From Issue Four of Gear Patrol Magazine.
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Imagine if the Super Bowl were the first game of the season and, instead of the usual spectator-friendly, commercial-packed four-hour run time, it went for a full 24 hours straight — from coin toss to the final whistle blow. Hardly any players would last the whole game; the surviving players would hardly be unscathed. No matter how many multi-million-dollar 30-second commercials one might dangle in front of Roger Goodell, the NFL would never sign o on the idea. But that’s exactly how sports car racing in America kicks o each season — with a nonstop race that lasts two full trips around the clock. It’s a gauntlet that has been run for the past 51 years. It’s called the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, and it’s one of the toughest tests both man and machine can endure.
Up and down the Daytona grid, cars from brands you see every day — Cadillac, Porsche, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Ferrari, Chevrolet and Lamborghini — battle it out to prove who has the best product. Since the rules of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) dictate that competing cars must, with a few regulated modifications, share common architecture and internals with their road car equivalents, endurance racing is the clearest and most unbiased way for a company to see how its pride and joy stacks up. Lower classes of race cars are nearly identical to the production cars you might see on the street. Top classes, referred to as “prototype” classes, have incredibly aerodynamic, experimental bodywork, but are still required to use engines based on motors from street-legal production cars. Racing is how a car company puts its money where its mouth is; a victory at Daytona says more than any silver-tongued ad campaign could hope to. This is where that old adage, “win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” was born.
Coming into the 2017 IMSA season, Cadillac, in particular, was capturing all the headlines, having been absent from prototype racing since 2002. The brand could have chosen to race in the lower classes, but there’s more glory to be had in the top-flight Daytona Prototype International (DPi) Class, the all-or-nothing class that tends to win the 24 Hours of Daytona outright. So Cadillac went all-in and sourced the 640 horsepower 6.2-liter V8 from the CTS-V, the most powerful engine the brand has ever put on the road.
Originally built for day-to-day driving, the CTS-V sedan is designed to haul families and groceries during the week, then haul ass at the occasional weekend track day. It’s a relatively unassuming four-door sedan with an interior clad in leather, brushed aluminum, and splashes of suede and carbon fiber — a car with ample leg room in the back and usable trunk space. But give it a long enough stretch of road, and that supercharged V8 will move the 4,129-pound car to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and top out at 200 mph — stats historically reserved for supercars from Ferrari or Porsche. Which is why the CTS-V’s V8 was the perfect candidate to power Cadillac’s DPi car, dubbed the DPi-V.R, for the 2017 race.
A victory at Daytona says more than any silver-tongued ad campaign could hope to.
Ironically, Cadillac needed to tone down the engine to about 600 horsepower in order to meet the IMSA’s regulations for the new DPi class. Along with regulated power output, 2017 DPi cars are governed by numerous new rules regarding their design and construction. DPi cars are basically highly aerodynamic carbon-fiber-framed and -bodied, mid-engined vehicles from Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan. Still, they must incorporate design cues from their respective road cars, and the engine underneath a DPi’s aggressive air-cutting bodywork is what’s most similar to its street-legal siblings. Putting production engines to the test is the cars’ reason for being: to help push each manufacturer’s engine technology to the limit, far beyond what a consumer might ever experience.
DPi-V.R driver Ricky Taylor said the engine gave the team a huge advantage. As in the real world, “In sports car racing there’s lots of different engines that do different things well. There’s turbo-powered cars, tiny little four-cylinders, and then there’s the big 6.2-liter V8 that we have,” he said. “Some of the other engines will take a while to build power and spool up but have a really good top speed. The strong point for us is how much torque the engine makes. So when you’re racing for twenty-four hours and there are slower cars you need to get by efficiently, we can get clear of them pretty quickly and safely with a little squirt of power between corners, whereas the other cars might have to out-brake them into corners and take more risks.”