Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA
SOURCE: Sportscar365 AUTHOR: Daniel Lloyd
Chip Ganassi Racing and Action Express Racing were encouraged by the reliability of their new Cadillac V-LMDh prototypes during the Rolex 24 at Daytona despite missing out on the win.
Both Ganassi cars and the sole Action Express machine completed the race without significant car-related delays, unlike entries from the other three LMDh manufacturers.
External factors played the biggest part in affecting Cadillac’s race. Setbacks included the No. 01 car being struck from behind by an LMP3 car in hour five, later followed by a drive-through penalty for leaving the pits when its fuel hose was still attached.
The No. 31 Action Express Cadillac dropped out of contention after contact with a GTD car at the Le Mans Chicane.
There was also an electrical problem resulting in a steering wheel change for the No. 01, however it spent less total time on pit road than the winning Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-06, which battled gearbox dramas.
“We were flat-out the entire time,” Chip Ganassi Racing’s global director of operations Mike O’Gara told Sportscar365.
“The only issue a Cadillac had was from contact. None of them went in the garage, nothing fell off, and [there were] no major issues. We were impressed with that.
“We’ve got to find a little bit of speed. I’m a racer and I don’t like losing, but deep down I’m happy with what we accomplished over the last few months.”
O’Gara said it wasn’t easy to pinpoint a reason why the CGR Cadillacs ultimately lacked the pace to challenge the Acuras that finished first and second.
“I feel like our reliability is probably better, looking at how many times they were in the pit lane working on things,” O’Gara reckoned.
“I don’t think the speed is one thing: it’s probably ten little things that we’ve got to figure out.
“That’s why we work with Dallara and the GM folks. Each of us puts in our own little bit and hopefully we can figure out how to beat those guys.”
Action Express team manager Gary Nelson told Sportscar365 that the suspension damage caused by Derani’s unseen contact with an unidentified GTD car interrupted a clear mechanical run for the No. 31 crew.
“Based on all the testing that we did, all the work Dallara and General Motors did, I had a good feeling coming into the race that we would be able to contend and be competitive,” he said.
“I really felt like we would be there at the end. Unfortunately, at 4 a.m., we had contact that damaged our suspension and it took 17 laps to repair it.”
Nelson explained that the contact resulted in a broken suspension bracket.
“It actually didn’t break right during the contact,” he noted. “Pipo said he felt a bump and a few laps later it got worse.
“There were several bolts holding the suspension and they were breaking, so we had to go in the garage. At that point, it was not our day.”
Despite the setback damaging Action Express Racing’s chances of a podium, Nelson indicated that the experience will be useful considering such an incident can only occur in a racing situation.
“All of our tests went without much chance to have contact: we were just running laps,” he said.
“The GT cars and the differences in speed, the tire warmup time… all of those things we had to learn in traffic during the race. Fortunately for everybody, the weather was ideal for a 24-hour.
“We did a 24-hour test at Sebring and we felt quite confident. The unknown is always something to worry about. But once we got going and all the systems were working correctly, our plan was to hang around the top five and race at the end.
“We were doing just that, keeping the leaders in sight. Unfortunately, we had that contact but we got five laps back.
“If this had been a 12-hour race, we would have been aiming for the win. Sebring is a 12-hour race, so we’re excited and we’re going there to win it.”
GM sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser added: “We brought three Cadillacs, which was the most of any brand, and all three took the checkered flag.
“I’d say everyone who has worked on this project, whether it be the engineers at Cadillac, the designers at Cadillac, the engineers at Dallara, Chip Ganassi Racing, Action Express Racing – everyone – should be so proud of everything we’ve accomplished.”