In this edition of our WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (WTSC) round table we take a look at the 20-turns of Circuit of the Americas (CoTA). We talked to Ryan Dalziel and Alessandro Balzan to get their perspective on what to expect from the 2017 Texas showdown at CoTA. Take a look…
Q: What challenges does a track like CoTA present?
Dalziel: CoTA is always a tough track to set up the car and tires for. There is such a mix of very high speed corners in the first half followed by a very slow second half of the track. So knowing whether to run high or low downforce is tough. The more downforce you run, the slower you are on the long straight but you’re faster in the corners with better tire wear. So the key is working hard on the mechanical grip of the car so you’re gentle on tires and can run less downforce than your competitors
Balzan: CoTA is one of those tracks that has all kinds of corners - from a first gear corner like T1 to 5th gear corner like the esses. In our GTD class Ferrari 488 GT3 we have ABS and traction control, which means that in every corner from the braking to the exit we are always at the limit of what the tires can do. In the last three races at CoTA the heat was the biggest challenge, both for the driver not to overdrive the car and for the engineer to hit the ideal window between tire pressure and tire temperature. Last year my No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari was perfect on the long stint.
Q: What is the tire strategy for a race at CoTA?
Dalziel: In the past it's been very tough to double stint four tires at CoTA but with the new Continental tire from this year being very durable that may change. If we can, you may see some people changing only two tires to gain track position
Balzan: Last year there was a big gain using new tires, but it will be very important to see what the weather will bring and work from that. CoTA is a really demanding track on tires but I see opportunity to double stint tires depending on fuel strategy.
Q: What is your most memorable moment from CoTA?
Dalziel: First off, I love Austin as a city so every time I get to go I'm happy. As far as racing, I've been lucky to have some really good races there. Not sure what year but I think it was 2011 with Starworks. We came from one lap down to finish second. I passed (Scott) Pruett with about five laps to go and got within I think 0.5 seconds of beating (Alex) Gurney over the line. That was a cool one for me.
Balzan: It’s really fresh, and it’s from last year when we grabbed third position on the last lap due to another car running out of fuel – that was a big result for our championship run! I also can’t forget the heat that was in the car. I had personally the proper Texas BBQ experience inside the Ferrari.
Q: What can fans expect to see at this year’s CoTA race?
Dalziel: We tested there recently with the Patron Nissan DPi and the fans can expect to see some fast cars through the high speed corners. For sure the new cars have made CoTA a lot more physically demanding. After two days of testing I was pretty wrecked. Expect a good race like we've seen in the first three IMSA races of 2017.
Balzan: CoTA is one of the best tracks for fans. The tower in the middle offers a very unique view of any race track – you can almost see the whole circuit. Personally, I love to take some time to watch the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race from there. Both turn one and the left-hander at the end of the long backstraight offers great opportunities for overtaking, so its a great show for the fans!