Well the big news is out! We are moving to the Prototype class next year in IMSA with CORE Autosport and will be driving an ORECA LMP2 car. I am really excited for 2018, it is going to be some great competition in the Prototype class with quite a few cars. I know both Jon Bennett and I are looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of a Prototype car again although this time, we will have a roof over our heads. We have a lot of great memories driving the Prototype Challenge (PC) car for many years and of course, now we have memories after making the switch to the Porsche. So this got me thinking, I should talk about some differences between driving a Prototype car vs driving a GT car in this blog!
A few of the obvious ones first. The Prototype car makes so much down force in the higher speed corners it is absolutely nuts! The entire car is designed to be as aero efficient as possible with no restrictions of having to look like a road car version like the GT cars do. Don’t get me wrong, the GT cars make pretty good down force but they are at a big disadvantage since they, to an extent, have to have the same shape and lines as the street car version. Certainly from a fan standpoint, I think we all can agree that it’s cool to see the “same” car on track that you may have in your garage.
But the performance of the Prototype cars is just amazing and that makes the driving experience incredible. The designers of the Prototype cars are able to shape the cars on the top side and utilize a lot of aerodynamic features. They even maximize the shape of the bottom of the car to help it stay stuck to the ground. When you have a chance at your next IMSA race, take a look at a Prototype car and look at all the little aero pieces on these cars. Stand at the back and look underneath, you will see some pretty crazy looking aero bits on the rear of the car.
Where Do You Sit
The seating position is very different as well. The GT car has a pretty high-end, performance seat version of what you would find in your performance street car. The Prototype car is an all carbon fiber shell that is oversized so we can pour a seat insert into that and it is formed to our individual bodies. The G forces these Prototype cars produce really require you to have a seat that is very form fitting to each driver so that it supports our bodies in the corners. The cockpit is fairly tight in the Prototype car with enough room for the driver but not much else. Thankfully, I’m not claustrophobic!
Probably the most obvious thing from the fans standpoint is a completely different approach to the races. We will be going from GTD which is the “slowest” of the IMSA classes to the Prototype class which is the “fastest” class. So that means quite a bit less looking in the mirrors, I won’t miss that. Now, in our GTD Porsche GT3R we had a really cool radar system and rear view camera installed. This system helped us be aware of approaching faster class cars by using actual radar technology to help determine the closing speeds of the cars and then which side the car will most likely pass us on. Of course you use your mirrors like normal but this extra system is a huge help in keeping you on your toes. The closing rates from the GTD class cars to Prototype cars can be as much as 10 to 15 seconds a lap. That is a lot of passing action!
Secondly to the above point is the time between pit stops will be much shorter in Prototype as well. On average we are able to go about one hour before we need to stop for fuel in GTD, with the Prototype cars being able to go about 40 minutes before stopping for fuel. This makes for a few more pit stops and strategy options in Prototype. Also it makes being able to get onto and off of pit road very important since we will be doing it a few more times during the races. Not to mention getting those cold Continental tires up to operating temperature becoming more important, again as we just do it more often.
From the teams standpoint a much different car to work on. These Prototype cars are actually created as racing cars rather than being born a street car and then converted to a race car. So the designers are more easily able to think about making them easy for the mechanics to work on and make things easy to access. With that being said all the parts and pieces on the Prototype cars are very light weight and very small so we will probably have to buy some new tiny tools to work on the cars with. (Ha ha ha)
All-in-all the transition will be a lot of fun to make and probably more similar to what we have raced in the past with the PC car than making the transition last year from PC to the GT car. Don’t get me wrong, driving the GT car is incredibly fun and managing the traffic in the mirror is in itself a skill, but I am certainly looking forward to the incredible speed and being able to control the traffic a bit easier in the Prototype car. I really enjoying having the opportunity to race so many different cars and experience them in my career; GTD, GTLM, DP, PC, NASCAR, and soon Prototype LMP2 cars!