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Australia

IMSA teams chasing LMDh reliability ahead of Rolex 24

Next month’s overall Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona winner could be decided by reliability of IMSA’s top-class cars, as teams battle to get on top of issues with their new-era hybrid machinery.

#02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi: Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn, Richard Westbrook, #7 Porsche Penske Motorsport, Porsche 963, GTP: Mathieu Jaminet, Michael Christensen, Nick Tandy

#02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi: Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn, Richard Westbrook, #7 Porsche Penske Motorsport, Porsche 963, GTP: Mathieu Jaminet, Michael Christensen, Nick Tandy

Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

A two-day test session at Daytona International Speedway’s road course this week was the official launch of the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class, and featured hybrid-powered cars from four manufacturers – Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche. It was the first time they had all tested at the same track in anger.

“It’s nice to see everyone all together,” said Acura driver Ricky Taylor. “I think everybody is at different points in their development with the cars. It’s the first time people can really get an inside look at how complex these cars are and what a challenge it is to keep them running to their fullest.

“The car performance is great but it’s a constant battle of reliability versus development and speed. You’re constantly battling many different systems in the car, as a 24-hour race approaches to kick the season off.”

Cadillac’s Richard Westbrook added: “I don’t think anyone is focused on performance yet, honestly the first race is all going to be about reliability. The main thing is not getting to that point to where you have to go behind the wall because that won’t be a quick-fix in the beginning; they’re new cars that are very complicated to work on.”

#02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac LMDh

#02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac LMDh

Photo by: Charles Bradley

Nine cars took part in the test, which formed part of the homologation process ahead of the 2023 season, with the final step being the Roar test next month. Almost all cars suffered some downtime in the garage due to a variety of issues, mostly related to the complexity of the new single-source hybrid system.

Reigning Rolex 24 Hour champion Helio Castroneves told Motorsport.com: “It’s a very different car with the hybrid – it’s very interesting to drive. A lot more technology and information on the steering wheel for the driver, a lot of learning of all the gadgets.

“The computer operates the hybrid itself but there’s a lot of things you can play around with, which I was very surprised how sensitive it is to making those changes. The LMDh steering wheel is very much like that of a Formula 1 car now.”

#963 Penske Porsche 963

#963 Penske Porsche 963

Photo by: Charles Bradley

The technical issues are in spite of Porsche Penske Motorsport’s test program throughout this year that was aimed at troubleshooting the hybrid system, which included major issues with Bosch’s MGU. Changes to the system, and a lack of spare parts due to global supply problems, has put pressure on all the teams with the new IMSA season looming next month.

Porsche’s LMDh project chief Urs Kuratle explained: “I’m not blaming Bosch, but this was one part that gave us, and the other OEMs, a lot of headaches for a time in the summer testing phase. These problems were solved, but everyone is suffering supply chain issues, which is a common problem in the world.”

Team Penske’s Jonathan Diuguid added: “Integration of the components are such that if anything in the hybrid system fails, or doesn’t function, then the car shuts down because it doesn’t have redundancy built in – it’s solely reliant on the hybrid to start, move and generate power.

“When we have these failures it’s not like we can flip a switch and push-start the car, it’s a critical component that’s led to the start/stopping of the test program.”

#25 BMW M Team RLL, BMW M Hybrid V8, GTP: Jesse Krohn, Augusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi

#25 BMW M Team RLL, BMW M Hybrid V8, GTP: Jesse Krohn, Augusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi

Photo by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images

Two of the cars, one each from BMW M Team RLL and Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac, were being built up as the test began and only ran on the second day. Cadillac was the sole marque with three cars, as another one was fielded by Action Express Racing alongside CGR’s pair.

New-specification fuel, and a cold-weather Michelin tyre, were also used for the first time – although the latter’s use was impacted by warm conditions throughout the test, which included two night-time sessions.

Porsche and Cadillac lead the way on mileage going into the new season, but the Acura was generally reckoned to be the fastest car on track at Daytona – although there was no official timing to confirm this.

The test was also mandatory for new or upgraded GTD class cars for the 2023 WeatherTech Sports Car Series. AF Corse ran the new Ferrari 296 GT3, Pfaff Motorsports debuted its recently-delivered 992-type Porsche 911 GT3 R, while Iron Lynx ran an EVO2 version of the Lamborghini Huracan GT3.

A handful of LMP2 cars also featured, including two-time IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden at Tower Motorsports. His teammate Scott McLaughlin will make his debut at the Roar, as he is currently in Australia.

#8 Tower Motorsport Oreca LMP2 07: Josef Newgarden, Kyffin Simpson, John Farano, #25 BMW M Team RLL, BMW M Hybrid V8, GTP: Jesse Krohn, Augusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi

#8 Tower Motorsport Oreca LMP2 07: Josef Newgarden, Kyffin Simpson, John Farano, #25 BMW M Team RLL, BMW M Hybrid V8, GTP: Jesse Krohn, Augusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

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Edition

Australia