United SportsCar Test At Sebring Wraps

Marsh Racing debuted their new Prototype entry during TUDOR United SportsCar testing this weekend at Sebring (Fla.) Int'l Raceway. (Ted Rossino Photo)
Marsh Racing debuted their new Prototype entry during TUDOR United SportsCar testing this weekend at Sebring (Fla.) Int'l Raceway. (Ted Rossino Photo)
Marsh Racing debuted their new Prototype entry during TUDOR United SportsCar testing this weekend at Sebring (Fla.) Int’l Raceway. (Ted Rossino Photo)

SEBRING, Fla. – The No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP led its second consecutive day of TUDOR United SportsCar Championship testing Sunday at Sebring Int’l Raceway courtesy of a best lap of 1:53.748 (118.367 mph) by Sebastien Bourdais.

“The changes really change the feel of the car, but it doesn’t change its character,” said Bourdais, who got his first taste of the extensive modifications to Daytona Prototypes on Sunday. “It’s a quicker car. I think we’ll gain about three seconds at Daytona. If we balance it, maybe there’s a bit more in it. The rear diffuser really helps set the back of the car down. These cars didn’t have much downforce before, but they have significantly more now.”

The No. 12 Pickett Racing ORECA FLM09 was the lone Prototype Challenge (PC) car at the test and turned the fifth-quickest lap of the day overall at 1:58.035 (114.068 mph). The No. 93 SRT Motorsports SRT Viper GTS-R led the way in GT Le Mans (GTLM) at 2:01.619 (110.706 mph), and the No. 33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R topped GT Daytona (GTD) at 2:04.539 (108.111 mph).

After two years of dominating the former American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón P1 category, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing rolled out a PC car for the test at Sebring as the first step in a possible three-class entry in TUDOR United SportsCar Championship competition.

Bryan Heitkotter and Steven Doherty shared the No. 12 ORECA FLM09/Chevrolet for the Sebring test. The lone PC at the session turned a best lap of 1:58.035.

“We’re here for car and driver evaluation, and we’re clicking right through our program,” said team manager and engineer Brandon Fry. “This is the first time for both Bryan and Steven in a car like this, so we’re just taking it step by step.”

The team raced this car three times in 2012 (although it didn’t own it at the time) at Sebring, Long Beach and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and was running second in the PC standings before opting to concentrate on P1.

It’s also the first time at Sebring for Heitkotter, but the Californian is no stranger to steep learning curves.

The graduate of the Gran Turismo Academy bested more than 53,000 online competitors to earn a one-week shootout at Silverstone in 2011. There, he beat out 16 other finalists to earn a drive for the Nissan team for which he competed in Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge events in 2012 and 2013.

“It’s definitely a learning process,” Heitkotter said. “We did some setup work yesterday, getting the car better, and getting more rear grip today. We’ve been taking baby steps, building confidence. This is a tough track to learn driving a downforce car for the first time, and it’s also the first time for the car at Sebring on Continental Tires. Plus I’ve never been to Sebring, either, so we’re taking it step by step. It’s been good so far.”

Fry said the team will not be testing at Daytona, but hopes to have further announcements in the upcoming weeks

Aston Martin hopes for strength in numbers, as the team is combined its American and British efforts for pre-season testing at Sebring. The manufacturer will take the same approach in the two-day test at Daytona International Speedway starting Tuesday.

The factory team left its No. 007 Aston Martin Vantage behind following September’s FIA World Endurance Championship event at Circuit of The Americas in September. The two teams are testing side-by-side at Sebring and Daytona before going their separate ways to prepare for the 2014 season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.

“They didn’t want to bring all their stuff over for the test, and they had left their car with us after COTA,” said TRG-AMR owner Kevin Buckler. “We’re working together this weekend, sharing some resources and personnel with our cousins from England. They’ll have all their own stuff for the Rolex 24.”

David Heinemeier Hansson did most of the testing in the No. 007 GTLM Aston Martin Vantage, and will be joined by Darren Turner and Paul Dalla Lana at Daytona.

“We’ve raced here many times,” said Dan Sayers, Aston Martin Racing team manager and chief engineer. “We’ve got quite a good setup for here, and that allowed us to get a lot of running here without having to do much development. But Daytona is going to be quite interesting. We haven’t run a GT car there, so we’ve got to learn a lot, quickly. Two days isn’t very long, so we’ve got to maximize it with Michelin and get the tires to work. We’ll be learning a huge amount about that circuit.”

For the American team, the test is another step for TRG learning the Aston Martin following a long and successful run with Porsches.

“We’re still trying to understand the mechanical side of car, and make it faster,” Buckler said. “We knew the Porsches very well, but now we’re starting from scratch with a clean sheet of paper. What we really need is a big spares package – we had a whole trailer full of stuff when we ran Porsches.”

A total of 2,819 laps (10,543.06 miles) were run over two days at Sebring. TUDOR United SportsCar Championship competitors will reconvene on Tuesday at Daytona Int’l Speedway for another two days of testing.