What off season? IMSA teams prepare for testing at Daytona

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams have been gearing up for the 2024 season in private testing, but they’ll gather together at Daytona International Speedway next week for a four-day IMSA homologation test. While the test allows the sanctioning body to help gauge car performance and make any Balance of Performance changes — especially with the new crop of GT3 cars coming in from Ford and Chevrolet — it will be critical for the teams in preparation for the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the rest of the season.

For the Grand Touring Prototype teams, it affords them the opportunity to build upon the knowledge they’ve gathered over the first season with the cars and try some new approaches. Last year, most of the teams running the brand-new LMDh-specification cars were simply trying to figure out how to run the things and make sure they would last 24 hours. Mission accomplished, they can now turn their attention to wringing more performance out of their machines.

“One of the things that we’re excited about with our carryover program for ’24 is we’re able to focus on the car and understanding it more as well as making sure we have all the support on the GM and Dallara side ready to help the teams be successful,” says GM sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser. “One of the most challenging things this year has been the lack of time. We’ve been running race to race to race, and we’d occasionally slip in a test. Really, it was our race schedule in 2023 that kept us busy, which was phenomenal because you can’t have a better test than a race to see what you can do with the car.”


Racing proved to the teams that the cars are more durable and reliable than many expected. The races showed what can go wrong, and how to correct the problems to keep the car on track. But it’s hard to find the time in a race weekend to try the little things that can add up to significant time over the course of every lap.

“Toward the end of the season with the couple of tests we had, we started to learn more about the car and what makes it go and what doesn’t work,” says Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the No. 01 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R. “It’s just going to take time. People think we’ve had a lot of testing, but it was all centered toward homologation and reliability. We’re still really green on knowledge of the car as far as designing setups and getting performance out of it.

“Since we homologated the car, there’s really been little time to optimize it and understand it as far as finding that last half a second that’s a game-changer when you come to race weekends. It’s going to be a continuous learning process, trying to make numbers fall into place and validate the reads.”

Bourdais and company are eager to move beyond the basics in optimizing the capabilities of their LMDh prototypes. Richard Dole/Lumen

Bourdais is one of several Cadillac Racing drivers who will be testing next week at Daytona. Cadillac Racing won the 2023 GTP title with the No. 31 V-Series.R courtesy of Whelen Engineering and drivers Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims. With the addition of endurance driver Jack Aitken, they also took the the Michelin Endurance Cup. Bourdais and Renger van der Zande also scored a victory with the Chip Ganasssi Racing squad at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, helping Cadillac to the manufacturers’ title. Despite what can only be called a successful season in the inaugural year of the new GTP class, there’s no resting on the laurels — there’s a lot of room for improvement.

“Like any new car, you always want more testing, more practice time. Especially when it’s such a complex race car with the hybrid, and a heavy car makes for a longer road in terms of development,” explains Derani. “We’re a year and a bit into the development of this car but only just now starting to understand a few things that make sense to the setup and how we make this car go quicker. Still a lot to improve from everyone.

“We’ve done a strong job despite all the difficulties we had this season. It’s always a learning process and you have to be humble enough to know you have to continue that way if you want to succeed in this series.”

But beyond just working on the car, like every team Cadillac Racing also has new team members and drivers to bring into the loop. Aitken moves from endurance third driver on the No. 31 to full-time partner to Derani. Tom Blomqvist shifts from Meyer Shank Racing and Acura to join Derani and Aitken for the endurance events in addition to competing in his rookie IndyCar season. For those drivers especially, any testing time is critical.

“We have a lot to work on and improve; I think that’s the case for everybody with these cars that are still so early in the development cycle that everybody is learning quickly,” Aitken says. “We’ve made massive gains through the season, but when you don’t have racing, it gives everybody the opportunity to breathe a little bit and the capacity to make some changes and updates and advancements. It’s going to be a busy period for us. The race to be ready for the Roar and Daytona will be pretty intense. Though it feels a long way from now, it will come around quickly.”

The GTP teams, along with LMP2, will be on track next Wednesday and Thursday, joined by GTD PRO and GTD on Thursday before the series turns its attention to two days of targeted performance testing of the GTD cars.

Story originally appeared on Racer