This weekend’s Daytona 24 Hours will be one of the closest in recent years, according to the drivers of the #90 VisitFlorida Racing Coyote-Corvette.
The team is on home soil for the 54th running of IMSA’s flagship endurance event, as it hopes to begin the 2016 WeatherTech Sportscar Championship with a victory.
In 2016 Troy Flis’ crew takes on a new look, with two new regular season drivers in Dutch star Marc Goossens and Florida-based Briton Ryan Dalziel, with IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay joining the pair for the endurance events.
“The field in the last couple years maybe wasn’t as strong as this one,” said Dalziel. “For sure, the Prototype field has been fairly strong. The difference this year is the diversity of the field. The P2 cars and the DeltaWing have looked fast. It used to be that you’d look to see which Daytona Prototype was going to be the class-leading car. Now there are definitely four, five or six cars at this point that potentially could do well”
VisitFlorida enjoyed its best-ever result at Daytona in 2015, finishing third behind two other DP machines.
In the championship the team came even closer, finishing second overall after the rain-soaked finale at Road Atlanta. As team owner Flis explains, the disappointment of the previous season has made the objective for 2016 even more explicit.
“Our challenge and goal this year is to go win the championship,” he said. “The ultimate goal at every race is to do well and run up front all year long. So we’re going to do whatever we have to do to do all that. I have pretty high expectations. We have a good car, a good package, and a good engineering group to support all of that. It’ll be interesting to see the new cars and the balancing and everything. I’m excited to go win some races this year.”
The #90 Coyote-Corvette struggled for pace at the pre-event Roar, with the 1:40.418s fastest lap still nearly a second off the pace of the quickest LMP2. Ongoing gearbox issues and the inevitable learning curve associated with a new driver combination slowed the team’s progress, but the crew believes that everything is now in place for a shot at victory in the race.
“There’s no reason not to think that we could win this race,” said Hunter-Reay, who has two Daytona 24 podiums to his name. “We just need to focus on getting the most out of the car that we can. If history repeats itself, there are a lot changes between when you leave the Roar and when you come back for the race. We need to keep working.”
VisitFlorida Racing will join the other WeatherTech Sportscar teams at Daytona for free practice and qualifying on Thursday, January 28. This will be followed by additional practice on Friday, before the race itself goes green at 14:40 ET on Saturday, January 30.