This season’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has brought highs and lows to Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 01 Cadillac V-LMDh.
The No. 01 entry started the year off with a strong debut in the new Grand Touring Prototype class at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Drivers Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon wheeled the Cadillac to a third-place finish during the 24-hour race at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
At last month’s 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring (Fla.) Int’l Raceway, it looked to be a clear victory with the yellow and black Cadillac out front for 120 laps. However, disaster struck with three hours remaining when a fuel leak dismantled the team’s dominating performance.
Now, it’s a reset for the CGR team as they head into this weekend’s annual Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in California eyeing a repeat of last season’s victory.
Within the team’s three wins last season, two came on street circuits, including the last event at Detroit’s Belle Isle track.
Learning the new hybrid-powered prototype machine is a challenge in itself, but Bourdais is looking past it, keeping focus on the team’s recent performances.
“I think it translates pretty well from Sebring to Long Beach,” Bourdais said. “The Cadillac was always labeled as the car to beat at Sebring and street courses, because it’s a car that wasn’t super ride-height sensitive.
“I think now we’ve seen cars of a different generation, which seems to be conceptually closer together. I don’t think we’ll see the the road course monster against the street course monster, where they kind of end up being on completely different spectrums, which made it very difficult to the series to balance them as far as performance.
“I think it will be more open everywhere. I just hope that we’re on the right side of the fence at pretty much every event.”
While the competition may be closer this season compared to previous years, a big hurdle at Long Beach involves the tight corners the 1.968-mile track presents.
With passing at a premium on the 11-turn course, Bourdais emphasized the importance of qualifying.
“Long Beach is obviously quite hard to pass, so the track position will be will be key, so strong qualifying,” Bourdais said.
Pairing time trials with only one pit stop to make it through the 100-minute event provides a certain sense of urgency to the drivers and teams to be on point. To add another layer to the equation, it will also be the first street circuit for the GTP car.
Despite the unknowns, Bourdais’ co-pilot van der Zande is confident the No. 01 team will be ready for anything.
“It’ll be a new track for this car, so we’ll have to see how it behaves. Tire degradation has always been a bit of a topic in Long Beach, so there is a lot of new news for this race which is a good thing,” van der Zande said.
“We’re prepared to go and make the most out of what we know and then fine tune things once we get there.”