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Getting ready for TUSCC intrigue at Daytona

January 9, 2014

Think about this: while everyone is salivating about the TUDOR United Sports Car Challenge (TUSCC) battle between Daytona Prototype (DP) and LM P2 Le Mans-style prototypes, what’s really exciting in all of this is the manufacturer interest in both of those categories and in the GTLM (GT Le Mans) and GTD (GT Daytona) sports cars.

As regular World Endurance Championship (WEC) LM GTE combatants Corvette, Chrysler Viper, Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Aston Martin go to battle and a full complement of Audi R8 GTD race cars prepare to contest the full, first TUDOR United Sports Car Championship in 2014, so too will Audi, Porsche and Toyota do battle in WEC’s LM P1 category.

It’s a darn shame IMSA chose to do without the P1 cars that would have dwarfed its DP class in terms of relevancy to the current road-going marketplace, but this is the hand we’re dealt; we’ll have to live with it. (At least we can see the WEC compete at COTA this September – it’s a hoot!)

I’m looking forward to the rivalries between old teammates Gary Pratt (Pratt & Miller) and Bill Riley of Riley Technologies during this racing season. Both of these guys have their tentacles in Prototype and GT racing; the former with Corvette DPs and Corvette GTLM cars; the latter with his Riley DP chassis and with the Viper GTLM race cars that Riley’s helped develop and run since the snakes slithered back to sports car racing at the close of the 2012 season.

Just as both of these guys are working across the aisles of sports car racing, so too are Porsche and Audi. Porsche’s return to P1 competition with two cars will be truly interesting, as will Audi’s push into the GTD category. There’s not much chance that Audi would consider a DP program as it would be beneath the manufacturers’ scope of competition, just as Audi declined to compete in the IndyCar Series when it decided to race 2.2-liter V-6 engines for 2012 and beyond.

(As an aside, today Toyota Racing Development (TRD) announced that David Wilson is the new president and general manager after holding that post as interim since Lee White left last year. In the press release, TRD said he’d be responsible for NASCAR, USAC, NHRA and TUSCC programs, along with off-road competition. I asked Les Unger at Toyota what the plans were for TUSCC. He said there were “no specific plans” but I don’t think TRD would mention the series without having an interest.)

Last year’s Audi GT-class win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona came from its American arm, led by Brad Kettler of Kettler Motor Werks. The success of that endeavor brought a good deal of interest to the program but only Fall Line continued with the car through much of the season. This year former Porsche stalwarts Flying Lizard are part of the Audi R8 push and it will be interesting to see how they do. With Kettler at the helm, most anything is possible. Porsche has its Le Mans-winning GTLM program with CORE autosport and Falken Motorsports this year; look for those teams to be a big challenge after decimating the competition on debut at The Sarthe.

It will also be interesting to see what happens with tire strategies in the GTLM class, where tire choices are open; in all other classes, Continental holds an exclusive. Will Michelin, who have shod Le Mans winners pretty regularly over the years dictate competition in this race and through the year? They sure looked good at the Roar.

But still, testing just completed at Daytona didn’t tell much about what will transpire when the cars touch down in earnest the final week of January. Testing is just that – the opportunity to try things without having a competition deficit to deal with. When the gloves come off, the successes experienced by one team or another could vanish – or they could multiply.

Much will change between now and then – and between Hour 1 and Hour 24. While I’m sure the weather will interfere in some way or another with the dreams of one racer or another – it always seems to at Daytona – will the rules in place dictate the order of finish or will the Racing Gods be in play?

Come to Daytona and find out.

By Anne Proffit

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