IndyCar invasion of Daytona Beach opens eyes, part 2

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on January 29, 2014 9:51 am
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Yesterday, we took a deep look into the lap stats for IndyCar drivers competing in the flagship Prototype class at the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona. But IndyCar drivers were also active in the three other classes last weekend, with occasional IndyCar driver Townsend Bell taking a class win in GTD. Below is an examination of the performances posted by the IndyCar drivers in the PC, GTLM, and GTD drivers as compared to their 2014 Rolex 24 teammates.

(Finishing positions are in class.)

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Prototype Challenge (PC) Class:

PC is the fastest “pro-am” class in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, meaning that it is intended to be contested by teams configured of professional drivers paired with amateurs (who oftentimes fund the cost of the ride for both).  The teams compete in spec Oreca FLM09 chassis on Continental tires.

Alex Tagliani and Conor Daly, RSR Racing, Oreca FLM09 #08 (8th place):

Ex-Champ Car team RocketSports fielded two PC entries, with Canadian Alex Tagliani and American Conor Daly sharing duties in the #08 with Chris Cumming and Rusty Mitchell. Tagliani and Daly were mirror images of one another for the event. Tag turned 120 laps with an average lap of 1:45.74 and a fast lap of 1:43.7, while Daly turned an identical fast lap and trailed Tag on average lap time by .03 of a second while completing 61 laps. Both drivers were nearly two seconds quicker on average than their amateur counterparts.   This one is too close to call, so we can hope that Tag and Conor get return engagements in 2015 to sort out bragging rights.

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GT Le Mans (GTLM) Class:

The GTLM class sees heavy factory involvement with Corvette Racing, SRT, Porsche, BMW, Ferrari and others competing in the only class in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship with an open tire rule. These are the most technologically advanced GT cars on the planet and are the same cars that compete at Le Mans each year (hence the naming).

Ryan Hunter-Reay, SRT Motorsports, SRT Viper #91 (3rd place):

2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay picked up a coveted ride in one of the SRT Vipers, and the car showed fantastic pace early with teammate and series regular Marc Goossens placing the car on the GTLM pole. Trouble plagued the car as the race wore on, but high attrition allowed the #91 to take home 3rd place in class.   RHR shared the car with Goossens and Dominik Farnbacher, who will contest the entire TUSCC campaign in the #91. Hunter-Reay’s skills showed through as he was the second-fastest on average (.3 behind Farnbacher) and in fastest lap (only .1 back of Farnbacher). The amount of time and development that Goossens and Farnbacher have in the Viper makes the pace RHR showed even more impressive.

Graham Rahal, BMW Team RLL, BMW Z4 #56 (4th place):

Equally eye-opening was the performance of Graham Rahal in this race.  Graham was no showpiece for his father’s BMW factory-backed team, consistently outpacing teammate and sports car stalwart John Edwards while trailing BMW factory driver Dirk Werner by only a tenth in average lap time (1:47.51) and a mere two tenths in fastest lap (145.5) while turning 121 laps. Graham was also quicker than his other co-driver, BMW standout Dirk Mueller, which is no small feat in a GT car.

Ryan Briscoe, Corvette Racing, Chevrolet Corvette C7.R #3 (10th place):

Ryan Briscoe didn’t fare as well in his Corvette against teammates Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia. Briscoe posted respectable lap times but was over a second slower on average (1:48.24) and .3 slower on outright one lap pace (1:46.0) than Magnussen and Garcia. Briscoe was also well adrift of Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin, and Robin Liddell in the sister Corvette.

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GT Daytona (GTD) Class  

GT Daytona is the second “Pro-Am” class in the Tudor United Sports Car Championship, and it consists of the GT cars that competed under the Grand-AM banner last year, as well as slightly modified GT3 machinery. These cars, while nowhere near the technological level of the GTLM cars, are still very quick in a straight line, though they give up speed to other cars in the corners due to their heavier weight and lower down force numbers.

Townsend Bell, Level 5 Motorsports, Ferrari 458 Italia #555 (1st place):

Good things come to those who wait. That certainly bore true for the Level 5 Motorsports team, which had to wait several hours after the race to be declared the winner (a penalty for avoidable contact was rescinded by IMSA officials after replays showed that no contact actually occurred).   Indy 500 regular and NBC commentator Townsend Bell helped anchor the five-man team at Level 5, which also included owner Scott Tucker, Ferrari ace Jeff Segal, Bill Sweedler, and Alessandro Pier Guidi, who was behind the wheel at the finish.   Pier Guidi paced the team both in average time and fastest lap, but Bell acquitted himself well overall by being a close third behind Pier Guidi and Segal in average time and fast lap. Pier Guidi and Segal have much more time behind the wheel of a 458 Italia than Bell, though, and the Rolexes are the same for all five guys!

Mikail Aleshin, SPM/ESM Racing, Ferrari 458 Italia #72 (4th place):

Incoming IndyCar series rookie Aleshin showed quickness behind the wheel of a Ferrari 458 Italia in turning the fastest lap of his team by over seven-tenths of  a second, although his average lap was a half-second slower than the fastest driver and third overall on the team. A late race (final minutes) brush that cost Joey Hand and the #55 BMW GTLM entry a chance at the overall win had some questioning Aleshin’s judgement, but we can hope that the incident was spotter error as the Russian shows signs of being a very interesting addition to the IndyCar stable.

James Davison, TRG/AMR Racing, Aston Martin V12 Vantage #007 (22nd place):

The Aston Martins of TRG are new to the series, and they didn’t appear to have the pace of their competitors. But Davison, who impressed in two outings with Dale Coyne Racing last year in IndyCar, was within .01 of the fastest average lap time on the team and set the fastest lap of the race for the team by almost 1.5 seconds (1:47.6)!

The 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona proved once again that IndyCar teams employ some of the fastest drivers in motorsports.

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*A special shout out goes to driver Mike Hedlund, who compiles data on all drivers for every race in the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship. His data metrics made this article much easier to prepare, and diehard racing fans will love the level of detail that he presents over at his site. You can pore over more data from Mike at: http://boom.net/~mike/lapfu.php. This link may not be accessible in all regions.

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