Sport Brown: United Autosports could “grab shot at podium” at Daytona

15:26  14 january  2018
15:26  14 january  2018 Source:   Read Sport

IndyCar-led teams outshine F1; Nasr claims pole

  IndyCar-led teams outshine F1; Nasr claims pole Qualifying concluded for the 24 Hours of Daytona on Sunday. Former Formula 1 driver, Felipe Nasr came out on top of a tug-of-war between former IndyCar driver Tristan Vautier. Nasr clocked a 01:35.806 in his Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R, a lap record for the marquee event. The 15-minute session had the grand prize of starting position, choice of pit box and garage location on the line. It didn’t come easy for the ex-Sauber pilot. Vautier proved to be a formidable opponent. The two trading positions between 1-2 several times before Nasr claiming the checkered flag all his own. In speaking with RACER Nasr had this to say: “We felt pretty confident,” Nasr said. “We felt the car was behaving well. Myself and Filipe (Albuquerque) in our sister car gave everything we had. The times were pretty close up in front. Some cars are not showing fully what they can do, but I know we are. I pushed 100-percent – nothing to hide here.” Throughout the field, with guest appearances by current and former F1 and IndyCar stars, saw new teams struggle to get up to speed. IndyCar drivers Simon Pagenaud and Juan Pablo Montoya paired up with Dane Cameron in the #6 Acura Team Penske and the Acura DPi factory effort. With Cameron, the #6 was able to muster a 01:36.988, a P5 grid position. While IndyCar aces Graham Rahal and Helio Castroneves are partnered with Ricky Taylor in the #7. The sister Acura was right behind in P6, driven by veteran Taylor.

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• 1988 Daytona winner Martin Brundle tempted back into competition with former Le Mans 24 Hour race winner Mark Blundell • United Autosports ’ Chairman & Co-Owner Zak Brown plus * Interviews can be arranged on request, either in advance or at the “Roar Before the Rolex 24” itself (January 7-9).

United Autosports co-founder Zak Brown has said that his team has a “shot” for a top-three finish at the Daytona 24 Hours despite describing preparations as “tough”.

Brown gave further insight into its experience of the pre-race events at Daytona on the main stage of the Autosport International show in Birmingham.

His team of Fernando Alonso, Phil Hanson and Lando Norris finished 12th in the mock qualifying session that decided grid boxes, 1.7 seconds adrift of Whelen leaders Mike Conway, Eric Curran, Stuart Middleton and Felipe Nasr.

The other United line-up of Hugo de Sadeleer, Paul di Resta, Will Owen and Bruno Senna completed the session a further three places back.

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  Nasr fastest in Rolex 24 mock qualifying Ex-Formula 1 driver Felipe Nasr led the Whelen Engineering Racing #31 team to victory in the first competition of the Daytona 24 Hours. Nasr set the only sub-1m36s time of the three day Roar Before the 24 test in the mock qualifying. The session, which took place on the final day of the test, has no impact on grid position, but determined the allocation of pit boxes for the race later this month. Nasr led a Cadillac DPi top four lock out, with Tristan Vautier putting the Spirit of Daytona Racing’s #90 Cadillac second with a 1m36.037s. After topping the times in both of Friday’s sessions, Felipe Albuquerque could only put the Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac in third, ahead of Renger van Der Zande in the Konica Minolta Cadillac and Team Penske’s Acuri DPi, driven by Dane Cameron. Fernando Alonso couldn’t repeat the instant success he found in his Indy500 outing. He finished the session 12th fastest of 20 prototype cars, 1.709s slower than Nasr but a quarter of a second faster than the sister United Autosport Liger. The Chip Ginassi Racing squad led the way in the GTLM class. Ryan Briscoe in the #67 Ford GT was set the pace early in the session, before Joey Hand put the #66 car top with five minutes remaining. Oliver Gavin in the Corvette Racing run Chevrolet knocked Briscoe down to third before the end of the session. In the GTD class, Mirko Bortolotti in the GRT Grasser Racing Team’s Lamborghini was fastest.

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“Testing was tough,” Brown said.

“The DPi [Daytona Prototype] cars were one through eight.

“They need the Balance of Performance, IMSA only got the LMP2 data in December, so we didn’t have much time, it’s a pretty difficult job to get those balanced.

“What we learned from the test is the DPi cars need to be pulled back, and they will, let’s just hope they pull them back enough.”

Brown believes that a streamlined operation will assist their chances, expecting to continue to struggle on pace alone.

“Our particular chassis, compared to the other LMP2s, it’s strength is the more higher-downforce circuits,” he added.

“Le Mans was our poorest qualifying last year, and we finished fourth.

“I anticipate qualifying will be tricky, and ultimate race pace will be a little bit off.

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“We need to do what we did at Le Mans, be the faster team in the pits, spend the least amount of time there, have the drivers do an awesome job – there’s a lot of traffic at Daytona, trickier to navigate than Le Mans because of the short in-fields.

“I think if we’re there at the end we’ll grab a shot at the podium.

“As far as out-and-out pace, the DPi cars have us covered.”

a man wearing a hat and sunglasses: Dan Istitene/Getty Images Sport © Dan Istitene/Getty Images Sport Dan Istitene/Getty Images Sport

Alonso ‘feels welcomed’ by United States

Brown also described how Alonso continues to take the attention of American paddocks and a role of ‘team leader’ while working with Hanson and Norris.

It will be the Spaniard’s second non-F1 race in the country following last year’s Indianapolis 500 attempt, and his first at the Daytona circuit.

“They all get their photo with him and meet him,” he added.

“That’s what great, especially about the US racing, they don’t hide their emotions, they don’t have this tough pitlane image.

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“When they see Fernando, they admire what he’s done, they are all F1 fans, so there’s a lot that want to get pictures with him, get his Kimoa hats, and things of that nature.

“It’s one of the things he likes about the States, he feels so welcomed.

“He’s enjoying it, he’s never raced with team-mates.

“He’s quickly become team leader which isn’t a surprise.

“He’s settled into the whole endurance format and, in traffic, his race pace is where he’ll really stand out.”

The Daytona 24 Hours takes place between January 25 and 28, with racing underway on January 27.

a man wearing sunglasses: F1 Grand Prix of Mexico - Practice © Clive Mason/Getty Images Sport F1 Grand Prix of Mexico - Practice

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