DC's commentary on the DP Gen-2, part 1

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DC's commentary on the DP Gen-2, part 1

DP GEN-2, Part 1 Will a flood of Gen-2, 2008 Daytona Prototype photographs flow into the public domain now that photographs of the new "Proto-Auto" DP - resulting from the Tracy Krohn, Multimatic and Lola Cars collaboration - have joined...


DP GEN-2, Part 1

Will a flood of Gen-2, 2008 Daytona Prototype photographs flow into the public domain now that photographs of the new "Proto-Auto" DP - resulting from the Tracy Krohn, Multimatic and Lola Cars collaboration - have joined those of the Dallara?

Nic Jonsson tests the Proto-Auto's new Lola Daytona Prototype.
Photo by Proto-Auto.

"Lola." "Dallara." One can only wonder at this point if those names, alone, will change some or all of the Daytona Prototype's "ugly" perceptions that accompanied the Gen-1 DP introduction in 2002-2003.

There's a lot to be said for the legitimacy imparted by a "name."

Such was true of the 1996 Rolex 24 At Daytona when a little known Italian (certainly with regard to recognition in the U.S.) hopped in a car and drove himself into a catchy nickname and a host of top-shelf driving jobs that, before the '96 Rolex 24, had only been seen in that driver's dreams.

Furthermore, the heretofore unfamiliar Italian had fallen short of winning Daytona in '96, taking second-place to Wayne Taylor, Jim Pace and Scott Sharp in their No. 4 Riley & Scott MkIII Oldsmobile.

Today many readily know the name of that Italian driver - "Mad Max" Papis - but wouldn't have known or perhaps even cared beforehand that a "Massimiliano Papis" of Como, Italy, was among the race's 300-driver field.

Can you imagine 1989 NASCAR Cup champion Rusty Wallace just attempting to pronounce "Massimiliano" back in 1996?

Yet today, the owner of Wallace Racing has Papis under contract to drive three 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series road course races.

Today, race car fans spanning a plethora of racing series pay attention when Papis' name is mentioned.

Using the same 1996 Rolex 24 race to take the "what's-in-a-name" thing a little further, here's another question:

In what type of race car did "Mad Max" Papis compete during the 1996 Rolex 24?

If you answered "Dallara," you get extra brownie points for knowing who built the Ferrari 333SP which Papis drove (along with owner/driver Gianpiero Moretti, Didier Theys and Bob Wollek). Outside of its engine, Dallara built and sold the 333SP with only relatively minor input from Ferrari.

In the years to follow the Ferrari 333SP would provide the framework for a range of sports prototype cars built and/or raced under various names, including "Chrysler."

So, what's in a name?

With their Gen-2 DP designs, two well-recognized, internationally successful race-car studios have now joined the DP ranks.

What have they brought with them? For that matter, what are any of the constructors bringing to the track in their Gen-2 DPs?

As one Grand Am insider said, "The designers, having had a few years to understand what's needed from these cars, are starting to head toward a common design theme."

Of the approved DP designs, two particular elements have tended to emerge in most: what's being termed as the "Riley nose" and a lower "Doran sidepod."

As had been the case when the Daytona Prototype concept was announced many of racing's current observers expected the cars to look alike - a "spec" car if you will.

Again, though, the human mind has shown its versatility and, as with the Gen-1 DP, it won't take the dedicated very long to learn the different Gen-2 DPs because each have distinctive aspects and results in the DP Gen-2 differing from each other as well as their "original" forms.

While the Riley has changed the least vis-?-vis its Gen-1 design, it nonetheless has made subtle changes to its nose and sidepod areas.

Morphing noses aside, the Crawford and Dallara will be fairly easy to spot from a head-on perspective due to distinctive, nose-mounted air intakes - one Grand Am insider calls 'em "beaks" - yet elsewhere differs markedly from the other.

Besides its nose, Crawford scored a twofer on another distinctive feature - its fuel inlet location - which is designed for ease of service as well as permitting more efficient air flow. Pit-stop times will play an ever greater role in future races and designer Andrew Scriven's placement of the valves likely will be copied in time.

(Formerly occupying this space was a reference to a Daytona Prototype that evidently doesn't exist in the form so indicated, though the information contained herein this column was derived from sources stating otherwise ...

... However, Ronald H. Ogletree of Sabre Prototype Cars states: "... the basis for any kind of an alliance is absolutely false nor have there been any discussions between us and any officers of Chase, nor will there be.")

In what this observer has termed "cab-forward," the pretty doggone interesting Picchio-Cheever (nee FABCAR) design departs, big-time, from its predecessors including the much more recent Ian Waitt-engineered designs seen in 2007, yet still fits the DP standards as established in the original rule book.

While observers likely will be able to easily single out the Cheever-Picchio (which will soon bear a canine-derived name), it assuredly bears no resemblance to the short-lived Gen-1 Picchio.

However, it's important to note that while Cheever's car/s (he's got two, Nos. 39 and 51, entered for the Rolex 24) are on a track to sport the newest Picchio body, as of now Flis Motorsports' No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Porsche Cayenne-FABCAR will carry the 2007 Cheever-FABCAR-Waitt bodywork for the Jan. 26-27 Rolex 24 At Daytona and, for now, the rest of 2008.

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES

Satisfied with the Waitt-designed bodywork, Flis Motorsports owner Troy Flis said he'll hang the new Picchio bodywork on FABCAR chassis No. 002 (yep, No. 002, built in Dave Klym's shop) "only if it proves to be worth the money."

Motorsports participants are a strange lot.

Often screaming the whole way, teams will frequently plunk down tens-of-thousands of dollars for the latest car part (whatever it may be) and realize little or no gain when installed on the car.

Days later they'll undertake a similar exercise for yet another new "widget" of some sort and, again, (you guessed it) get little or no gain.

It must be a monkey-see; monkey-do deal. After all, keeping up with the Joneses is a well-practiced human trait.

Still, Flis is a slightly different sort. He has owned some really neat personal cars and boats - "toys," in one word - but he rarely buys something that hasn't already proven itself, and considerably so.

One of the DP's underlying concepts revolves around a desire to keep costs down by producing a long-lasting yet adaptable platform.

THE SAME-OH; SAME-OH

In 1984, Mario and Michael Andretti showed up at the then-named SunBank 24 at Daytona with a brand-new Porsche 956 derivative, the 962.

Arriving after Jacky Ickx contributed only about 800-kilometers (500-miles) worth of testing, Mario nonetheless put Porsche's first and only purely factory backed U.S.-raced 962 on the pole with a 1:50.989 lap at an average speed of 125.526 mph (over a 3.87-mile course). Later, having overheating, transmission and camshaft woes, it was parked after 127 of the race-winning "Kreepy Krauly's" 640-laps. Driving the winning March 83G were South Africans Sarel van der Merwe, Graham Duxbury and Tony Martin. Ironically, it was powered by a Porsche engine.

(Over the years a variety of power plants would end up in various of March-built rollers, including "Chew-WAH," the name 1986 Daytona 24-driver Chip Ganassi bestowed upon a turbo Buick-powered March 85G owned by Phil Conte.)

In 1985, a Preston Henn Porsche 962 (Theirry Boutsen, AJ Foyt, Al Unser, Bob Wollek) scored the 962's first of three-consecutive Daytona-24 wins.

By 1988, however, Porsche-adverse handwriting started appearing on the wall when a Tom Walkinshaw Jaguar XJR-9 (driven by Martin Brundle, Raul Boesel, John Nielsen, Jan Lammers) won at Daytona while a sister TWR Jag (co-piloted by Eddie Cheever) finished third, 15-laps behind the winner. Sandwiched between in second-place, one lap behind the winners, was Jim Busby's 962 (Wollek, Mauro Baldi and Brian Redman).

Though the 962 would return to winning Daytona form in 1989, bodywork "tweaking" had already begun in earnest on the 962, just as it had when similar work extended the Porsche 935's competitive life in the early 1980's.

To combat the others, Porsche's Norbert Singer combined with Joest Racing (late of Audi R10 success) to produce its winning 1991 962C, which won Daytona (Hurley Haywood, Frank Jelinski, Henri Pescarolo, John Winter, Wollek) after again yielding the 1990 race to TWR's XJR-12, driven by Davey Jones, Jan Lammers and Andy Wallace.

But 1991 would be the last year a Porsche "962" would win the Daytona 24.

Beginning a dry spell that has since lasted through the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona, Porsche would win the 1995 Rolex 24 with an open-cockpit Kremer-Porsche K-8 driven by Giovanni Lavaggi, Juergen Laessig, Christophe Bouchut and Marco Werner.

Interestingly, the Kremer Porsche-K-8 was crafted from a closed-cockpit 962CK6 and though some slight body changes and structural reinforcement was undertaken around the cockpit, most of the remaining bodywork and mechanicals were 962 through and through.

In all - from the Porsche 956 that debuted at Silverstone in 1982 through the Kremer K-8 in 1995 -- the basic Porsche 962 design competitively raced for about 14 seasons.

Whether Lola, Dallara, March, Porsche or still other manufacturers, using a stable platform over many years has been and remains commonplace in racing.

The DP by design, particularly as exemplified by Flis Motorsports' No. 002 FABCAR chassis, thus far is showing a similar longevity.

One last question: What was the topmost vertical cockpit height of Jim Busby's 1989-winning 962C driven by Derek Bell, John Andretti and Wollek?

Answer: 42.5 inches or, put another way, 1.5-inches higher than that of a DP's minimum-allowed height at the same point. Any DP.

Coming up: DP GEN-2, Part 2: A GAME OF MILLIMETERS

Later.
Written exclusively for Motorsport.com by DC Williams.

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Series GENERAL , GRANDAM