United Autosports have left Daytona happy after a constructive test session. The team covered almost 1500 miles over the course of the three-day Roar Before the 24 test weekend.
The team entered the weekend with the goal of gaining experience of the upgraded Ligier JS P217 with the new ACO Joker package. The new upgrades, designed to allow the Ligier to be more competitive with the Oreca 07, included an updated front aerodynamic kit.
Five of the seven drivers had never run at Daytona, and turned their first laps this week. It was also the first time any of the seven had run the IMSA Continental Tyres that are mandatory for the Prototype class.
The team originally planned a single car entry to the Roar Before the 24, and possibly the Rolex 24 at Daytona later in the month. But this was soon expanded to a two car operation, with a star driver line-up.
“We’d originally planned a one-car entry but here we are at the Roar with two cars, each with outstanding driver line-ups.” said Team Owner Zak Brown. “It’s been a tough test for us with masses for everyone to learn in a short space of time.”
A lot to learn for the drivers
It was a knowledge gathering exercise for all the drivers. Whilst there is masses of talent within the team, there are a lot of new experiences ahead for the drivers.
“I now feel better prepared for the race in terms of having to make compromises due to sharing the car.” said Fernando Alonso. “It was good to work with Lando, Phil and the team.”
“Driving in the night session was not a big difference as the circuit is well illuminated. I had no big issues with that or the traffic.”
For Paul di Resta, the speedway itself proved a more interesting experience.
“On my first run the steep banking made me feel a little dizzy and it was an interesting experience having cars running either side of my car.” said di Resta. “Sharing a car is a different scenario for me but it’s proving enjoyable.”
Sebring has long been the American equivalent of Le Mans, in terms of foreign entries. We’re used to seeing the Americans come over for Le Mans, and the Europeans travel to Sebring for the 12 hours. Since the merger, IMSA has pushed the Florida 36 Hours as a potential combined event for European customers and it appears to be working.
United Autosports join Jackie Chan DC Racing Jota as the European ‘invaders’ for Daytona. There are big differences between the teams however. As good as United Autosports are, they still compete in ELMS, one tier below Jackie Chan DC Racing.
More importantly, United run the Ligier JS P217. This is really the first test of the updated Joker packages. Daytona will give us an indication to whether or not the upgraded Ligier is close to the Oreca. We won’t get to see the Dallara and whilst the Riley is at Daytona it isn’t looking particularly promising.