If you were to put the Legend – the car that took Lawrence Davey to the UK series title and to the top of the Sunoco Grand–Am 200 Challenge points – and the Mitchum Motorsport Chevrolet Camaro he will drive at Daytona International Speedway side-by-side you would think they had nothing in common.
In some respects you’d be right. In some respects the challenge facing Davey is completely alien, but there a surprising number of similarities when you consider the two cars involved.
For starters racing in the US is not something unknown to Davey, unlike any of the other siders who Sunoco have propelled from UK and European series to race at Daytona in recent years. The only difference for Davey, whose US experience comes from representing the UK championship at the Legends finals at both Sonoma and Las Vegas, is that he will take on the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at Daytona in a saloon car – a first for the 27-year-old on either side of the Atlantic – but, speaking to www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk, he reveals an unlikely number parallels between the two cars.
An unlikely number, arguably, being any given the difference in stature between the two machines.
He refers to his 600kgcar, powered by a 1200cc Yamaha engine. “The car is very lightweight and the engine it’s got delivers a lot of power but it’s got low grip because the tyres are hard.”
That’s something that translates directly to the slab of American Muscle Car he will drive in Florida.
“With the Camaro the grip compared to the car is low, but it’s still more than I’ve got in the Legend,” he explains. “Because of the tyres there were drivers were complaining because the cars were loose and wouldn’t do they wanted which is the same problem with a Legend. I managed to get to grips quite quickly because I was adapting some of the driving styles I use, which the drivers out there who haven’t driven a Legend haven’t got, to the Camaro.”
He continues to compare the two machines; “getting the car into the corners and turning in it, even getting the power out of the corners is very similar because there’s a live rear axle on the Legend it’ll just spin the wheels up on the exit of the corner. It’s the same with the Camaro, you’ve got be patient and ease the throttle in gently.”
Davey’s sense of familiarity with the car was added to over the course of the three day test at Daytona International Speedway, Davey’s first laps in the car after only clinching the Grand-Am 200 Challenge on the final weekend of the Legends championship, staying ahead of Production Touring Car Trophy champion Gary Duckman.
Sharing the Camaro with American Mike Skeen the testing began in the wet (“it was just like being at home” jokes Davey) the pair recording the eighth fastest time of the session. They would go on top take the same spot on the timesheets in the dry running that followed on the Saturday and Sunday Skeen setting the best times, Davey only a few tenths shy.
“The team was developing the car while we were out there,” says Davey, “so they were putting new parts on the car and I was out in the car giving the feedback, we’d make slight changes to the car until I was happy with the car. When I came in Mike got in and straight away he was happy with the car as well so we’ve got very similar driving styles and we both like the car doing the same thing which is quite handy in an endurance race.”
The biggest – pun probably intended – challenge the team faced during the weekend was the difference in height between their two drivers. “He’s six foot three and I’m very short,” Davey admits.
Despite the positive results from the test, and the relative ease with which Davey has taken to the car he remains very aware of the challenge that lies ahead in the race, and around the 3.56mile Daytona road course.
“It didn’t hit me how steep the banking was until I drove on the banking,” Davey focuses on the most alien aspect of the track. “I drove the car out of the pitlane and did the infield bit with no problem at all but as soon as I hit the banking it was ‘oh, hang on a second, this is something else.”
Another challenge facing Davey is the race itself, a two hour, 30 minute race with an entry approaching eighty cars – view the full entry here. Then there is the lingering spectre that mechanical problems can bring the prize to a shuddering halt, as happened, unfortunately to Aaron Steele, who won on the first Grand-Am 200 Challenge.
“Anything can happen,” Davey concludes. “The guys at Grand-Am and Sunoco have done fantastically to give me this opportunity so hopefully I can grab it with both hands.”