A RACE ENGINEER'S PERSPECTIVE
Rick Mayer, race engineer of the Risi Competizione No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia team, takes a look ahead at this weekend's Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 24-25, 2015 at the historic Daytona International Speedway.
Pilots of the Risi Competizione Ferrari for the Rolex 24 include Pierre Kaffer (Germany), Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy), Olivier Beretta (Monaco), and Davide Rigon (Italy).
Risi Competizone race engineer, Rick Mayer
General: The total car count of 53 cars is down from 67 in 2014 on this 3.56 mile track. The four longer endurance series races always have a larger Pro-Am content than the shorter races; this makes getting through traffic and staying clear of trouble more difficult and risky. Your concentration has to be high as traffic will be constant. A driver's mental fatigue and any lapse of concentration could easily affect the outcome. The modified safety car and wave by rules will ensure a large lead-lap car count for each class, as the rules make it easy to make up any lap deficit. The IMSA TUSC specific balance of performance (BoP) GTLM rules are established for Daytona but will be evolving throughout the season with some makes having an edge over others. This doesn't change the inherent strategy you choose, but it may change the intra-class competition balance and each make's ability to pull away, catch up or maintain position within the class. Clearing GTD traffic will be particularly difficult for GTLM as the GTDs have a banking speed advantage due to less restricted engine rules.
The Track: Daytona is the iconic, classic 'roval' (road course oval/superspeedway). Weather and grip will vary with conditions. The current forecast for rain will certainly add additional complexity to the race. The track was repaved recently and, with mild winters, the surface is still relatively smooth. The corners are all slow except the Bus Stop and the Kink. This is all complicated by having to run very high tire pressures and very low cambers in order to diminish the chance of having banking related tire failures. There are many ways to get a good lap time here but good, stable braking, good corner exits from turn 3, 6 and the Bus Stop, plus speed through the latter are key to a competitive race car.
The Setup: Daytona is a track that requires some reserve in setup to increase safety. Daytona setups only relate to Daytona. The mechanical setup and tire pressures we need to run (Daytona-only pressure and Daytona-only cambers) here are all in the direction of safety to the detriment of lap time and performance. We bias the setup to improve braking stability and traction and maximize banking speed. You don't setup for the infield as it's difficult to pass there. The required high tire pressures (+20%!) reduce front and rear grip. The increased pressures tend to bias the deficit to the rear, both at corner entrance and power down at the exit. The reduced camber safety requirements (more than one degree less camber) also decrease grip; all of these changes combine to modify the general setup from what you expect. We'll try and trim drag, as much as you can on a GT car, to improve banking speed. With 53 cars you'll be in traffic throughout the infield nearly every lap. The only legitimate passing areas are on the banking to clear slower cars, braking into turn 1, braking into the Bus Stop and occasionally into turn 5. The better car to race is the low-drag version if the lap times are similar. Being fast in the infield section is of little advantage.
In the U.S., watch the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2:00p.m. -4:00 p.m EST. on FOX Network, 4:00-8:00 p.m. on FOX Sports 2, 8:00p.m. -10:00 p.m. EST on FOX Sports 1. Overnight viewing (Jan. 24-25) from 10:00 p.m.-7:00 a.m. EST watch on IMSA TV on IMSA.com (live video streaming and commentary). On Sunday, Jan. 25, 7:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. EST the broadcast will be on FOX Sports 1.
The FOX Sports 1 telecast is available to viewers in Canada, Europe, Asia and Africa on IMSA.com and in the U.S. for users of the FOX Sports GO mobile app. On-board cameras are also available on IMSA.com throughout the event for both international and domestic viewers.