SEBRING, Fla. – A handful of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams have descended on Sebring Int’l Raceway this week for testing ahead of next month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.
Acura Motorsports was one of the participating groups, bringing its two Acura Team Penske Acura DPis in addition to the two Acura NSX GT3 Evos from Meyer Shank Racing and its sister team, Heinricher Racing in the GT Daytona (GTD class).
While Acura didn’t make the podium in January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona – the No. 6 Acura DPi was closest with a fourth-place finish in the DPi class – all teams are feeling positive heading into Sebring.
After damage from an incident at Daytona resulted in a race car that Dane Cameron compared to “being in a paint shaker,” the No. 6 Acura Team Penske DPi team is ready to smooth things out – at the bumpiest track on the schedule.
“We’ve kind of fixed our ‘paint shaker’ from Daytona, even though we’re here at bumpy Sebring, famous for the bumps,” said Cameron, who was joined by Juan Pablo Montoya and endurance driver Simon Pagenaud. “We’re working on tuning the handling here. It’s a big factor of what you have to do, really improve that ride quality in the famous turn one and turn 17 here, keep all the wheels attached to the road to get the most grip. So far, it’s going well.
“We qualified on pole position here last year so I think we have a great hot rod and hopefully the race can go a little bit better and we can get that first endurance win for this Acura Team Penske program.”
Seeking redemption after the Rolex 24 is the No. 7 Acura Team Penske DPi of Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and endurance driver Alexander Rossi. The team was involved in an incident with the No. 55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi not even four hours into the race. Castroneves, behind the wheel at the time, expressed intense frustration immediately afterwards, but has since “decompressed.”
“We just turned the page, learned a lot obviously during the race even though we were not in contention,” Castroneves said. “Now we keep going. It’s beautiful weather here in Sebring, a lot of cars are practicing as well, so we’re looking forward to do a much better result than Daytona of course. Hopefully be better than last year too, so we’re looking forward to a great race.”
Alvaro Parente has returned to the driver lineup for Heinricher Racing w/ MSR Curb-Agajanian after a one-year hiatus in the No. 57 Acura NSX GT3. He is co-driving alongside a GTD newcomer in Misha Goikhberg. In his most recent season competing in IMSA back in 2018, Parente scored one victory at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in addition to four-runner up finishes sharing the car with then co-driver Katherine Legge. The No. 57 Acura started off its 2020 season with an eighth-place finish in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“We had a tough start at Daytona, but I think we can only look forward because we’ve got a great structure going on,” said Parente. “Hopefully things are going to go smoother from now onwards than Daytona. It’s always like this in GT racing, you get some really hard races, you get some good ones. It keeps it exciting even though we always want to be at the front.”