Cadillac Racing 2023 GTP teleconference: Transcript

GM sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser and Alexander Sims, co-driver of the Cadillac V-LMDh prepared by Action Express Racing for the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship met with the media via Zoom on Oct.12 to discuss the development of the new Cadillac race car for the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class. Klauser also answered questions about the Chevrolet Corvette GT3 program for 2024.

Full transcript (by individual):

LAURA WONTROP KLAUSER

LOT OF MILES WITH LITTLE DOWNTIME AT MICHELIN RACEWAY ROAD ATLANTA. DID THE TEAMS AND ENGINEERING GROUPS GET WHAT THEY WANTED OUT OF THE THREE-DAY TEST?

“You never get everything you want because you show up with these crazy, ambitious test plans. But, I’d say, everyone was pleased with our time at the track. We’re making major progress with the car. We transitioned from getting it to run to testing a couple of tests ago and now we’re full steam ahead of working through our plan. The more miles we put on the better from a durability perspective and checking all of our parts. Really working through all the integration side with the hybrid to the engine to the rest of the car, working on the braking system. And even looking at the aerodynamic part of the car as well. Rotated the driver through, which is always good. The more seat time we can give them, the better. It was a successful test from our point.”

WHAT’S NEXT IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CAR?

“Working through homologation with IMSA, the FIA and the ACO. We’ve been busy getting through the wind tunnel and the things we do on the homologation side. But really our next big thing that we’re working toward is we’d like to do a 24-hour test before the end of the year. You learn the most when you do those. We’re excited to see how the car does, making sure we have all the representative parts on the car for that to make sure that test is successful.”

WHAT’S THE TOTAL TESTING MILEAGE TARGET?

“The number is probably secondary to different things that we want to get through. The 24-hour test is a big deal for us coming up. Doing different things at different tracks is also important to make sure we cover how the car is responding to different scenarios. Trying to hit those milestones are the big ones. With that, I think the mileage comes with it.”

WHEN DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN TERMS OF THAT PROGRESS?

“If you look at the timeline between now and January when we are racing, we better be at least 50 percent through. The things that are mission critical to get ready for January I’d say we are about a tick more that halfway through those items, and then there’s looking beyond January and the things we’ll be doing in the WEC we have a list for that as well. We’re prioritizing getting the car ready for Rolex just because that comes first and then we’ll look at the WEC schedule and the unique things that WEC tracks bring to the equation.”

ARE THESE TEST CARS ACTUALLY GOING TO BE THE RACE CARS?

“They are going to be cars that will be available. In terms of refreshing them and putting the fresh vehicles with the teams we will work toward that. It may or may not happen, and really a lot of that comes down to what parts we can get and what will be available when. With the time ticking toward January, we’ll work with what we have and try to put forward the best we can within the constraints we’re working in.”

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO HAVE THE THIRD CAR ON THE GRID AT DAYTONA?

“The more you add it’s not easy. It usually means your spares bucket might be a little less than you’d hope for, but our goal is to be there with three. I see us meeting that goal and we’ll go from there.”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT IN TERMS OF WEC TESTING? ANYTHING IN EUROPE?

“We would like to do some testing in Europe. We have to see when we can fit it in, what tracks we can get. And then shipping things back and forth at the moment is a lengthy process. So, it’s figuring out what we can fit in with the limited time we have.”

HAVE YOUR FIGURED OUT HOW YOU’LL USE THE HYBRID EXTRA ENERGY?

“Similar to the brakes, it’s evolving daily. We’re working on the simulation side and understanding and figuring out across the class what’s the plan. Some of that is still in motion. It’s probably the most exciting part – all of the opportunities. We can drive the car in electric mode. We can launch it, so you can see the true hybrid coming out. Where we evolve and how that works from the fuel economy standpoint versus other usefulness of having an electric motor on the car is what is going to make the class interesting. How each OE approaches that and how we change our strategy as we learn more.”

Alexander Sims: “As probably most people coming into LMDh will be in the same situation. There are a thousand questions of what could you use these systems to give you on track performance-wise. Early in the development phase, it’s the big-ticket items we’re focusing on now. I’ve asked plenty of questions. It’s a fascinating thing to be in the category and as Laura says over time it will be a good item to focus on development.”

HOW CLOSELY ARE YOU FOLLOWING THE PROGRESS OF THE OTHER MANUFACTURERS?

“We are working together. Not so much that we’re helping tune each other’s cars, but there is a lot of alignment for handling all the things that this post-pandemic world has thrown at us from parts supply shipping and other things. We are keeping dibs on each other in terms of ‘how are you doing? Can you make it to the test? Can we share resources? Can we talk to the supplier to send us whatever it is and see if they can bundle it?’ I have a good feel just from that open communication on how everyone is doing. In terms of scrutinizing each and every one of their vehicles, I say that’s where my tunnel vision might be a little bit more on getting our car right. The way the regulations are set up, as long as each of us gets our cars right and fit into the rules that we’re supposed to be in, we’re inherently going to be very close from a performance perspective. It’s a bigger picture concern with what is going on with the competitors and mainly how we can help each other. I think it will be pretty wild when you see us start racing. It should be a great show.”

HOW IS DEVELOPMENT OF THE V-LMDH DIFFERENT FROM OTHER CAR DEVELOPMENT BECAUSE OF THE ADDITION OF THE HYBRID POWERTRAIN?

“From an aero perspective, I wouldn’t say it was too different for the hybrid. We did a lot of work in wind tunnels getting ready. The window that they’ve given us for the aero map that we have to fit in is quite small compared to things we’ve done in the past. And I think important because that’s what is going to help get the cars close to each other despite the fact that each one looks so different from each other. That’s good in terms of getting them set up for good racing. Starting with the scale wind tunnel – and a lot of that came from creating the body shape – we would check our ideas and still putting the car where it needs to be. When we had our first real full-scale race car, we started doing work in the big wind tunnels. The hybrid is weight to the car, so we need to keep on eye on that as we look at performance. But with that map being so small, our No. 1 target is getting there and the rest falls into place.”

HOW PROGRAMMABLE IS THE HYBRID? IS THERE A COMMON MAP TO STICK TO?

“There is the equity model that all of us have to run to that defines a lot of parameters on how we can use it and basically where and when. I think there is a little freedom in how we’re integrating everything and when we want to use the power coming off the hybrid versus engine power, or both or mix that. That’s where a lot of the learning is happening and working through things well past January because there is a lot to look at. There is some opportunity to have some identity from each OE’s perspective, but they’ve done a lot of work to make sure that they keep it parity as much as they can so that we don’t end up in a situation where one car is completely off in the weeds either positively or negatively and the rest are not. It’s evolving and we’re excited to find out all the things we can do.”

IS A 24-HOUR TEST SOMETHING YOU NEED TO GET IN THE BAG BEFORE THE DAYTONA SANCTIONED TEST?

“It’s something we need to get done before we get to January. Obviously, we’d love to have it as soon as we can so we can react to what we learn. In my perfect world, we would have done the 24-hour test in September. It’s something that we definitely need to get done before we race in January.”

WOULD A THIRD CAR AT DAYTONA COMPROMISE YOUR WEC SCHEDULE TO TEST IN EUROPE?

“When we made the decision to go forward, we were confident that it was the right move for us. I don’t believe any of that confidence has changed. I don’t see a huge impact to anything that we’re doing. Whenever we turn these cars on, we’re learning. It would be good to get to some tracks in Europe as soon as we can, but even as we drive around the tracks in the U.S. we’re enhancing the program. I’m glad we have the three cars at Daytona because it forces us to have all three cars race ready in January and go from there.”

LIKELY YOU WON’T TEST IN EUROPE UNTIL AFTER SEBRING IN MARCH?

“That could be the case. We have not finalized our schedule for next year. Honestly, our schedule for this year keeps changing just due to circumstances. We’ll see where it slots in and where is makes sense. It could be after Sebring; it could be before. It’s just whenever we can get it to work. This has been a wild ride to get this test plan to stick. Everyone has had to learn to be flexible.”

WHEN DO YOU TURN CHIP GANASSI RACING AND ACTION EXPRESS RACING LOOSE AND SAY YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER ANYMORE?

“Both teams represent Cadillac Racing; that won’t change going forward. The DPi was more of a traditional customer program from our perspective where we had the various teams with different levels of sponsorship whether through us or different entities that they were working with versus as we move into LMDh – especially in these first couple years. With the complexity of this car and what it’s taken to get this car ready to race, we needed both teams to be in lockstep with us and with each other. We’re finding that relationship is a huge asset to the program, so we would like to carry that forward.”

THERE ARE PARAMETERS THAT TEAMS CAN PLAY IN OUTSIDE THE BALANCE OF PERFORMANCE. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE AT DAYTONA?

“I think we will be close. Everything that we’ve run into on our side has been a hurdle to everyone. It will be interesting to see what happens come January.”

CAN WE SEE ALL THREE CADILLACS AT LE MANS?

“You have to be invited by the ACO to come to Le Mans. If you have a full-season entry, you’re guaranteed Le Mans because that’s part of the season, so we’ll have at least one. The rest of it is waiting for that communication and working it out with the ACO. It will be what they are willing to work with us for. We would love to see as many cars as we can there. It will come down to what it says on the invitation.”

WHAT ARE THE PRIORITIES FOR YOU GOING FORWARD WITH THE GTD PRO PROGRAM? WHAT DO YOU STILL NEED TO PERFECT WITH THE CURRENT CORVETTE?

“There’s still a lot to learn with the spec tire in the IMSA paddock. Any time you change the rubber that you’re riding on, a lot changes. We have a ton to learn from that. The other thing that’s been nice about the car in IMSA is that it has the ABS unit in it, it has features that were not originally in the car when it started. So that’s allowing us to integrate in those systems and see what’s working and what’s not. As we look to next year on the GT3 side of things, it’s testing and development at the beginning of the year and then the homologation process begins. There’s a lot of focus to make sure the car is right using any information that comes from the current program or programs from the past that can contribute to a good, strong foundation of a race car. That’s one thing we’re heavily focused on, and the other piece is setting up the customer support program. This will be a customer car, and we intend to have customers. We are going to start slow in ’24 because we can only build them so fast and we’ll grow from there. We’re making sure that anyone who takes delivery of the car and is racing has the complete support behind them from Corvette Racing. We want to make sure they do well because then they show out for us, and we want people know we are serious about this car.”

HOW DIFFICULT IS TO PLAN WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW THE PRECISE NATURE OF THE REGULATIONS?

“It’s always nice to know what you’re getting into fully. I think there’s enough information about how GT3 works today, and we can kind of extrapolate what GT3 is going to look like tomorrow based off that to get ourselves set up for what we need to know for each of the different series that the car could run in… although there are quite a few! We’ll probably have to target some main ones initially and then grow from there.”

HAVE YOU BEEN SATISFIED WITH THE SPLIT STRATEGY OF A CORVETTE IN IMSA AND ANOTHER IN WEC?

“From the marketing perspective, for sure. We have a global presence with the car, which is awesome just as the C8 is going into production and being available across the world. It was nice to start building fanbases for Corvette outside our traditional markets. That being said, we want to keep our traditional markets strong because that’s important to us. Developing the relationships in the WEC paddock has been successful. I’m sure Alexander can speak to this and put his 2022 Corvette hat on for a second, our experience at Le Mans this year – having been in the paddock and understanding the rules and the regs – it felt like this was totally different than in the past.”

Alexander Sims: “It felt brilliant. We were fully integrated with the way it was all working. The team and the understanding from Corvette’s side of the championship was fully in-tune. It worked very, very well and is good for the future.”

Laura Wontrop Klauser: “That was our race. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out the way we wanted it. We were ready to see that through to the checkers first in GTE Pro. Even after we got through Le Mans, our Monza was super-exciting, to have that opportunity in the European market. The race we just did in Japan wasn’t the best on our side, but the exposure we’re getting over there has been good. We’re really pleased with how things worked out. I know our IMSA fans are still disappointed that they’re only seeing one car at the races here. I wish it wasn’t the case but letting the GTE car shine in the WEC where it was originally designed to run in that category and using the GTD PRO car to start learning for GT3 has been a nice balance.”

WILL YOU HAVE TWO CARS AT THE ROLEX 24?

“We have not yet made the 2023 announcements yet, but they are coming soon.”

YOU SAID THE NUMBER OF CUSTOMER CARS WILL BE A LITTLE RESTRICTED IN THE FIRST YEAR SO YOU CAN PROPERLY SUPPORT THEM. WHAT REGIONS ARE YOU LOOKING TO DO THAT, AND IS THERE A MAX NUMBER OF CARS AVAILABLE FOR ’24?

“Our first focus will be the United States. That’s our home market and that’s where the majority of our production car sales are. And it’s home, so it’s a lot easier to figure out support when you’re in the same country. We’re not turning a blind eye to anything else. We know the big volume for GT3 is in Europe, and the Asian market is growing as well. So while you may see us primarily in the U.S. to start, there is a growth plan to get to Europe and eventually to Asia as well. In terms of number, that part we’re still working through. The regulations say you have to build 20 in the first two years, so the first easy one is to say we’ll do 10 per year. But realistically we’re going to meet the requirement but also placing cars with the right teams in the right places. We’ll see how that shakes out. It’s not going to be like off the bat we’ll have 35 cars racing all over the world in 2024. It’ll probably a little bit of a slower walk than that… maybe 10 to 12 total, somewhere in there. They won’t all be starting the season. We’ll get there as we get there.”

SO IT’S ONLY GOING TO BE FOR U.S. CUSTOMERS IN ’24?

“The focus will be the U.S., but we’ll place a couple in Europe if we have a good fit and it’s the right series. In terms of the bulk of the volume to start, that’ll be the U.S. with Europe quickly coming in behind either at the end of ’24 or the beginning of ’25.”

IS THE IDEA TO HAVE CUSTOMER CARS READY FOR DAYTONA OF 2024?

“We’re intending to have the IMSA cars that we will commit to for 2024 ready to roll for Rolex. It’ll be multiple teams. Details are not set right now, and we’re still working through that. You have to find the right teams to pair up with to know if it will be Pro or Am and things along those lines. But the intent is to have multiple teams racing in the Rolex. We haven’t gotten to that part of an announcement yet. As we work through this plan, we’re seeing what makes sense for the car and what makes the most sense for the brand. That will come later once we’re ready to make that announcement.”

FOR 2023, THE ONLY WAY TO RUN AT LE MANS IS GTE AM. ARE YOU LOOKING AT POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS FOR THAT IN WEC OR JUST A SINGLE ENTRY JUST FOR LE MANS?

“I don’t know if anyone will be doing single entries for Le Mans. Based on how popular that race is going to be, I’m assuming it’s going to be very strict. We haven’t ruled out anything. The announcement for ’23 is coming soon. We explored all paths. We didn’t want to shut any doors without properly looking into what our options were. We also aren’t going to try and force something. If it doesn’t make sense, we aren’t going to do it for the sake of doing it. We want to make sure that we still keep what everyone thinks of when they think of Corvette Racing – strong performance by a strong team with strong drivers. All of that is critical to us, especially as we are getting into GT3 and we want to court great teams and great customers for our Corvette GT3 car. We’re keeping all those values.”

ALEXANDER SIMS

WHAT WERE SOME OF THE DIFFERENCES IN THE CAR YOU NOTED AT ROAD ATLANTA FROM YOUR INITIAL TEST?

“Just a general refinement from a systems point of view. With every test we try to bring new iterations of software. Braking maps I would say from a driver’s point of view. It’s going in the right direction; we’re making good progress on that. With the hybrid and the brake-by-wire system it allows you to alter the brake bias in different phases of driving that you can’t do in a conventional mechanical brake bias car. There’s a lot of work going on the in the background that is not immediately recognizable to the driver, but you start to think about how the downshifts are working and how the engine is pulling and all the different deployment strategies with the hybrid, and there’s a lot of work going on into every one of the settings that we try. From a pure performance point of view, it’s been good to get a lot of different scenarios checked out in terms of race stints and shorter runs. That’s been really helpful to me to get an good understanding of the car and to understand as a driver what I need to do to manage things as you do in every race. You need that seat time, getting those laps. This last test was great to get a lot of miles under our belt and really start to understand things better.”

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO IN THE NEXT PHASE OF TESTING?

“Each track that we go to, for me it’s getting up to speed at that circuit. I’ve got experience at all theses tracks but nevertheless I’m lapping 10-15 seconds faster than the GT cars that I’ve driven before. There is some adjustment needed. Now that we’re getting past the fundamental things in the development of the car we’re looking to fine-tune, understand setups at different circuits, understand how we can push the performance envelope a bit more, ask a bit more from the car and get the balance tuned in through more of the corners. With all those steps hopefully extract more lap time and get closer and closer to what we can hopefully have at Daytona.”

HOW MUCH WILL YOU BE ABLE TO FINE-TUNE BRAKING MAPS?

“It’s something that we haven’t worked out the answer to because it’s not as simple as coming up with your theoretical braking bias on each corner and then running it because different drivers like different sensations from the car. Some like to feel the rear axle locking up a bit more, some the front. At the start of the stint with 100-plus kilos of fuel it’s going to need different brake bias toward the end. Trying to achieve a good baseline that works in most conditions is our first priority and then work out how much we want to try to optimize for different states because that brings complications as well. It’s all doable, but with my experience with Formula E where you’re the only driver in the car, looking at one-lap qualifying, it’s a small state that you’re working in so it’s straightforward to optimize things for that one-lap format. Endurance racing is a whole different kettle of fish entirely.”

WHAT DID YOU HAVE TO DO TO TAKE THE STEP UP TO PROTOTYPES?

“Neck strength is a big one. The cars that I’ve driven for the last five or six years haven’t required too much neck training. I keep myself in good physical condition, but specifically the neck is the big difference. The speed the corners come up to you at, the length of time you actually have on each straight feels daunting to start with. The corners come up fast and you’re not processing things in your brain quickly enough. But Road Atlanta was actually the first time I felt calm. I was changing settings multiple times per lap and didn’t feel under pressure. I was changing settings to see how they affected performance in different corners and it was starting to come a bit easier. It was nice to feel a bit more on top of things. They’re really quick cars. It will not be that straightforward, especially when you bring traffic into the mix.”

ARE THESE CARS MORE PHYSICALLY DEMANDING TO DRIVE THAN THE DPIS?

“I don’t have a huge amount of experience with the DPi to compare. I was surprised how close it did feel to the DPi. We are aware of the physics of the car being a bit heavier, but I was surprised. Turn 1 at Atlanta is a good example. It’s a fast approach with short braking, you have to commit a lot of speed to it, but it held really well. The high-speed performance seems to be pretty good if you were to compare it with DPi. I don’t have enough experience to know about top speeds and accelerations. From what the others are saying, the car feels more powerful than the DPi. I don’t feel a huge difference in my driving compared to what I’ve done in GT, GTLM.”

About Cadillac
A leading luxury auto brand since 1902, Cadillac is growing globally, driven by an expanding product portfolio that features distinctive design and technology. More information on Cadillac appears at www.cadillac.com. Cadillac’s media website with information, images and video can be found at media.cadillac.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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