Ryan Dalziel got his second season of GT World Challenge America powered by AWS underway in the opening round at Circuit of The Americas earlier this month.
In this week’s Pirelli Paddock Pass, the U.S.-based Scot talks us through his return to the series with DXDT Racing in the Pro-Am class, which is more relevant than ever before as competitors fight for overall wins.
Dalziel will pilot the No. 63 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo alongside David Askew for a full-season campaign, having left COTA seventh in the drivers’ standings.
What is it like to be returning to GTWC America this year?
“Obviously continuity is always a nice thing to continue on with the same program. We took a good look at last year and we wanted to continue with Mercedes-AMG and we knew the Evo was coming so I think we definitely have the right package.
“You see a lot of grids down this year and really GT World Challenge America was not one of them. It was a good weekend at COTA; we’ve got a bit of work to do but I think our first time out with the Evo kit we did a good job speed-wise.”
How important is the experience you bring in from last season having worked with the team and David before?
“I started working with David Askew at the end of 2017 and last year was our first full year together; he had a couple of races he had to miss, so it was kind of an odd season for us because we started and stopped a couple of times.
“He missed a race, I missed a race and we just didn’t really get a good rhythm going, but we definitely spent a lot of time in the off season getting up to speed.
“It’s a tough field, a couple of really good Am drivers, so hopefully, we can get the No. 63 car on the podium again.”
What was the motivation to compete in the SRO America Winter Invitational over the off-season?
“For us, we didn’t really know much about it until the decision was pretty much made. One of the hardest things for amateur drivers to learn is racecraft and there were a few times last year that we would have speed but then we would struggle in the races in traffic, basically being too nice to people.
“When they announced the winter series it was a no brainer for us, we focussed on doing that rather than doing multiple days of testing. We definitely felt like we got to kill multiple birds with one stone.
“There’s talk of expanding the winter series this year and I think with the Pro-Am direction of GT World Challenge America it’s really important to do that.”
How are you finding the Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo?
“I think we had a pretty good handle on it before we rolled the car out for the first time. It’s definitely different, this is the third Evo I’ve driven, and what the Evos have typically done is make up for the downfalls of the previous generation, which with the Audi and the Mercedes was front downforce.
“We definitely have more downforce, but now we struggle with top speed over the previous generation car — I think this is only the third time the Evo has been run around the world so it’s one of those things you have to wait and see what adjustments get made.
“They’ve kept the best element in that car which is amateur-friendly; they used a lot of their silver and bronze drivers to develop the Evo to make sure they didn’t tip it over to be too set for a professional driver. David loves it and I think we definitely made the right choice to stick with it.”
What are your impressions on Pirelli’s new P-Zero DHE tire?
“We didn’t have any issues like other manufacturers did with the new tire. The Mercedes is soft on its tires, let’s say, and we also were pretty conservative last year running within Pirelli’s parameters of cambers so we haven’t had any issues with it.
“When we back-to-backed the tire at a test before COTA it seemed like the rear is maybe a little more of an aggressive compound which helps the car rotate a little better and I think the front is almost identical as far as we can tell.
“Balance-wise and compared to previous years at COTA the drop-off was fairly minimal. It’s a big step forward for Pirelli.”
What’s your assessment after COTA heading into the remainder of the season?
“For sure it’s disappointing with what is going on right now in the world with COVID-19, everybody is affected at different levels and it sucks to not be racing for possibly the next three-four months.
“I was a big advocate of the new Pro-Am format and I think it’s working well but at the moment we all have to wait and see what the next step is in the racing world.”