Van der Zande confident after “flawless” Cadillac test at Sebring

Van der Zande shares the Ganassi-run #01 Cadillac V-LMDh with Sebastien Bourdais, and this pair – along with endurance extra Scott Dixon – started fourth and finished third in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. That was the race debut of the GTP-class cars in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship, and while Cadillac looked strong, in the final daylight stints of the race, the V-LMDhs were left a tad breathless by the 2.4-liter twin-turbo Acura ARX-06s that finished 1-2.

However van der Zande sounded confident that the Cadillacs will be better tuned to the demands of the bumpy 3.74-mile Sebring course, venue for the classic 12-hour race which will be IMSA’s second round of the season.

“We had two really good days of testing,” he said. “I felt for the first time we could really work on the car and the car ran flawlessly. Building up to the Daytona race was something where we were going into the unknown, and now we’re starting to understand the car better and better, which is why we’re improving on the car setup-wise as well.

“It’s been a lot of kilometers in the car, working with the engineers and mechanics to make things better in Sebring specifically. I feel we have a very good base going there for the 12 Hours.”

Laura Wontrop Klauser, GM’s sportscar program manager, was frank in her assessment of the Cadillac V-LMDh which this year faces IMSA opposition from not only Acura but also the Porsche Penske Motorsports 963s and the BMW M Power Hybrid V8s.

“Daytona was nice to have sort of a 24-hour dress rehearsal for Le Mans within a race itself, and we were hoping to have come away with the trophy,” she admitted. “I’d say the main takeaways were we are very pleased with our vehicles, we think we have a strong package but we need to find some more pace.”

Cadillac and Ganassi are running a V-LMDh in the World Endurance Championship this year, too, and its season-opening 1000-mile race will be held at Sebring the day before IMSA’s 12 hour race.

“There is a lot of development between now and the Sebring race kicking off the WEC season, continuing to fine-tune the vehicle, understand what it’s good at, what we need to do to get better, working through all of the details,” said Klauser. “The good news is we have 24 hours of data to do that, but there is not that much time to take the data and work with it.”

Klauser’s point regarding the need to find pace in the Cadillacs was highlighted by Filipe Albuquerque’s best effort for Wayne Taylor Racing Acura during the test, in which he set a best lap half a second quicker than any of his rivals. Mathieu Jaminet was closest in his Porsche 963, a tenth quicker than van der Zande’s Ganassi Cadillac.

Albuquerque commented: “We are freestyling on the setup, trying to figure out what happens here, what happens there. But again, it’s always a pleasure driving the car and I’m having a really good feeling – especially coming from the DPi here where last year I think we were kind of struggling a little bit at this track, and this car is just better. I think we addressed well the points from DPi to now, so it’s a better ride over these bumps.

“Sebring is completely different than Daytona, and it’s super interesting to see everyone has kind of packed up [closer together] … but still there is a lot to come and for sure in the race we will be all packed up.”

The Daytona-winning Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-06 was sidelined by an off-course excursion and mechanical issues but returned to the fray in time for Tom Blomqvist to set a time within 0.85sec of Albuquerque in Thursday morning practice.

Worryingly for BMW, Nick Yelloly and Philipp Eng set best times that were 1.77sec off Albuquerque’s pace.

Fifteen GT3 cars – two GTD Pro and 13 GTD – joined the test, and the #32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 led four of the sessions, with Mikael Grenier clocking the best lap of any GT car. Grenier’s teammates Mike Skeen and Kenton Koch also topped a session each, with the #12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F of Parker Thompson preventing the Korthoff Benz from sweeping every GTD session.

While the Lamborghini Huracan of Forte Racing was within half a second of Grenier’s best pace, the fastest BMW M4 driver (Robby Foley of Turner Motorsport) was 0.8sec adrift, Spencer Pumpelly’s Magnus Racing Aston Martin Vantage was 0.87sec away, the Ferrari 296 of Triarsi Competizione was over a second from the Mercedes benchmark, and the fastest Porsche 911 GT3 R was 0.129 off the pace.

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