JANUARY 10, 2015
After five sessions of daylight testing, 53 teams transitioned to 1 1/2 hours of nighttime driving before ending their second day at the Roar Before the Rolex 24. Considering that slightly more than half of a driver’s time is spent racing in the dark at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, it’s no wonder the evening session was extremely important, but then again, every minute, both light and dark, has counted mightily here.
After each session (there will be eight in total by event’s end on Sunday), drivers debrief with team management regarding their cars’ handling and overall performance. Team management then delivers that information to the crew who then work at resolving issues. With each session’s modifications there should be corresponding improvements in terms of car handling and lap times, driving home the points that practice makes perfect and little things definitely matter.
As the owner of and driver for Krohn Racing, American Tracy Krohn has his hands full. This year his team will race a brand new chassis and engine package, and after completing extensive testing at Estoril, Portugal and then further testing here at Daytona, Krohn feels confident that the Ligier JS P2/Judd has the right set-up.
“We had some brake issues yesterday but that has been sorted out,” said Krohn. “We’ve had some handling problems, likely suspension related, that we need to work through, but all-in-all the car is fairly predictable. It’s nice to start to feel the downforce and what I can do with it; I’m very confident with the car.”
Krohn added that the Ligier chassis had been in development previously, so it wasn’t a complete unknown. “We were probably more concerned with the engine package, as to whether we should go with a turbo package or normally aspirated,” he said, “so after lots of research we decided that the Judd engine would deliver the best result. Because of the nature of Daytona, with its high-speed banking, it’s not so much finesse as it is brute power. What we had to do is trim the car out in order to make it go faster down the straight, which of course is problematic for when you want to brake and turn, so we drive the car a little different here than at most other circuits. That has really been the issue: how to make the car good when we actually have to slow the car and make it turn.”
The other prototype team racing a Ligier JS P2 car here is Michael Shank Racing. Unlike Krohn’s Ligier, however, Shank’s is powered by a 2.8 liter Honda HR28TT V6 LMP2, which is a twin-Turbo charged fuel injected V6. “I’ve done the Rolex 24 At Daytona 11 or 12 years,” said Michael Shank, “and eight of those years I was with Ford engines. Although I’m not one who likes to make changes, I felt at the end of last season that it was time for a change for 2015, 2016 and beyond.” Shank’s Ligier JS P2/Honda has been near the top spot on the time sheets for each of the practice sessions held thus far and today claimed the fastest lap in session 4.
“Things are going quite well here,” added Shank. “We will do some system checks and address some niggling issues; however, the big picture…the engine, gearbox, uprights, axels and brakes…all look solid on this car. It’s the little things that I’m worried about; we’re spending a lot of time making sure the little things are addressed, because those are what will kill our chances in the Rolex 24. We know we have a car that could win the race, so now we have to make sure we don’t lose the race because of something on our side.”
American Kevin Buckler, owner of TRG-AMR, says that his team has a shot at a win, as it always does when it competes here for the Rolex 24 At Daytona; however, as the race cars get more sophisticated each year, the competition bar keeps getting raised, and sometimes you have to manage like you are on a battlefield. “Some people think wooh hooh, I’m going to Daytona to race, but it is so much more complicated than that. It’s a big race, a long race with lots of twists and turns and a lot of different strategies. We must be prepared for all the “what ifs” that can happen. The Aston Martin is fast; it’s reliable and a proven winner globally. We also have the best group of partners and sponsors, and they all want to be part of the process. It’s a very exciting time to be part of sports car racing.”