Ready for just their second outing with the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac DPi-V.R, the driving trio of Eddie Cheever III, Matt McMurry, and Tristian Vautier will aim to race to the finish of the challenging day-into-night event this Saturday.
The team will look to rebound from a promising but ultimately disappointing outing in the home race in Daytona to open the IMSA season. After taking delivery of the team’s brand-new Cadillac DPi-V.R just weeks ahead of the Rolex 24, the Daytona Beach based squad delivered a performance that made it seem as though they had been working with the sleek blue Cadillac prototype for years, leading the race and posting impressive times with all three drivers.
For the first time in four years, the team didn’t make it to the Rolex podium after an unfortunate mechanical setback ended the effort early. But the weekend demonstrated the strong focus that Spirit of Daytona has on returning to the top step of the podium once again after proving victorious at Laguna Seca last season.
Despite being half the length of the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, Sebring’s 12 Hour has developed the reputation of being twice as hard as the season opener. With a track that was first based on an airport runway, the 3.7-mile circuit is one that both thrills and anguishes drivers on every lap with a challenging combination of bumpy high-speed corners as well as slow, technical sections.
“We were there for the IMSA test last month and that went really well so we will go down there with some fresh information to work with,” said McMurry, who will have to take his finals at University of California/Irvine the week after the race. “Sebring can be really tricky setup wise because the track changes so much during the day with the temperatures. Driving the Cadillac is really cool—I’ve driven a prototype at Sebring but never a DPi. Turns one and 17 are just awesome in this car. Coming from a GTD car last year to this, it’s a big change but I’m really enjoying it.”
Vautier lit up the charts last year at Sebring, storming to the GTD class pole and impressing with his pace, something he’s looking forward to doing once again this weekend.
“There were a lot of really good take aways from Daytona—we qualified well, led the race, the team performed great and all the drivers were able to work really well together and hopefully we can just continue that at Sebring,” said Vautier, who scored a podium at Bathurst with a run to second place in the legendary event. “For our first race together as a team, with a new car, that was big. We will just keep focused on doing our jobs and hopefully that will get us to the front again. To be honest, I’m having a blast in this Cadillac and I’m enjoying the full potential of the car. Sebring has the fast and medium speed corners where these cars excel so its great for me. We were good on the bumps, so I hope we can unload with a car that is strong and keep building our season.”
The race is a long-revered staple in the sport, with the track set to stage its 62nd edition this weekend. Cheever III got his first laps at Sebring during the test, and came away looking forward to making a race return in his second career Prototype race start.
“It is an amazing track— very challenging and bumpy, but I can’t wait to drive there again for the race!” said Cheever. “I learned a lot at Daytona, it was too bad that our race didn’t last longer but I’m getting more comfortable with the car lap after lap. IMSA is one of the most competitive series in the world and the schedule of tracks is amazing. Spirit of Daytona has been in the series for a long time so that makes it easier for me to adapt to a different category and championship. I’m sure that we will be competitive and hopefully have better luck at Sebring.”
Team Owner Troy Flis is aware of the challenges that a track like Sebring can throw at a team, but is approaching the iconic event with the confidence that comes from seeing his team perform so well in Daytona.
“You’ve really got to be right on top of your game at Sebring, on both sides of the pit wall, and even then there are things that happen at Sebring that can just catch you out,” said team owner Troy Flis. “We are just working on our preparation and having all the little things right, because that can add up. Everything from how we can keep our drivers cool in the car to what we need to do to have our pit box perfect for the night pit stops. The whole team rallied for the Rolex and it went well but we feel like there is some unfinished business still for us.”
The race will open with practice on Thursday, March 15 with the grid set to be determined on Friday, March 16 with a St. Patricks day 10:30 AM race broadcast for the second race of the 2018 IMSA season.
Source. Sunday Group