02 Mar Testing: 12 Hours of Sebring
Winward/HTP Motorsport completed a successful test at Sebring last week which saw its #57 Techemet AMG GT4 top the time sheets and run consistently up front throughout every session over both days.
With both the #3 and #33 both requiring significant attention post Daytona, it was decided to run only the car of team owner, Bryce Ward and his Dutch co-driver, Indy Dontje. For the man from Alkmaar, Netherlands, the 3.74 mile former air base circuit had a formidable reputation but the 25 year old quickly found it to his liking. “I’d heard a lot of stories about the place prior to driving there, losing your teeth and so forth but it was quite okay.”
Once Dontje was confident that he had come to grips to the seventeen turn layout he felt confident enough to make positive adjustments to the Techemet AMG GT4. “I started the first session and it only really took me about eight laps to find my rhythm, then we started making some changes to the car prior to the second session,” explained the Dutchman. “We made some adjustments to the rear, mainly to provide us with a bit more balance and to give Bryce more confidence in the high speed corners. It worked as we were quickest in that session and we really feel like we will be in a good position when we get back here in a couple of weeks.
The team owner’s performance throughout the weekend was the result of thorough preparation as outlined by his coach and teammate, Damien Faulkner. “Bryce is a formidable character and you knew he would leave no stone unturned in his preparation for the test at Sebring. He had been on the home simulator fourteen times in fourteen days leading up to the test. That is a measure of his approach and his level of professionalism. Bryce is very methodical, he will observe what he can and try and take in as much data as possible. That is no easy task at Sebring with it’s seventeen turns, constant bumps and multiple changes in surface throughout each lap.”
With no experience of the AMG GT4 at this venue it was important to reduce the gradient of Ward’s learning curve as much as possible. “We tried to limit the amount of data we gave Bryce between sessions,” Faulkner explained. “There are literally hundreds of points of data that you could work on but we narrowed it down to just three key factors at each debrief.” Faulkner went on to explain that “early on, the priorities were T1 and T17 which are the primary challenges for anyone tackling Sebring for the first time.”
“I felt like I had three coaches this week,” enthused the Team Owner, Bryce Ward. “I’m delighted with the progress we made across the two days and I really feel like I have made significant gains on a personal level. I’m confident that we return for the race, I will be able to really keep pace with the best of the gentleman drivers in the GS field and give Indy a real chance to get our car on the podium.”
For Faulkner and his co-driver in the #33 car, the two days presented a chance to prepare in a somewhat different manner to normal. “The test was really valuable for us as Russell [Ward] and I were able to sit down with our engineer and have an in-depth discussion about how we wanted to approach the race week. We have a lot less running than the guys in the #57 car but I think we will catch up primarily because our engineer, Greg Fordahl, is an absolute master at Sebring. We have very high expectations for the #33 in terms of the rest of the season.”
All three Winward/HTP Motorsport cars will be back at Sebring for Round Two of the 2018 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120, takes place on March 16th at Sebring International Raceway. You can follow the action live via IMSA’s live timing and scoring at https://scoring.imsa.com/. You can also get session-by-session updates from the Official Winward Racing Twitter and Instagram accounts at https://twitter.com/