The endurance classic has a recent trend of producing the most exciting finishes, 2017 notwithstanding.
If I’m being honest with myself the race was a little bit boring this year for at least the first 20 hours or so. That’s how endurance racing has traditionally been throughout my lifetime, but since about the mid-2000s this race has been the proverbial “24-hour sprint”. Being that most of the field was running a brand new car with zero race miles under its tires, the number of retirements was hardly a surprise, but it was certainly noticeable. In years past with the stout, tried, and true prototypes of old, there would often be handfuls of cars on the lead lap as the finish neared, but this year just two. How did Caddy manage this?
Cadillac practically led this race from flag to flag. There were a couple of brief intermissions where some other prototype would come into play for a while, usually on balance of an off-sequence pit stop. For outright speed, though, it was Cadillac and Cadillac alone. The three Cadillac DPI competitors were the only cars capable of running a lap of the circuit in the 1:36 range, though a couple of the Orecas and one of the Nissans were capable of 1:37s, the rest of the field was turning 1:38s or more. At a track like Daytona, torque is important, launch off the corners is important, because of traffic. For the most part, a prototype can make quick work of traffic on the banking with a much quicker acceleration phase and faster
At a track like Daytona, torque is important, launch off the corners is important, because of traffic. For the most part, a prototype can make quick work of traffic on the banking with a much quicker acceleration phase and faster top speed. On the infield and through the bus stop, though, the GT cars will hold up the prototypes through the corners. If you can get a good drive off of the corner, say out of International Horseshoe 1, you can have the pass done before you get to the kink.
Traffic, more like than not, was adversely affecting the turbocharged Mazda and Nissan prototypes as boost wasn’t as readily available at lower speeds. The Cadillac’s 6.0 liter V8 was also muscling around the ACO-spec prototypes with 3.5 liter Gibson engines. Over the last few years of LMP2 Vs. Daytona Prototype, you could see that the cars with big V8s did better in traffic than the smaller forced-induction engine cars. More than traffic, though, the Cadillac was simply more reliable. Mazda’s diminutive 2-liter turbo self-destructed in one of their cars, in catastrophic fashion.
I will give IMSA credit, however, aside from the Cadillac’s clear lap time advantage at Daytona, and the GTLM classed BMWs suffering at the back of the pack down on speed, they did a really good job of providing a Balance of Performance for this year’s race.
So, why is a Caddy win good for IMSA? Simply for the phrase “Cadillac Wins Daytona”. If the car doing the winning had been a Multimatic/Riley DPI with a Gibson engine, literally nobody would have cared. Probably not even me, and I’m a racing fanatic. IMSA can promote this victory, Cadillac can promote IMSA, and everyone wins. Moreover, not only did Cadillac win, but they won with some guy named Jeff Gordon at the wheel, and he’s a recognizable figure to more than just traditional sportscar fans. Do I think that IMSA maybe gave Cadillac a little extra speed, hoping for this outcome? I’d never be so cynical. Do I think that Cadillac perhaps played the BoP game a little better than the competition? Maybe.
With this victory in one of sports car racing’s biggest races, Cadillac finally earns the spurious laurel wreath that decades but was removed in 2013. Congratulations to Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor, Max Angelelli, and Jeff Gordon for surviving the 24.
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