Drivers fired up by ‘bad-ass’ GTP cars at Daytona test

Drivers fired up by ‘bad-ass’ GTP cars at Daytona test

Now that they’ve all run together in a proper, full-on test, the reviews are in on the new GTP cars. And the drivers like what they see.

Felipe Nasr summed it up best: “They’re really bad-ass!”

Nasr was among the plethora of drivers who participated in the two-day test at Daytona International Speedway featuring all four manufacturers that will compete in the GTP class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2023. Teams representing Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche ran day into night on the 3.56-mile road course, turning as many laps as possible and gathering reams of data in the final IMSA-sanctioned test of 2022.

The next time the four manufacturers will officially be on track together will be at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 testing from Jan. 20-22, just a week prior to the Rolex 24 At Daytona that opens the 2023 season and kicks off the GTP era.

Nasr was among the Porsche Penske Motorsport drivers participating in the test. The 2021 champion in the DPi class that makes way for GTP in ’23 is bullish on the new prototype class combining internal combustion engines with cutting-edge technology in an electrified support powertrain.

“I’m most excited about the GTP class in 2023 because it is a prime time for sports car racing,” he said.

Other drivers who tested Tuesday and Wednesday at Daytona shared his sentiments, among them:

• Colin Braun, Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-06: “You’re going to have some incredible racing with the coolest, most sustainable cars in racing going to battle for 24 hours. What’s not to love about that?”

• Pipo Derani, Action Express Racing Cadillac V-LMDh: “It’s going to be fantastic for the fans, it’s going to be challenging for the teams. And for the drivers, it’s just a blast!”

• Ricky Taylor, Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06: “This new GTP car and this new class are so exciting because of the new evolution and technology. We’re finally racing at the top, top level around the world. I don’t think anywhere around the world can say they have such sustainability, technology, competition like we do here in IMSA.”

• Connor De Phillippi, BMW M Team RLL: “Technology, excitement and just pure, pure racing.”

There is still a heavy workload to complete before the Roar and Rolex 24 next month. Manufacturers and teams worked feverishly at the test on issues inherent with the development of any new racing technology.

“Acura and HPD (Honda Performance Development) have been doing a really good job on developing this car,” Braun said. “It’s a huge undertaking. The guys on the team have been working countless hours just trying to get everything prepared. We’ve got constant new parts, new pieces, new strategies, new things we’re always working on.

“It’s this big moving target of moving the needle forward in terms of progress and we certainly have been doing that. We’ve just been chipping away running through our test plan and it’s been going great.”

Derani tests Whelen Engineering’s Cadillac V-LMDh under the lights. Michael Levitt/Lumen

Derani, who shared the 2021 DPi crown with Nasr when both raced for Action Express, said it is the same in the Cadillac camp. The GM marque will run three cars in the Rolex 24, with two prepared by Chip Ganassi Racing joining the Action Express entry.

“We’re at this moment just having fun that we get to share the track with all the other manufacturers,” Derani said, “because it’s a great future that the sport’s headed in, a very good direction. But at the same time, we’re now focused on getting our program ready for the Roar and thinking about the details that we have to control right now before thinking about other people’s programs.”

While that temptation to see what the competition is up to is great when everyone is gathered on the same track as was the case this week, the need to keep that focus on your own program must take precedence. Especially with the debut race, the iconic Rolex 24, less than eight weeks away.

“Especially this year with where everybody is in development,” emphasized De Phillippi, who’ll be racing the BMW M Hybrid V8. “I think just focusing on your own and not getting sucked into the competitive aspect especially early in the race, trying to stick to your own program. … It’s going to be about keeping it all together and performing at the end when it actually matters.”