61 cars make Daytona 24 Hours “like a gymkhana”, says Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais has said negotiating heavy traffic around Daytona is daunting, especially considering how the new GTP cars are short of spares.

61 cars make Daytona 24 Hours “like a gymkhana”, says Bourdais

Next week’s Daytona 24 Hours will feature 61 starters, including nine cars in IMSA’s new premier GTP class. With the first day of 2023 IMSA SportsCar Championship action now in the books in the Roar Before the 24, Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac’s Sebastien Bourdais suggested the GTP participants are treading especially carefully when lapping the four lower classes, since no manufacturers have had a chance to stockpiled spares.

“It was a very busy this morning that is for sure,” said the French driver, who scored 37 Indy car wins and has also accumulated two wins in the Daytona 24 Hours and one in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

“With 61 cars, everyone was trying to find their references and it did feel a bit like a gymkhana in heavy traffic which is a little scary because everybody is really scarce on spare parts and we all got the message loud and clear.

“You are already finding yourself in situations you do not want to be in because you can’t afford to damage anything, so that is going to be a consideration for sure.”

Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and endurance race extra Scott Dixon will race the #01 Cadillac V-LMDh, while for this IMSA opener, Ganassi’s full-time WEC entry will also be participating, driven by Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook.

Speaking after the first of two sessions today, Ganassi director of operations Mike O’Gara explained: “Both cars are virtually new so it’s a lot of in and out laps and checking sensors, checking calibrations. This car depends a lot more on the data that it is generating itself to run itself. So, things like tire pressures, brake sensors, brake pressures – things that were important before – are critical now.

“They 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, before those other things work properly.

“So, this morning, with two new cars, we were just making sure all of that worked right. This afternoon, and the rest of the weekend, we can just start pushing. There is a mountain of work and a mountain of data for all of our folks to look at just to make sure all of that is functioning properly before we can start pushing on the rest of the systems in the car.”

#01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi: Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande

#01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi: Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande

Photo by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images

Along with the complexities of the cars, one of the challenges the IMSA aces face in 2023 will be potentially increased tyre drop since the new GTP cars are more economical than their DPi predecessors, so there will be fewer pitstops and there has also been a reduction in the number of tyre sets available.

Bourdais played down the effects of double-stinting, while also admitting that the cars do make different demands of their Michelin rubber.

“We tried to see what the tyre evolution was like at the test in December,” said Bourdais. “I don’t think it’s very different from what we had to do in DPi to be honest. We had to double-stint tyres in DPi as well. We’re in a very similar scenario because the stints are a bit longer with the fuel that we have on board.

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“Although we have less tyres, the number of stints that you’re going to have to double-stint are going to be probably fairly similar.

“We’re, I’d say, a long ways off determining exactly where we need to be to make the tyres last and optimise everything. There are quite a few things that have to happen before that.

“I don’t think it will be a major problem. Most of this race is survive, survive, survive and make it through the night, and then set yourself up the best way possible for the last couple of hours shootout. At that point you’ll be done with double-stinting tyres. 

“[The tyres’ behaviour] is different. It’s the best of the best that Michelin has. There are many differences between the fact that the car is heavier, it has a lot less downforce, it has more power. It’s much harder on tyres.

“So comparing the two [DPi and GTP] with different tyres, there’s not a single thing that lines up to be able to have a fair comparison. We just know that Michelin is doing their best to give us the best product possible, and give us the most grip, and sustainable performance level.

“That’s all we can ask for, and it’s a very safe tyre. I’m feeling pretty good about that.”

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