IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has done the first 2019 test in Daytona – the so-called ROAR Before the 24.
As always it is difficult to see which programs the individual teams were running, but IMSA has a rule that you’re not allowed to sandbag or else you would be penalised.
There is, however, a session where you can expect the teams to give all they have – and that is the qualifying.
But, a qualifying in a test? Yes, a qualifying was run to give the teams the first choice, second and so on, on the garages and the spots on the pitlane at the 24-hour race at the end of January. There are more teams than garages, so it will decide whether you get one of the permanent ones, or the temporary tents for the excess teams. Furthermore, it matters to have the first garage down the pitlane or if you should battle through VIP guests, other teams’ mechanics or everyone else in the pitlane to get to the garage. Seconds can decide whether you win or finish long from the podium.
The GTD teams only tested for two days and thus had their qualifying Saturday afternoon. Here, P1 Motorsports Mercedes #71 was originally fastest. But they made a mistake by putting their Gold-ranked driver Dominik Baumann in the car, where only Silver and Bronze-ranked drivers were allowed. That was why they lost their garage spot and sent directly to the tent.
Instead, Meyer Shank Racing Acura #57 with Ana Beatriz behind the wheel, who is one of the teammates of Christina Nielsen, took over the first place, followed by AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus #12, Meyer Shank Racing Acura #86, Riley Motorsports – Team AMG #33, Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63, Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi #29 and Black Swan Racing Porsche #540. The best Lamborghini was GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini #11, while BMW didn’t set a time at all Turner Motorsport #96. There were 3,8 seconds between the fastest and slowest car. Of course, it was also due to the mixture of silver and bronze drivers, and their different laptimes behind the wheel. But maybe Lamborghini would hope to get a little bit of BOP help, since their fastest car was a second slower than the fastest car in the class, while there were half a second between the rest.
Corvette Racing #3 with the defending champion Jan Magnussen behind the wheel was the quickest GTLM car, when their qualifying was run Sunday afternoon. They got a little help from their sister car #4, that gave them a good slipstream down the straight. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 and #66 were in the next positions, before Porsche got their #912 and #911 a few thousands of a second ahead of Risi Competizione Ferrari #62. BMW Team RLL was seventh fastest, in front of Corvette #4, that never got a flying lap as good as #3 did. BMW Team RLL #25 was the slowest – but only 0,640 from the fastest time. It indicates a real close race, that’s only helped by the fact that there are no new GTLM cars in the class, which also makes life easier for IMSA.
In the LMP2 class, it’s a pure ORECA 07 class, so it’s up to the individual teams to get the best out of the car. PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52 with Gabriel Aubry behind the wheel was the fastest man, ahead of DragonSpeed #81 and #18 as well as Performance Tech Motorsports #38.
In the DPi class – oh well, there will be a battle behind closed doors. Mazda Team Joest with Oliver Jarvis in #77 knocked out the rest of the field – except for his teammate Harry Tincknell in #55, who was 25 thousands of a second after Jarvis. There was 0,863 second down to the first Acura Team Penske #7, that was 0,021 second ahead of Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac #5. CORE autosport #54 with their brand new Nissan was slowest amongst the DPi cars. Whether it was a wrong BOP or if the team hasn’t known the car, IMSA better finds that out before the first race. CORE autosport isn’t a nobody. They finished second in the Prototype championship in 2018, where the LMP2 and DPi cars battled side by side.
So in the DPi class, IMSA has their hands full, to check if the cars can match each other, or if Mazda has a little advantage and Nissan a disadvantage. But it can also be about the perfect lap, and all that can be read in the data logger that sits in every single car. It’s one of the reasons behind the ROAR test, so that they have some data to work with before IMSA’s arguably biggest race of the year that will be run on 26-27 January.