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Bourdais: Reliability will decide who wins first LMDh race in Daytona

Cadillac driver Sebastien Bourdais believes reliability, and not outright pace, could be the deciding factor in the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Daytona.

Cadillac V-LMDh

IMSA will welcome a new breed of LMDh machinery from Cadillac, Acura, Porsche and BMW in the rebranded GTP class next year, marking the start of a new golden era of sportscar racing.

Although based on LMP2 like their predecessor DPi, LMDh cars are far more complex and also feature a spec hybrid system designed jointly by Bosch, Williams Advanced Engineering and Xtrac.

All four manufacturers have faced their fair share of issues during testing so far, particularly with how the hybrid system is integrated with the rest of the powertrain, as they race to have their new cars ready for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

With the IMSA-sanctioned test taking place in early December, and the start of the season itself less than two months away, time is running out to sort any potential problems that could pop up during the fable enduro at Daytona International Speedway.

Chip Ganassi’s Bourdais is pleased with Cadillac’s preparations for 2023 so far, but is aware of the role reliability could play in the season opener on January 28-29 after witnessing rival manufacturers run into technical troubles in the combined test at Sebring last month.

“From what we have gathered Porsche still seems to have some hybrid issues, I don't know if it's vibration related or something because we really haven't had any,” the 2014 Rolex 24 winner told Motorsport.com.

“BMW definitely had a ton of problems when we were doing that 24-hour simulation test. They were stopped for a long time and they came back out and broke down again. They then came back out, ran one hour and wrapped the whole thing up and went home. 

“So I think we all know that reliability is going to be the factor of who ends up winning at Daytona. 

“Acura also had some issue. 

“If you can run a clean race and have no major issues you are probably going to be in a really good spot. I hope we will be the ones. 

“All we are doing is focusing on ourselves and trying to have ourselves a car that is quick and reliable. How quick, we don't really know, but at least we can achieve the reliability going to a 24-hour race right away. 

“It's always a huge test at Daytona, when there is a rule change like this, it's the first race of the car, it's a 24-hour race and it's January.“

 Cadilac, Road Atlanta

Cadilac, Road Atlanta

Photo by: Andreas Beil

While some of the IMSA manufacturers have experience of running hybrid system and electrical components from their past racing programmes, they are now required to source the motor, battery and gearbox from designated suppliers as per the LMDh rulebook.

While some issues they encountered in testing had to do with the components themselves, integrating the hybrid system with the rest of the powertrain has also been a major cause of headache - and some manufacturers have done a better job than the rest in this area.

Bourdais feels the challenge of making the powertrain reliable is made even more complicated by the fact that a number of suppliers are involved, rather than a manufacturer building everything in-house under one roof.

“It's not so bad, but for sure the system is complex and there are a lot of people involved,” he explained.

“So you've got Bosch people, the Williams people, this that, and integrating all of that into the engine and the powertrain system that is different for everyone. 

“So yeah, it is extra challenging because it's not just you and your system managing everything, you have to get changes from Bosch.

“Obviously, they have been really really helpful but they are also themselves trying to figure out their systems and making sure there are no side effects of whatever the regen does and how you did it with power. 

“Obviously the system is not small, the battery is quite big, so integrating everything and making it work with all of your systems is an extra couple of steps that you need to get used to and you need to get right. So we are still working on this side.”

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