Risi Competizione’s Rick Mayer, Team Engineer, continues his tradition of writing a preview of what it’s involved in setting up a car for a race with this very insightful brief on getting the Risi Comp Ferrari F458GTC ready to run the 24 Hours of Daytona. For over 5 years, Rick has provided a unique perspective on racing and race cars. The season begins again and so does Rick. Read his insights (below) and then watch how it all plays out at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, this weekend. 
_J3U3106_Rolex24_140124General: It’s a new season, new series and new rules. The total car count of 67 cars on the 3.56 mile track, together with a large quantity of varying skill level Pro-Am combos, will almost certainly factor into the results of the race. Getting through traffic cleanly and staying clear of trouble will be more difficult than in any race in 2013, and a driver’s mental fatigue and any lapse of concentration could easily affect the outcome. The ‘new’ wave bye rules for safety car periods will ensure a large lead lap car count for each class, as the new 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’. Weather and grip will vary with conditions. It was repaved recently and, with mild winters, the track 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 corner exits from turn 3, 6 and the Bus Stop, plus speed through the latter are key to a competitive race car.
_99R4439_Rolex24_140123Setup: Daytona is a track that requires some reserve in setup to increase safety. 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 at the detriment to lap time and performance. We bias the setup to improve traction and power down where, at the more regular road courses, we lean toward trying to reduce the understeer. 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 rules (more than one degree less camber) also decrease grip; all of these change the general setup from what you’d  expect. We’ll try and trim drag, as much as you can on a GT car, to improve banking speed. With 67 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, into braking at turn 1 and 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.
_99R6177_rolex24_140124The race: The Daytona 24 is the quintessential ‘crap shoot’ of endurance races. The field is packed and the pit lane boxes are the smallest of the season so you have to take as much care in the pits as on the track. Luck and patience pay large dividends here,  more than at other tracks. The wave bye rules for cautions are likely to ensure a large number of lead lap cars in each class in the last stints of the race. After the opening hour, you need to stay in touch with the class leader, ideally BE the class leader, and be positioned for the 23rd-hour sprint to the finish. We had good results at the end of 2013 and, in general, have had great success with the long races at Risi Competizione.  Let’s hope the momentum carries to Daytona.

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