Paul Di Resta’s one-stop strategy paid off in Canada

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With almost all of the running in practice and qualifying completed on a wet or damp track this weekend, it meant the amount of useful information about the all important tire compounds was severely limited ahead of a dry race.

Teams use Fridays and Saturdays to prepare their cars under controlled conditions of high and low fuel, long and short runs, different tires and of course different set up options. This weekend there was no opportunity to learn about how the two dry compounds would work in a race situation, how long they would last and therefore at what kind of pitstop strategies they might have available. To all intents and purposes the teams’ strategists were relatively blind going into the race.

On the flip side of that, the use of intermediate tires in qualifying meant free choice to all in terms of starting tire compound for the Grand Prix.

With Sebastian Vettel largely unchallenged out front as his championship rivals started well back after qualifying struggles, I’m looking at two strategies further down in the field, one that worked and one that definitely didn’t.

Force India’s Paul Di Resta had an awful day on Saturday, qualifying way down in 17th position, his only option for the race was to try something a little different, a gamble.

Where the front-runners all opted to start on the option tire, the faster of the two, Di Resta went the other way and began the race on the more durable prime, or medium compound version.

His plan was to try and make a one-stop race work, but with no knowledge of how long the two dry compounds might last, it really was a leap into the unknown. The more common two stop strategy that most others used would at least give them options in terms of when to stop and information from the first stint to help with decisions for the next two.

The Force India team got into the race and without the necessary information to be able to gauge a controlled pace to manage the tires, they just went for it.

The likelihood of a safety car appearance is high at this circuit, so with that in mind, they could hope to be able to close up any deficit in track position at some point in the race and the one less stop than most, might help them move up the order. That safety car never came, so it was Paul’s race alone that would determine his result.

Di Resta pushed at a good pace on his mediums and, incredibly, managed a unprecedented 56 lap stint before making a great call himself to pit and take a set of supersofts for the remainder of the GP. The team let Paul decide when to box and he made the decision based, not on sophisticated computer software or simulation, but on good old fashioned ‘feel’. With a massive 54 laps on his mediums, he was still setting faster and faster laptimes and the moment he felt them beginning to give up, called the team to say he was coming in.

It might’ve been easy to buckle sooner, as the tires went through a graining phase, losing grip as the surface rubber rolls away. He didn’t and knowing that careful, yet still fast driving on a circuit where it’s all about traction rather than high cornering forces, would clean them up and bring back the performance, that’s exactly what he managed to do.

A solid drive and inspired gamble paid off and brought him a rewarding 7th place.

Facing the same dilemmas about tire knowledge, the might of McLaren unfortunately got it all wrong in the race.

Button also adopted a one stop strategy, albeit the other way around, starting on the supersoft and switching to the medium for the second stint. The part that the team got wrong wasn’t necessarily the order of their tire usage, although they may’ve benefitted slightly by going the other way, it was the way they used the medium tire for the majority of the GP.

Whereas Di Resta pushed hard, raced hard, until the tire ran out of life and then stopped, Button was given a lap time to drive to by the team in order to make the tire last until the end of the race. Quite how the strategists and engineers at McLaren came up with a time delta is anyone’s guess given the minimal knowledge from Friday, in temperatures a clear 10 degrees lower than today. However they did it, they got it wrong and Button, driving way too conservatively was never going to make up the ground he needed to to find a way into the points, even with one less visit to the pits than most. Late in the race, perhaps having seen the length of stint and pace that Di Resta had managed, they cottoned on and gave Jenson license to push, but by then it was all too late to make an impression. The McLaren struggled at this track and didn’t have the pace of the Force India, but unfortunately for them, the poor decision on tire management really didn’t help their cause at all today.

Marc Priestley can be found on Twitter @f1elvis.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, points

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

POINTS: Standings after Rolex 24 at Daytona l Michelin Endurance Cup standings l Daytona endurance points

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.