Prototype – Cadillacs are fast. Who’d have guessed?

Cadillac were fastest in every session, and more often than not they locked out the top 4 spots each time. The gaps were not insignificant either – usually the best part of a second to the next car. The Roar Before the 24 became a bit of a Cadillac playground.

The new 5.5L Cadillac engine is meant to be easier for IMSA to BoP (it’s also under the capacity limit for Le Mans…just saying), but unlike last year it’s clear Cadillac weren’t holding back. If Cadillac are holding back, then the gap to the rest of the field will be substantial. We suspect they are showing the majority of what they have, especially after IMSA impounded the engines for testing in December.

New boys Spirit of Daytona settled in with the Cadillac just fine as well.

Acura are fast…ish?

The AXR-05 qualified fifth and sixth, which puts them right behind the Cadillacs in the order. But the lap times aren’t as impressive – 1.2 seconds off the fastest.

The drivers have heaped praise on the car. Simon Pagenaud called it a “mini Peugeot”, and was very happy with the performance. Penske were fast at Petit Le Mans with a global LMP2 Oreca too. So have the Cadillacs really found that much time? Or is the Acura AXR-05 a little behind where the standard Oreca 07 is? Not so sure.

I’d imagine there’s a little bit of sand in those Acuras, but we won’t know until race day.

Nissan are all over the place

With limited Nissan factory support, the car is still an ESM/Ligier special, and unfortunately it still shows. The car has all the new Joker upgrades that the Ligier JS P217 received, and presumably some additional work too.

The #2 required a full rear end change early in the week, which was completed in under two hours. Unfortunately the speed doesn’t really appear to be there. Derani qualified seventh, but Dalziel was all the way down in sixteenth.

With the arrival of Acura, the upgraded Mazda team and additional LMP2 chassis, ESM may struggle a bit this year.

Mazda aren’t quite there yet

Good things come to those who wait, right? Mazda have been waiting for what feels like forever. But it seems installing Joest as the people to run the team isn’t an immediate fix. The car has significant upgrades, but the old car still shines through at the moment.

The cars lost track time on Friday as they weren’t ready to run. By practice 2, the 55 had completed some laps but the 77 was still stuck in the garage. When on track they showed some speed, but nothing significant.

Unfortunately there’s nothing to really suggest that the cars are holding back.

The locals are good with LMP2s

JDC Miller Motorsport revealed the #99 Red Dragon, which partners the #85 Banana Boat. The #99 consistently featured in the top 10, but come qualifying it was the #85 that was tenth and a spot ahead of the #99.

The ex-Prototype Challenge teams made the transition successfully as well. Performance Tech ran well, but the real stars were CORE Autosport. Ok fine they had help from the likes of Roman Dumas, but for the car to feature as highly as it did was impressive. Shout out to Jon Bennett who qualified the car. An amateur driver against all the pros.

Unfortunately for BAR1, the gamble of the updated Riley hasn’t paid off so far. The car is anchored to the back of the field, even in the hands of Joel Miller who has experience with the chassis.

The Europeans ain’t bad, but Orecas are important. 

We shouldn’t be surprised that the Euro teams did well – especially Jackie Chan DC Racing. Brundle put the car in the top ten, whilst Frijns was thirteenth. Given the European teams have never run with Continental rubber, and have most likely never seen a bit of tarmac that sits at 31 degrees, it’s not too bad.

However there is a bit of a gap between Jackie Chan DC Racing and United Autosports. Alonso qualified twelfth and Senna was fifteenth. Why is there a gap? It’s certainly not the drivers – Fernando’s World Championships say otherwise. Is it the cars? Is the Oreca still that far ahead of the Ligier?

Or is it just the teams are at different levels? As good as United are, they are an ELMS team at the end of the day. A very very good ELMS team, but still an ELMS team. Jackie Chan DC Racing Jota (one of the many crafty DC Racing/Jota names) are a WEC team. Both were runners up in their respective series, but they are a rung apart on the ACO ladder. Even Fernando Alonso can’t make that gap up.

So what did we actually learn?

Not much, it may be called the Roar Before the 24, but it’s still testing at the end of the day. You can never use testing as a basis of what to expect come racing (just ask Prost GP). But there are some things we can take away.

  • Cadillac are very very fast
  • Acura are perhaps closer than they appear
  • Mazda are still developing
  • Who knows what Nissan are up to
  • Orecas are important
  • Nobody misses the Prototype Challenge class

So really, we’ve probably learnt nothing. Isn’t testing fun?

Dave Ellis
Engineering student, lover of all things technical and lifelong motorsport fan. Employed in the Oil & Gas Industry, developing Major Emergency Management simulations. Owner of the best beard on the site.
  • Peter Merkle

    Worth noting that Daytona is definitely a track that favors the Caddy/Dallara and Oreca, as those two chassis have shown to be the low-drag bullets of the group. Ligiers showed their strength at the more traditional tracks throughout last year, but they can’t quite match the straight line performace of the other 2. The Riley…well, they can at least hope for rain and attrition again if nothing else.

    • Very good point, I never mentioned the difference in low/high downforce setup. Sure enough, the Dallara was especially strong at Paul Ricard in stock LMP2 spec.

      I wonder when we’ll finally see the base Dallara in IMSA. There is surely more chance of that happening than a Riley in Europe at the moment.

      • Peter Merkle

        I was bummed when I heard Performance Tech decided to go Oreca over Dallara and Racing Team Nederland decided not to do Daytona. I thought we were finally going to see every single chassis represented in one race.