Richard Westbrook says Chip Ganassi Racing’s FIA World Endurance Championship squad is viewing the Rolex 24 at Daytona as a “24-hour test” to prepare for its main season.
Westbrook, Alex Lynn and Earl Bamber are contesting the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener before moving on to the full WEC campaign starting in March.
Their No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh is running in addition to the two full-season GTP entries from Ganassi and Action Express Racing.
“Testing is very difficult at the moment, as the teams are finding out in Europe,” Westbrook told Sportscar365.
“We’re looking at it as a 24-hour test. Obviously, it’s a race and you’ve always got a chance of winning it, but we’ve got to look at the bigger picture.
“It’s an opportunity to understand the car better, more so with the team and mechanics. We can just spend more time getting on top of this car. In all honesty, everybody needs more time. Everyone wishes there was more.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to work together as a crew and get ready for the WEC season.”
Westbrook, Lynn and Bamber shared a Cadillac during the second half of a 24-hour endurance test at Sebring in early November, however the former explained that the purposes of that outing and next weekend’s race are polarized.
“The WEC team is coming together, and we’ve got most of those guys on our car this weekend,” he said.
“That [test] was more the IMSA crew, and that was really more of a test for the car’s endurance.
“I have to say, it passed with flying colors. But I’ve been in this situation before, particularly with the Ford GT program when we did a year and a half of testing and ran like clockwork, then went to Daytona and everything went wrong.
“Because there is stuff you just cannot test that mirrors a racing situation. You could spend an hour behind a safety car and have gearbox vibrations: it’s very difficult to simulate that in a test session.
“We’re going to find all those things out [in the Rolex 24]. I think, if everyone is honest with themselves, everyone is looking at this as a test session.
“And if you’re there at the end, you’ve got a chance to win overall.”
Westbrook suggested that it “wouldn’t be the end of the world” if the No. 02 car encountered a problem with the car at Daytona because it could give a chance for the Ganassi team to gain further knowledge of certain situations ahead of the WEC season.
Ganassi is running a single Cadillac in the WEC, going up against two-entry programs from Toyota, Ferrari, Peugeot and Porsche. That is set to emphasize the importance of having a reliable car because the team has no fallback option if a major issue arises.
Additionally, the IMSA GTP class is running on the same Michelin tires that Hypercar teams will use in the WEC, although Westbrook feels the Daytona cameo appearance is beneficial in a more general sense.
“For me, it’s just running the car and pit stops, all that stuff that we take for granted,” he said.
“If we hadn’t done this race, we would be going into Sebring very, very green.
“More so on the crew side, just getting on top of the car and understanding about how quickly you can fix a problem. You don’t get that in testing situations. If you hit a GT car, how quickly can you fix that problem?
“By the end of DPi, everyone was on top of the cars. You knew that a nose took 15 seconds to change. Here, no one has ever done anything in a racing situation. It’s the same for everyone and I can’t wait.”