Much has changed for Ryan Dalziel over the three years between 2012, when he was part of the first FIA World Endurance Championship season, and 2015, when he’ll return to the series on a full-time basis.
Dalziel has gone from playing an integral role in Starworks Motorsport’s 2012 LMP2 Trophy championship-winning year, to now leading Extreme Speed Motorsports’ charge.
The car’s changed, as he’ll shift from the venerable open-top HPD ARX-03b to the new-for-2015 HPD ARX-04b coupe.
And the series itself begins its second three-year run, after the first three years have seen increased manufacturer involvement, media attention and fan attendance.
Dalziel reflected on the WEC evolution after returning to the Six Hours of Shanghai event earlier this month, anchoring the No. 30 entry with Scott Sharp and Ricardo Gonzalez en route to a runner-up finish in LMP2.
“It’s gone to being the biggest sports car championship in the world,” Dalziel told Sportscar365. “This year was a difficult year for sports car racing on the whole and in particular for P2 racing worldwide, based upon new cars and rules. I think that’s why the (P2) car count was down.
“In the WEC, I was blown away to see the difference between Shanghai 2012 and 2014. That was one of the races where we had such a poor turnout in 2012. This year it was absolutely packed. I’d figure it was about in the 30 to 35,000 range, which for a standalone sports car race outside of Le Mans, that’s as good as you’ll get.”
It will mark an interesting career shift for Dalziel, as well. Though he has had international experience over his North American career, 2015 will be the first season since his 2002 arrival – as an then-unheralded 20-year-old who took the Formula Atlantic series by storm – where his primary focus will be an international championship rather than a domestic one.
Dalziel said with ESM’s program of a full WEC and running all four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, it’s the perfect blend of both worlds.
“I came to America to follow the American dream,” Dalziel said. “Yeah I love Daytona, Sebring, Petit, but I also love places like Lime Rock – the places that people don’t talk about.
“I’m definitely grateful we’ll do the big races. They’re the signature events for IMSA. It will be a weird year, as I’ve never done it this way. I prioritized the American races the last time in WEC, so I missed a WEC race. It’s been 13 years since I left Europe, and so 2015 is different because WEC is the priority.”
His 2015 charge however, will start in North America. ESM is gearing up to receive the first of its two HPD coupes in early December, with the second due to arrive just before Christmas.
Dalziel will add an LMP2 coupe to his resume in terms of cars he’s driven, to go along with his past experience in single-seaters, an open-top P2, a Daytona Prototype and various GT machines. He expects the cooling element of a coupe to be something the team will need to get its head around.
With the HPD untested and one of several new LMP2 cars set for a 2015 debut, Dalziel said the car will need to make strides to match the performance output shown by the new Ligier JS P2 the second half of 2014.
“The Ligier came out of the box very impressive, but you would expect a new car or manufacturer to be faster than the previous one,” Dalziel said. “Simulation-wise, we should be on par. But we don’t know if that’s everything.
“The BoP doesn’t really exist in WEC, so we can’t rely on the ACO to change it. Really HPD will have to develop the best chassis, as the engine is basically frozen where it’s at. We need this car to be a solid second and a half faster than the previous car.”
Dalziel could still have a busy 2015 in North America. He won twice and finished second three times with EFFORT Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 R in the last six Pirelli World Challenge races of the year.
While not confirmed for the season, Dalziel completed a Pirelli tire test with EFFORT’s No. 31 car, and also shook down the team’s rebuilt No. 41 chassis at Sebring last week.
“I’d like to do it if we can; there’s a couple of conflicts,” he said. “It was one of my most favorite places to race the last couple years.”