Notebook: New prototype makes competition debut
Validating complex system components, beginning car set-up among objectives
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 20, 2023) — For starters, it was a productive day.
Cadillac Racing’s three new hybrid prototype race cars made their IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition debut in two practice sessions on the 3.56-mile, 12-turn Daytona International Speedway road course on the first day of preparation for the 61st Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Resources: Cadillac Racing media info for Roar and Rolex 24 At Daytona | Livery reveal video
Validating the complex operating system components and beginning work on car set-up for performance while running for the first time in traffic were among objectives for the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V-LMDh co-driven by Pipo Derani, Alexander Sims and Jack Aitken, the No. 01 Cadillac V-LMDh co-driven by Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon, and the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh co-driven by Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook.
Cadillac cars totaled 142 laps, with the No. 01 Cadillac V-LMDh leading the charge with a best lap of 1 minute, 35.585 seconds. The No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh recorded a best lap of 1:36.013 and the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V-LMDh posted a best lap of 1:37.128.
“All in all, a pretty positive day for Cadillac Racing,” Bamber said. “It’s a new era so there’s a lot of excitement around the paddock and great to see so many fans out already. We have two new cars, so we’re getting everything ironed out as we go along and learning constantly like throughout the development phase we’re still learning. I think pace was good today and we’ll keep going faster.”
Van der Zande agreed: “The second session we ran all the way and made some nice improvements on the cars and the systems that are on the car. That’s what you need to do at the Roar is chip away and make things better.”
Said Aitken, who is making his first start in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and saw the bulk of the laps in the afternoon session: “It was busy out there and good to get a feel for how it is going to be in the race. We were not necessarily looking for clean laps because we’ll have to deal with the traffic in the race. It was finding a rhythm, getting past people and doing it without taking too much risk. The car was solid. We have a good baseline from the test in December and the track is still rubbering in so it has low grip at the moment. It’s going to get better and better as the week goes on.”
In the opening session, teams essentially went through a shakedown of the new cars.
“Both cars are virtually new so it’s a lot of in and out laps, checking sensors, checking calibrations. This car depends a lot more on the data that it is generating itself to run itself,” Chip Ganassi Racing global director of operations Mike O’Gara. “Things like tire pressures, brake pressures, brake temperatures — things that were important before – are mission critical. So we have to make sure all those basic things work before all the other systems like the hybrid system, the electronic brake bias work properly. We were making sure all those things worked right before we start pushing om the rest of the systems.”
Three sessions totaling 270 minutes are scheduled for Jan. 21, with the 20-minute qualifying session at 2:40 p.m. ET Jan. 22. Peacock will provide streaming coverage of qualifying starting at 1:25 p.m.
The Cadillac prototype features an all-new Cadillac 5.5-liter DOHC V8 engine developed by GM’s Performance and Racing propulsion team based in Pontiac, Michigan, with a seven-speed sequential gearbox. IMSA has specified the power output at 670 horsepower, including the hybrid system; weight at 1,030kg without fuel and driver; and a maximum of 8,800 RPM.
Cadillac, the only LMDh manufacturer with a naturally aspirated engine for the new prototype in the GTP class, will seek to build on its legacy of success in the 61st Rolex 24 At Daytona with its fifth overall victory 2017.
Conditioning for endurance race and season
Leading into the nine-race GTP calendar has been the off-season work outside the race car that prepares the Cadillac Racing drivers for the physicality and rigors of racing.
With a heavier and more powerful car with less downforce, longer stints than previous years and unknown factors of the new race car, “You need to keep your fitness up particularly because our first race is a 24-hour race, which is quite unique in motorsports, so you have to be ready from the word go,” according to Richard Westbrook.
Added Sebastien Bourdais: “The years of experience helps you to know exactly where you need to be physically to not to have any issues inside the car, which is all you really care about unless you want to prepare for an ironman. The biggest thing that is hard to quantify and hard to prepare for because every physiology is different is the heat inside the car. That can demolish your physical abilities really rapidly once you overheat. That’s the one unknown with the new car because they tend to be very hot with the batteries inside the cockpit. It’s one extra factor.”
Cycling, rowing, running and weight training are all parts of conditioning regimens.
“I think the physicality of endurance racing is right up there with any form of motorsports, because these cars are seriously fast with a lot of G forces and we have to stay in there and give our absolute maximum for two to three hours at a time, which is a lot. I do a lot of work in the gym and also on the bike to get an all-around fitness because you have to be strong enough to muscle the car but also have the stamina to last for hours at a time,” Alex Lynn said.
Said Pipo Derani: “I try to mix all of that – some days doing weights and cardio together then other days doing longer periods of cardio to make sure my heart is good. That’s the balance I find works for me. The more cardio I do the easier it is in terms of brain capacity later into the run. You see easily after you’ve been in the car very long that your brain can start taking some time to make decisions, and that’s really because there’s not enough oxygen. Once you train your cardiovascular condition to be bigger and better, you delay that feeling to later into the run. It’s different when you train in a gym with the air conditioning, you don’t quite put yourself into an extreme situation.”
Jack Aitken, endurance race driver of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V-LMDh, added rock climbing to his regimen.
“Grip strength is very important for us, and it also involves decision-making under physical pressure — something that is valuable in the car too,” he said. “The bike always proves to be a great head-clearer, as you can head out for a proper adventure for hours and hours.”
Decade of competing in the U.S.
Renger van der Zande’s helmet design for 2023 commemorates his 10th year of racing in the U.S. He is a two-time winner of the Rolex 24 At Daytona (2019, 2020) both with Cadillac Racing. … Teammate Scott Dixon is competing in his 20th Rolex 24 At Daytona. He is a four-time winner. … GTP teams have 33 sets of Michelin tires (12 soft “low temperature” and 21 soft “high temperature”) at their disposal for this weekend and the sessions leading into the twice-around-the-clock race. They will have 21 sets total for the race.
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.