OURSLER: The Rambling Road


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — If the purpose of testing is to discover what works and what doesn’t, this week’s two-day try-out session for the new combined TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at Daytona Int’l Speedway produced far less information than it left unanswered questions.

After two major crashes Tuesday left the Action Express and Spirit of Daytona Prototypes mangled wrecks, fortunately without any serious injuries to their drivers, officials of the International Motor Sport Ass’n and Continental Tire representatives, which is the official prototype tire supplier, canceled the second day of testing for the prototypes.

The authorities are seeking answers as to the causes of the high-speed mishaps given the aerodynamic changes made to the DP racers as part of an effort to bring parity between them and the more technologically advanced LMP2 counterparts that they will share the grid with in 2014.

The worry centers around the new bi-plane rear wings and the downforce producing under trays that are intended to provide the former Grand-Am headliners with the same increased grip that the LMP2 entries have enjoyed throughout their careers both in Europe and in the now-defunct American Le Mans Series.

The real problem, however, appears to be not so much rooted in the technology, but in the rules, or the lack of them. For whatever reasons, Daytona, and the two days of testing that preceded at Sebring Int’l Raceway several days before, came despite the fact that the regulations for the TUDOR-backed championship have yet to be finalized.

While that may not be quite as much of a worry for the production arena where the former ALMS GT entries and the Daytona assembly line counterparts will race as two separate categories in roughly the same configuration they ran to in 2013, for the prototypes the situation is considerably different.

Things such as weights, aero configurations and even tire specifications have yet to be finalized, as are engine performance influencing air restrictors (the latter also being true for the GT classes as well).

Given that the holiday period is nearly upon us and given that only the post New Year’s weekend test at Daytona remains before the Rolex 24 itself Jan. 25-26, finding basics solutions, much less optimum setups is going to be a close-run thing.

Even so, if Daytona showed anything, it was that IMSA officials have, despite the problems, come a long way in melding what previously were two vastly different prototype categories into what has the early earmarks of a single cohesive crowd-pleasing front-of-the-pack division.

About the only certainty, however, is the fact that getting there has been and probably will continue to be tiresome exercise that will consume the patience of all involved.