(image courtesty of IMSA / Dole)
The Roar Before the 24 once again kicked off the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship season. The 3 day test is a chance for teams to show off their new cars and maybe show off the speed that they have. 2018 sees a bunch of changes for the series with Joest taking over the Mazda DPi program, Penske joining the Prototype class with the Oreca based Acura DPi, BMW debuting the M8 GTE car and a number of driver shake ups through the series.
This data was compiled from all 6 practice sessions plus the single qualifying session from the entire weekend. Teams were evaluating different drivers, different set ups and different components so the data isn’t very reliable.
The GTD class was insanely close where the entire class was within 1.1 seconds on average lap time with the Lamborghinis with a slight speed trap advantage. Through the infield (sectors 2 and 3), it was the Audi’s and Acura’s that seemed to hold a slight advantage. The Lamborhini’s with their top end advantage set the quickest times of the week while the Porsches and Audi’s were right behind them. The Ferrari’s and Mercedes seemed to struggle. Some of those cars were down on straightline speed and other were just a little off through the infield. But as close as this class is being at the bottom of the speed charts means you’re just over 1 second off the pace.
In GTLM we saw an almost 2 second spread where the BMW M8 GTLM was at the bottom of the time sheets. The big BMW was about 4 mph down through the speed trap compared to the fastest cars. Through the speed trap it was the Porsches who held the advantage (177-178 mph) while the Corvettes were in the 176-177 mph. The Fords and Ferraris were close behind in the 175-176 mph range. Taking the BMW’s out the picture the rest of the GTLM class had average lap times that could be covered by a 0.6 second spread.
In the flagship Prototype class, 2018 seems to be a repeat of 2017 where the Cadillac DPi’s set the pace. On average speed they were about a full second clear of the majority of the field. Their advantage is still through the speed trap. All 4 of the 5.5L V8 powered machines were in the 192+ mph range through the speed trap while the rest of the class was in the 189-190 mph range. Chasing the Cadillac is the Oreca LMP2 cars. The Oreca LMP2 machines were able to come close to the Cadillacs, within 0.5 seconds. Just behind the Cadillacs and Oreca’s was the rest of the DPi brigade, the Acura, Nissan and Mazda’s were able to mix it up with the Orecas on speed. The Multimatic LMP2 car is still struggling. They were able to run lap times on par with what they did at the roar in 2017. It was known that the Multimatic LMP2 was missing some upgrades and they were fighting some reliability issues which limited running for a portion of the weekend.
When looking at the classes together we see some interesting things. The GTD field ran average lap times in the 1:47-1:49 range. The GTLM cars were about 2 seconds ahead of them (1:44-1:46). And the Prototype cars were way ahead of them in the 1:36-1:39 range. The plot gets interesting when we look at the Speed traps though. The Prototypes are way ahead in the 189-194 mph range. There is a ton of overlap between the GTLM and GTD cars however. We have seen this the last couple of years at Daytona where the GTLM cars have passing the GTD cars on the long open sections at Daytona.
I’m sure there will be some BoP (not AoP) adjustments in various classes. In prototype its likely that the Cadillac’s will get some form of penalty to slow them down. Also, I’m hopeful that BAR1 will get the Multimatic turned around. With the upgrades from the LMP2 Evo kit on the way it will hopefully put some speed in that car. I am going to be rooting for that car in the race. The Multimatic had a podium finish with Visit Florida in 2017 and it’s the only North American built car.