Porsche, Cadillac GTPs share track at Sebring

Dane Cameron has been working with Team Penske for years, so his technicians don’t need to hear much from him to know if his car is functioning properly.

“They know how to read me,” Cameron said. “They know when I’m happy or unhappy.”

What they read through his smile last week was encouraging. Two rival manufacturers – Porsche and Cadillac – met at Sebring International Raceway to test the cars that will debut next year as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Cameron, who tested the new Porsche 963 with fellow Porsche works drivers Andre Lotterer, Felipe Nasr and Laurens Vanthoor, communicated an optimistic review. It has been a complicated but affirmative next step, he said of the car’s first test in North America, and uniquely important.

“It’s been pretty big so far,” Cameron said. “We have a lot of staff on hand and a lot of engineers who support this program. Once all is well and buttoned up it will be more seamless, but the early run was definitely pretty intense. ”

Similar reactions were found on the other side of the Sebring paddock, where Earl Bamber, Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Alex Lynn tested the Cadillac LMDh prototype. Bamber gained more appreciation for the future of the class when he saw both prototypes up close – the first time two GTP manufacturers shared the same track for a test.

“I think they look phenomenal,” Bamber said. “They have fantastically different style features. You can definitely tell the difference between our Cadillac and the Porsche. You can definitely see them on the trail. You also have the different sounds.

“So it’s not just where they all look the same. They are definitely very, very different, and that’s what we need for this category too. And I think it’s going to be fascinating.”

Cadillac and Porsche will join Acura and BMW when the WeatherTech Championship’s new prototype class debuts in January at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, with Lamborghini in 2024. The manufacturers are now testing independently, with series of mandatory tests for anyone scheduled after the 2022 season.

The significance of the GTP debut has not escaped anyone’s attention, especially the drivers.

“It will be a golden era for motorsport in general with all the brands that will join,” said Vanthoor. “We haven’t seen it in over twenty years. I hope it lasts a long time and makes it even better to be a part of it. Those who will win the big races in the championships have won something very special. ”

One of the more intriguing aspects of the Sebring test was the collaboration between the two participants. The LMDh cars under development for the GTP class will combine each manufacturer’s engine and body styling with a shared hybrid platform. Engineers from Cadillac and Porsche exchanged data from the hybrid system, allowing both manufacturers to get to grips with its intricate personality.

“Driving two cars is always better than one,” said Jonathan Diuguid, general manager of Porsche Penske Motorsport. “The manufacturers really bought into this shared hybrid platform, and it wasn’t just developed for our cars.

“It was developed for Cadillac and all those other manufacturers that participate in the program. To see one of our manufacturer partners and competitors on the track at the same time is really exciting for everyone involved. We really welcome it. Frankly, we waited a long time for it.”

Part wait because the knowledge gained from racing translates to a brand’s production vehicles. The future of the car is electric and the knowledge gained from racing the new GTP class will go back to what the manufacturers are selling in the showroom.

“It gives us an opportunity to move into the future of automation, which we do in our own company,” said Laura Wontrop Klauser, General Motors’ sports car program manager. “At General Motors, we are transitioning to our electric future. Anytime you can use racing to help develop your production components, that’s great.

“Even though this is a hybrid system and not a full EV (electric vehicle), we still use an electric motor and we have a very complex controlled system, all of which is well learned going back to production.”

The initial feedback is quietly optimistic. There is still a mountain to climb, but early steps through the foothills are promising. Just ask Cameron’s engineers.

“They know me, they trust me, they know what my feedback is and whether I’m happy or unhappy,” said Cameron. “That only helps us to move even faster.”

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