Daytona Prototype farewell
Daytona Prototype farewell
The 2016 Petit Le Mans marks the end of an era in North American Sports Car racing for the Daytona Prototypes.
Looking to establish a fast, safe and affordable class of Prototypes for the GRAND–AMERICAN Rolex Sports Car Series, founder Jim France, Brumos team owner Bob Snodgrass and driver Hurley Haywood roughed out the framework.
Fabcar’s Dave Klym created the first copies and the DPs soon became a foundational part of the series platform.
From just six DPs on the grid for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2003, the DP ranks quickly grew as manufacturers and teams saw the speed, safety and affordability of the DPs established. There were 17 DPs on the grid at the Rolex 24 in 2004.
At peak, there were 29 DPs in the GRAND-AM field, with Pontiac, BMW, Lexus, Porsche, Toyota, Chevrolet and Ford arriving at various stages.
Competition was close and popular favorites like the Gainsco Red Dragon and the Chip Ganassi Racing entries and driver Scott Pruett emerged.
The merger of the GRAND-AM and American Le Mans Series (ALMS) was announced in the fall of 2012.
Each series would operate separately in 2013 and then join together in a combined new series for the 2014 season.
The difficulty in executing that plan became evident as the respective series took to the track in separate sessions and races in a 2013 double-header weekend at Road America. The gap from the ALMS pole winning LMP2 car to the pole winning DP was 6.2 seconds per lap.
As series officials analyzed that weekend’s timing and data, they quickly recognized additional challenges.
The pro drivers in the Pro-Am based ALMS Prototype Challenge cars were marginally quicker than the DPs and the factory based GT cars were only two seconds back.
Trying to establish a stratification for the four classes in the new series with a unified Prototype class, PCs, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona cars meant that the DPs needed significant updates to be competitive with the ALMS LMP2 cars in the new top class.
Getting out the Checkbook
It is an axiom of racing that speed costs money. Making up a six second gap would be very expensive. The designers and engineers concluded that the DPs would need an additional 100 horsepower, paddle shifters, new diffusers, and bigger front and rear wings.
Initial projections estimated the price tag at $150,000 – $175,000 per car. According to team principals, by the time the cars were fully sorted, the final tallies had doubled or even tripled that initial estimate.
The New World
The launch of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series saw an interesting mix of DPs and LMP2s deliver comparable lap times and competitive races. The LMP2s appeared to have a bit of an edge in qualifying trim, while the extra torque helped the DPs in traffic and on restarts.
The field of DPs however shrank as the costs linked to the upgrades became clearer and teams began to look ahead to the new 2017 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) and LMP2 options.
The Action Express DP Chevrolet of Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa has claimed the first two championships in 2014 and 2015. They are locked in a tight WeatherTech Championship battle with teammates Eric Curran and Dane Cameron who hold a slim lead with the Whelen liveried DP heading into Road Atlanta.
The VisitFlorida Racing team with drivers Marc Goossens and Ryan Dalziel remains highly competitive and the Wayne Taylor Racing team, featuring brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor, winners of the most recent event at Circuit of The Americas would like to notch the final victory for the DPs. All four are Chevrolet powered.
“The DP is my favorite car to drive,” said Jordan Taylor after his victory at COTA.
DPs have been a big part of the Taylor family’s team and Jordan and Ricky’s careers.
“I grew up watching my dad and Max (Angelelli) race DPs,” said Jordan Taylor. “It is where I got my first major championship (2013).”
“I’m sad to see it go. I will miss driving it.”
Perhaps winning the final race with the current DPs will help ease some of that sting.