Although testing was held at Sebring International Raceway on Monday and Tuesday, official practice kicked off Thursday with three sessions – two in the day and one of everyone's favorite sessions, the two-hour night practice, later on. Some news and notes from around the paddock:
RACE TO BUILD THE NEW CARS – If some observers may regret the fact some WEC prototype teams are running cars in 2011 specifications this weekend, a reality check of how hard assembling a new prototype is served by the teams that are running their new 2012 models.
New WEC entrants JRM Racing (LEFT) and Starworks Motorsport only got their HPDs within the last couple weeks, one P1 and one in P2 spec, and took them out for their first shakedowns late Tuesday afternoon. JRM's David Brabham, twice a class winner at Sebring (GT1 with Aston Martin, GT2 with Panoz), was in a similar situation last year when his Highcroft team assembled its HPD ARX-01e from boxes to a full car throughout the week – and with almost no time to fine tune, still finished second overall.
“It's almost déjà vu,” Brabham said of his situation. “Realistically we have a tough challenge. Our team is new to this form of racing, Peter (Dumbreck, co-driver) was last in a GT1 Mercedes-Benz in 1999, and our pit stops probably won't be there. Our goal's to finish, but the good news is the car is almost exactly the same as last year save for the aero.”
On the ALMS side, two prototype teams have had their first running of their new cars this week. Dyson's P1 Lola B12/60 Mazda (ABOVE the JRM car) and Black Swan Racing's ex-Level 5 Lola HPD coupe for P2 only arrived recently. Black Swan, which steps up from GTC, worked throughout the winter figuring out how to make its P2 aspirations a reality.Conquest Endurance was also new on track this week with its Morgan Judd, but its drivers at least had prior testing time last month – Martin Plowman's initial running came in France, but this week has had to make three different seats to accommodate himself next to his co-drivers.
“Once I'd agreed to make the switch, I was honestly a little nervous,” Plowman said. “Would it be a different kind of car, would it be jumping into something without I knew what I was getting into? But in the first 5-10 laps, in the car, it was real just like learning an IndyCar all over again. The driving style, driving balance is the same. Essentially it's a slightly heavier open-wheel car, and coming from IndyCar, it wasn't a dramatic switch.”
A video of Dyson putting its new P1 car together is below: