24-hour sports car endurance races are as much a matter of survival as competition – an adage even more accurate this week.
As DeltaWing Racing Cars prepares to battle more than 60 fellow competitors in the inaugural event of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
A host of new elements have made the (virtually nonexistent) off season an interesting one for the DeltaWing team: a new livery, a new tire (the Prototype class runs exclusively on Continental tires), a new television network (all TUDOR Championship races will be on the FOX network) and of course, the new series itself. With the former American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am series now united, the Prototype class has grown to a whopping 18 cars.
So what is the best strategy to handle 68 sports cars on the high banks of Daytona at the same time? Ask any number of people what the key to success in the endurance classic will be and most likely, each of those answers will include the phrase “stay out of trouble.” DeltaWing drivers Andy Meyrick, Katherine Legge, Alexander Rossi and Gabby Chaves all know that how they handle 24 hours of relentless traffic will go a long way toward determining the outcome of their race.
Meyrick and Legge return to the DeltaWing team for 2014, joining Rossi, the 2013 Caterham F1 reserve and GP2 driver and Chaves, the 2013 Indy Lights vice champion.
DeltaWing drivers Andy Meyrick, Katherine Legge… all know that how they handle 24 hours of relentless traffic will go a long way toward determining the outcome of their race
Andy Meyrick – fifth 24 hour race [Le Mans 2010/2011, Spa 2012/2013], first Rolex 24
Key to the race: Staying out of trouble with other cars.
“We’ve done all the preparation we could have ahead of this week, with one of the most important things being getting Alex up to speed – he’s done a great job. The race will be difficult for everyone, with all the cars on the track – of all the 24 hour races I’ve done, this is the busiest in terms of cars on track and incidents. There aren’t many corners, but in the corners you do have, there are huge braking zones, which mean that people take risks to get past other cars. We’ve driven the DeltaWing coupe at night before, at Road Atlanta, but visibility is even less of an issue at Daytona, since the track is so well lit.”
Katherine Legge – second 24 hour race, second Rolex 24
Key to the race: Reliability. Car, crew and drivers all need to be reliable.
“It’s all about reliability at Daytona. The car is quick and it handles very well here, so I really believe that if we can avoid trouble, we will be in with a shot at winning toward the end of the race. But to get to that critical Sunday time frame is key. There are so many cars – it’s going to be about getting through the traffic quickly but doing it safely. We were lucky to have avoided that at the test – part luck and part good judgment!”
Alexander Rossi – second 24 hour race [Le Mans 2013], first Rolex 24
Key to the race: Capitalizing on opportunities, taking advantage of others’ mistakes while minimizing yours.
“I’m getting more and more comfortable. Surprisingly, you don’t treat the DeltaWing any differently than you would any other car. There are behavioral characteristics and handling characteristics that are a bit different, but in terms of drivability, visibility and the feedback that you get, it’s just like a conventional race car. We had a very good test a few weeks ago, especially in terms of reliability, so we’re going into the race week with very high expectations. The fans really are attracted to the DeltaWing and the team is very committed to making sure it’s not just a car that everyone wants to look at, but a car that gets results. We’re well on our way to that.”
The fans really are attracted to the DeltaWing and the team is very committed to making sure it’s not just a car that everyone wants to look at, but a car that gets results
Gabby Chaves (first 24 hour race)
Key to the race: Being quick is important, but more important is staying out of trouble, being consistent and taking care of the car.
“My main focus is to be as consistent as I can and to get through traffic as cleanly as possible, especially at night. The track is well lit, so visibility shouldn’t be an issue – as long as we make sure the other cars see us, since we’re lower than most of the other cars. But I was pretty comfortable in the car at the Roar; it didn’t take long to figure it out. I did have to adjust my driving techniques a little bit, but I really enjoyed every lap.”
Don Panoz, DeltaWing Racing Cars Managing Partner
Key to the race: Pay attention, be cautious and be disciplined.
“I am very pleased with the car’s performance at Daytona so far. I realize that it’s a big challenge for us, but the team has done a great job of getting the car prepared and sorting out the issues we had previously with the roadster. We want to be competitive but we realize that it’s a long race and there will be quite a few pit stops. We need to be disciplined and be able to adjust ourselves to the situation, so we can take advantage of opportunities. I’m looking forward to an exciting race.”