DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The final on-track preparations for Chevrolet’s Corvette Daytona Prototype teams are complete ahead of the opening round of the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Christian Fittipaldi in Action Express Racing’s No. 5 Corvette DP set the fastest time for the three-day Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway – the annual test that serves a dress rehearsal for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"We applied everything that we learned in the sessions we had prior to today – once in November and twice in the beginning of December," said Fittipaldi, who drove with full-season teammate Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais. "The car felt pretty good. I think that the track conditions were a little bit strange (with the changing weather). We need to make the best of it because when it comes down to race time, maybe we are going to have exactly the same stuff out there. I have raced here before where we have had even colder weather. So we pretty much need to be prepared for all kinds of stuff out there."
Richard Westbrook was second-quickest on the weekend in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP with a 1:38.989 (129.549 mph) lap. He drives with full-season teammate Michael Valiante and Mike Rockenfeller.
"It has been a very productive three days at Daytona for the Corvette Daytona Prototype teams in preparation for the Rolex 24 Hour race, said Jim Lutz, Chevrolet TUDOR Championship Daytona Prototype Program Manager. "All of the teams had the opportunity to work with the latest technical regulations IMSA has put in place thus far for the class. Every driver for each of the teams was able to get ample seat time throughout the three-day test.
"Additionally, the varying weather conditions have allowed the teams to work on setup for the numerous scenarios that can occur during the race. We know we will have to adjust to the final set of regulations prior to the race, but our Chevrolet teams made great progress during the weekend, and we feel like we have the reliability and preparation necessary for the race."
Chevrolet enters this year’s Rolex 24 off two consecutive DP engine manufacturer titles in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. The championship merged with the American Le Mans Series to create the TUDOR Championship, which features DPs as part of the top-level prototype class.
As the season continues following the Rolex 24 Hours the Corvette DP teams – Action Express, Spirit of Daytona, 2013 DP team champion Wayne Taylor Racing, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and Marsh Racing – will lead Chevrolet’s fight for additional victories and championships. Chevrolet ended Rolex Series competition with 20 Daytona Prototype victories – 16 by Corvette DPs since it debuted in 2011 – and nine in GT. The Bowtie brand also captured DP engine manufacturer championships in both 2012 and 2013, plus the 2011 GT title.
Richard Westbrook, No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP
How do you feel the three days of testing have gone? "We have turned up with a really good car, and the team is working just great. I just have to really thank all the boys on the team. The new staff as well. Everything seems to be clicking into place. We've just kept our head down, fine-tuned and the results seem to be coming toward us. We have a really nice, comfortable car to drive that seems to be quick. Just really nice working with the two Michaels - Mike (Rockenfeller) and Michael (Valiante). There is a great atmosphere in the team. Looking forward to the 24 (Hours)."
Is it good for the team when you test in such varying temperatures and weather conditions for the race? "What was very encouraging is normally in our car, we're not very good in the heat. The hotter it gets, the worse we get. The car felt really good when it got hot. That is really encouraging."
Jordan Taylor, No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP
Talk about the progress made with the car here during the three-day roar: "This is our first test really with all the updates. We did a test in December with half of the updates for the car, so now these three days we've really spent a lot of time getting to know what the car is going to be like this year. For the drivers, there is a little bit to get used to – mainly with braking. But for the engineers and the crew, they had a lot more to do just to understand the car; how it works and how to prepare for a 24-hour race. I think we did learn a lot. All the drivers are now comfortable in the cars. I think the crew has a much better understanding of what it is going to do for 24 hours and I think it makes us a lot more excited now that we know what to expect going into the 24 Hour."
Mentally what do you do between now and when you jump in the car for the first practice of the race weekend? "We have data to go over. I think the biggest thing is mentally preparing for the long race. Obviously physical training. We have a lot of data to go over for drivers to get to know: maybe I am losing a little bit here; maybe I'm a little bit better there. On-board cameras to study. I always like to watch the previous year's race so every time I am around the TV, I'll turn it on to watch it and learn interesting passing places that you wouldn't really think of – where people are usually going off; where they are making passes in traffic. You can learn a lot from historical races."
Ricky Taylor, No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP
Talk about the changing weather during the test and how that helps preparing the car for possibilities during the race: "It has helped the drivers I think. The team focuses on mostly the weather conditions that are going to be related to the race conditions. But the drivers through the 24 Hour go from daytime when it is normally warm, to nighttime and it is freezing cold, then to daytime when it warms up again. No matter what the car is setup to do, we have to be able to deal with all the conditions. We got a bit of everything this weekend, so if we have a car setup for the cold, we know what that is going to be like in the cold and then to the hot. And vice versa; if we have a car setup for the hot, we know what it is going to be like in the cold. So we know how to drive a good car and a bad car."
There are four drivers, all with different styles, preferences etc. How hard is it and what compromises do you have to make as a driver to get a car that works for everybody? "There has been a little bit of compromise here and there – a little bit of differences in what we all want. But I don't think there has been much sacrifice. I think we still are improving the car more and more. We haven't taken any steps backward to suit a driver particularly. We are moving down a good road, and making the car a better race car."