Cadillac V-Performance Racing teams Konica Minolta Cadillac, Mustang Sampling Cadillac, Whelen Engineering Cadillac, and Spirit of Daytona Cadillac are taking the momentum from the Roar Before the 24 test three weeks ago into the IMSA WeatherTech Championship Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona race weekend, January 27-28.
Cadillac DPi-V.R race cars posted the four fastest times at Roar Test
Konica Minolta Cadillac team comes in as defending race champion
Four Cadillac DPi-V.R cars will contest the entire IMSA WeatherTech season
Cadillac DPi.VR received a 0.6mm smaller air restrictor since the Roar test, bringing it down to 31.6mm x 2 in size. IMSA has adjusted the car’s fuel capacity (+1 liter) and refueling restrictor (+0.5)
There are 20 prototypes entered for the Rolex 24 hours. The race for top honors will be as competitive as it has ever been in the 56 years of the race at the 3.56-mile modified oval road course at Daytona International Speedway.
All four Cadillac teams ran consistently at the top of the time sheet all three days at the Roar test in early January. The Cadillac DPi-V.R proved its championship-winning pedigree by getting up to speed quickly at the Roar test allowing the four teams to focus on minor race set-up changes and getting the drivers maximum seat time. Along with the reliability of the Cadillac V-8 engine that has been logging miles on the race track since September of 2016, all four Cadillac V-Performance teams are enthusiastic about their chances in the 56th running of the twice-around-the-clock race at the World Center of Racing this weekend.
The reigning IMSA Prototype Champions, No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac, come into Daytona to defend their win from one year ago. Renger Van Der Zande joins Jordan Taylor as the full-season driver along with IndyCar Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay for the 24 hours.
“I think it’s going to be the toughest Rolex 24 we’ve seen in recent memory,” Taylor said. “Every year we come back to Daytona, it seems like 75% of the grid could win the race. That was with 10-15 cars. Now we have 20 cars in our class. Everyone in the class is now world class, from teams to drivers. It’s going to be tougher than ever, but we wouldn’t want it any other way. We are going to have all the eyes from around the world watching this event.
“I am confident in our chances. We have a lot of carryover from last year. We come in with Renger as our only new piece, but I think he fits in really well. We have a Cadillac race car that is proven in speed and reliability, and a team that has proven to execute when it counts. I think we have all the right pieces to repeat what we did last year.
“The extra competition definitely makes everyone raise their game. Of course, we all felt like we’ve been pushing ourselves in the past to do our best, but with all these new drivers and teams coming in this year, we really need to focus on every little detail to find every hundredth of a second. I think each driver has to work on themselves to make sure they are maximizing their effort, just as the crew and engineers focus on getting everything out of the car.”
“Trust me, this is one of the biggest races that I could be thinking about wanting to win – it has been for years,” Hunter-Reay said. “Last time we worked together at Daytona with Jordan, we finished second on the podium and it’s been a few other times that way for me. I’d really love to get that watch for the Daytona 24 win and add my name to the list of drivers who have done it before. It’s something that we really want badly and we’re hungry for it, but it’ll be one step at a time come race weekend and we’ll be focused on continually improving the car and getting the teamwork going and looking forward to developing it further together. It’s great to be back with Wayne Taylor, and it’s great to be back together with Cadillac and GM. We have a great history together, as well. I’m really happy about everything. It’s a great package. And this race and what IMSA has grown into, where this sport is going, is really special and it’s a great time to be a part of it. I love to see the energy growing in the right direction like this. Looking at the Prototype class and how deep it is, it’s definitely one of the best series in the world.”
In the No.31 Whelen Cadillac, Felipe Nasr set the fastest time of the Roar test. Nasr and teammates Eric Curran, Stuart Middleton and Mike Conway will be looking to continue that run at the top of the result sheet this weekend.
“I am excited about the race,” said Conway. “This year will be bloody hard. There are 20 cars that will be fighting for the win. We will need to race well, make smart moves and be there at the end to go for the win. That is easy to say, but to do that takes a lot of team work and luck. Hopefully we can have another good run. We have strong drivers in the Whelen Engineering Cadillac. I think we have a good chance to go for the win. It is a little easier the second time around. The team is used to the car and drivers. There are some new comers here, but with experienced teams running the cars. It is going to be interesting. I think it will be a close one. There are several cars within a few tenths. The competition will be good, that’s what the series needs.”
“The Cadillac is one amazing machine,” Middleton said. “It is very different from what I usually drive in terms of power, grip and downforce. The car just goes. You really have to be on top of your game with one of these machines for sure. I am loving the experience of driving the Cadillac. It will be a whole different experience for me in the race. I have never driven at night or run in a 24-hour race before. There a few different things to learn. I am not dreading it or concerned, I just want to learn as much as I can from my teammates and the team. I am really excited and looking forward to the race.”
The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac team will be looking for some redemption come Sunday afternoon. In last year’s race, Filipe Albuquerque had the wheel of the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R while leading the race when Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R made a daring pass into Turn 1 with just seven minutes remaining in the race. There was contact and the No. 10 Cadillac went on to win. Filipe and his co-drivers Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi will need no extra motivation for the 24 hours of racing this weekend.
“I am really looking forward to the start of the season and to make-up what we lost at the end of the race last year,” Barbosa said. “We have a full year of experience in the Cadillac. The team knows exactly what to expect from the car. The competition is very good, but the Cadillac ran very strong at the test. It is going to be very competitive. There are a lot of good cars and teams that can win the race. The Mustang Sampling team prepares a good car and they know what to do in these long races and with pit stops and strategy. It is a lot easier when you have good drivers, who are fast and everyone is comfortable together. We have a year together so we are a known quantity.”
“The Mustang Sampling team is a great group,” Albuquerque said. “We almost won the race last year. This year it seems very promising again. Cadillac and the team is doing a great job with the car. The competition is very tough this year. We have to respect them and keep working. We have to assume that we are one of the favorites. We have been together for a year, everyone knows what to do. We have a lot of laps on this car and we won the endurance championship last year. For example, the first laps of the Roar test, we just went out and were ready. The others were trying to figure out their drivers and things and we were just ready.”
“I am in the count down of these races in my career not the count up like some of these drivers who are in their 20s,” Fittipaldi said. “I want to take every opportunity I can to win, you don’t know when it will come back. We came so close last year, but it didn’t go our way. It really comes down to preparation. The Mustang Sampling does a great job with the car. Joao, Filipe and I will take advantage of the team’s preparation. The Cadillac pretty much dominated the championship last season so we have a very reliable and fast car. The Cadillac is very strong. We are looking to capitalize on that for the season and of course the 24.”
What was considered the surprise team of the Roar Test, the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac group enjoyed a fault-free three days of running in only their second on-track outing with their new Cadillac DPi-V.R at the Roar. Tristan Vautier is joined in the Vector Blue No. 90 Cadillac by Matt McMurray and Eddie Cheever III.
“I am really excited for the race,” said McMurry. “I love this Cadillac, my team and my co-drivers. We have been fast all weekend and the Cadillac ran flawlessly the entire time. I think we will have a good shot this year. For a 24-hour race, you need good prep and good fitness, and you need to be doing the right things nutritionally all week. If you are getting tired or sore or haven’t slept well, you will make mistakes. All three of the drivers get along well; we hung out together from the test the week before the Roar all through that weekend. Everything is working great with team, I feel good about things heading into the race.”
“Our pace was good at the Roar, and I think it was a strong statement by the team” said Vautier. “Receiving the car in December, getting it on the ground only a week before the Roar, and to come and show how strong we are was great. Everyone in the Cadillac camp pushed hard and I gave it my all in the qualifying session.
“The team has been operating really well and the car has no real issue, so we need to keep it that way for the race. It is not like it used to be, just to keep the car safe. Now it is a full sprint for 24 hours. It is like 12 Long Beach races.
“We get along really well as a team. Matt and Eddie have been fast in the car and have been getting up to speed nicely. We have good chemistry which is what you need in endurance racing.”
The 56th running of the Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona will take the green flag on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 2:40 p.m. ET. The grid will be set on Thursday, Jan. 25 with prototype qualifying at 4:45 p.m. ET.
2018 Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona Cadillac Racing entries and drivers:
No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, Jordan Taylor, Renger Van Der Zande, for Rolex 24 Ryan Hunter-Reay
No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R, Eric Curran, Felipe Nasr, for Rolex 24 Mike Conway, Stuart Middleton
No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R, Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque, for Rolex 24 Christian Fittipaldi
No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac DPi-V.R, Matt McMurry, Tristan Vautier, for Rolex 24 Eddie Cheever III
Photo credits, Cadillac/Richard Prince.
Source. Kyle Chura/Cadillac Racing/Photo. Photo credits, Cadillac/Richard Prince