for new cars at Daytona…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Management figures from four LMDh factory teams expect reliability to be the only threat to a GTP car winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the new category’s first race.

The GTP class is making its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut later this month with the new breed of hybrid-powered LMDh cars from Porsche, Cadillac, Acura and BMW.

Personnel representing each brand agreed in a group interview on Wednesday that durable GTP cars should comfortably fill out the overall podium, especially after IMSA imposed a performance reduction for the LMP2 class ahead of the Roar Before the Rolex 24.

The LMP2 performance curbs were implemented to help ensure an adequate stratification between the top two prototype classes. That, according to the team managers, leaves reliability as the only threat to an outright GTP victory in the longest race of the season.

“I think, from a performance level standpoint, GTPs will have more performance than P2 cars,” said BMW M Team RLL vice president of operations Brandon Fry.

“I think it’s going to come down to the reliability and how readily we can deal with any issues with these new cars and keep them circulating on the track.

“If everything goes normal, there is no question in my mind that a GTP car will be more successful than a P2 car.

“The big variable, probably for the first part of the year, is going to be reliability and how everything works.”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s director of operations Mike O’Gara noted that while top speeds between GTP and LMP2 “may be similar” on the Daytona oval, there are other ways in which the LMDh cars have an edge.

“There will be some challenges,” he said.

“Brandon’s familiar with racing GTD cars versus GTLM cars. I kind of see it more [like] that this year. The braking systems are quite different between a GTP car and a P2.

“I think our car is going to be a lot better under braking. Top speeds may be similar. It will make for some interesting racing, for sure.

“I fully expect a GTP car to be at the top of the podium at the end of the race.”

Even though reliability is the “underlying current” of the pre-race discussion — in the words of Porsche Penske Motorsport managing director Jonathan Diuguid — the manufacturers don’t expect their teams to take a hugely different approach to the race.

“I don’t think there’s a Daytona 500 approach where you sit way back to avoid big accidents or drop your pace to reduce the possibility of failures,” Diuguid said.

“Hopefully all of us have done our homework and we control what we can control.”

He added: “IMSA has spent a lot of time forming the regulations to make sure they’ll have proper class stratification.

“They worked on that in the Daytona test that we all participated in. Withstanding racing influences, like Mike and Brandon said it should be a GTP podium.”

Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport vice president and general manager Travis Houge echoed Fry’s sentiment that GTP teams will need to know how to address problems quickly in addition to ensuring their cars are durable in the first place.

Four-time Rolex 24 winner WTR is running one of two Acura ARX-06s that will race at Daytona.

“It’s just going to be down to reliability,” he said.

“When you do have issues, it’s going to come down to the timing of those issues and how and when you recover. If all of us get to where we want to be, GTP should be at the top.

“I think the concern has always been reliability more than speed. We knew that with the platform we have, these cars are always going to be quicker.”

Porsche and Cadillac completed overnight endurance tests at Sebring International Raceway in preparation for the first GTP race. BMW attempted a long-distance run but encountered some problems, although Team RLL returned to the track in December.

“A couple of us have been able to complete endurance tests and are very happy with the milestones we made,” said Diuguid.

“But we’re not sitting here saying that we’re 100 percent confident the cars are going to run flawlessly through the races.

“We’re going to all go in as prepared as possible for every scenario we can plan for. But testing is not racing. Once we get into the race, we’ll see what it brings.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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