Watkins Glen: Onesie or Twosie
Watkins Glen: Onesie or Twosie
Some things, such as shoes, socks and creatures boarding Noah’s Ark typically come in pairs. So do most factory race car teams.
Here in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans class, BMW Team RLL, Corvette Racing, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and Porsche North America all field powerful two car factory teams while Ferrari takes a different path.
In addition to doubling the track time in testing and the odds for a successful race, two car GTLM teams can accelerate development, test twice as many set-ups and tire options, and split their race strategies.
But not all two cars teams are as successful as others. “Human nature is a powerful thing, and it’s not just the drivers, it’s also for the engineers,” said Jay O’Connell, technical director for the highly successful BMW Team RLL.
“A two car team is an advantage only if you can get everyone to work together,” said O’Connell.
“In fact, that is my job. If we are all together, then the only disadvantage is having adjoining pits where we can slow each other up on entry and exit of pit stops.”
Taking on the two car factory teams is a big, but not impossible task.
“Working as a one car team, there are different challenges,” says Risi Competizione Ferrari’s Toni Vilander.
“If you have a one car team, or let’s say a one brand car in the championship, there is always a question of whether we could have done something a little bit more, was there something we could have done better? The biggest challenge is always when you approach the weekend set-up wise, the time frame is really limited for the practice sessions.
“Even if you have a clear run and manage to do everything that was planned during the test sessions, there is always that certain feeling of getting more out of the race car – it is a continuous fine tuning of the race car.
“If we were to have two competitive race cars in the same team, under the same tent, under the same engineers, we could share some of the testing,” said Vilander.
All for One
“On the other hand, everything is concentrated to us,” said Vilander.
“We have the best guys chosen to our group, the preparation for that one car – all the extra effort and pieces are given to us – so on that side, it’s a positive to be the center of attention.
“We have seen Risi for many years having the one car way of doing it and it seems to work really well for the team.”
Race Strategies & Tactics
In longer races, two car teams can split strategies, stagger pit stops, assess tire changes, control the race pace, hold up or attack a competitor, or even have cars swap positions to enable the quicker car to gain track position or benefit the car higher in the championship standings.
Late in a race, if one car is leading, two car teams will often instruct drivers to “hold position” until the finish to avoid overstressing equipment or contact with its sister car.
That was certainly not the case at the 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona where Corvette Racing used a split strategy, then let its two cars race flat-out to the finish, which was decided by 0.034 of a second.
1 Can Be 2 and 2 are 4
Actually, even the two car teams are often not totally alone as data and insights can be quickly shared.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing actually has a pair of two car teams, with cars both here in the WeatherTech Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Although Risi Competizione is a one-car team, it is not totally alone. “This year there are two cars, we have the No. 68 (Scuderia Corsa Ferrari) car,” said Vilander.
“I would not call it a sister car because they do their own job and we do ours, but there is Ferrari and Michelotto (Ferrari technical center) in between.”
Both teams have podium finishes already this year and Corsa won the GTLM class pole in Monterey.
“The target is to get both Ferraris as high as possible in the standings,” said Vilander. “Obviously, we want be the one that is ahead of the other one.”
For no matter how many cars there are in a team, only one can win.