Sebring International Raceway | Why We Test.
Laurance Yap | March 2014
For Pfaff Motorsports, 2015 will be only its second season in the Ultra 94 GT3 Cup Challenge Canada as an independent, fully-fledged operation. Having previously partnered with Fiorano Racing in 2012 and with Alegra Motorsports in 2013, the team went it alone for the first time in 2014, fielding a completely in-house, one-car effort that resulted in second-place finishes in both the driver and team championships.
So, what do you do during a test weekend like Sebring?
First and probably most importantly, as the first weekend back on track for most of the drivers since the end of the last season, it’s a chance to shake off the cobwebs and get back into a racing mentality. Both Chris Green, driver of the #9 platinum-class Porsche, and Orey Fidani, driver of the #13 gold-class contender, it’s a chance to mentally reset after six months out of a race car.
It’s also a chance to shake down the cars mechanically, as changes to both of them have been made during the off-season. Fidani’s 997-generation Cup car has a new engine and transmission which need to be broken in, and Green’s 991-generation car, has had a number of updates to bring it up to 2015 spec, including a new shift compressor and front shocks.
With a relatively relaxed schedule compared to a race weekend, Sebring is a great opportunity to try setup changes on both cars that they simply don’t have the time to do on real race weekends, where there is little time to make major adjustments.
Fielding two cars this season – one owned by Pfaff Motorsports and the other run as a customer car by Fidani – the team’s footprint in the paddock has grown as well, bringing with it a new set of challenges. There’s a new, larger trailer that holds both cars and all of the parts and equipment, but which the team needs to learn as much as they learn each other.
As a young race team supporting two cars instead of just one, team dynamics are also a focus of the test weekend. Is it better, for example, to have people dedicated to each car, or should the responsibility be shared? The intricacies of how the team works together on- and off-track are worked out this weekend, so that they can function as a smooth, cohesive whole once the season begins in earnest.
Through the weekend, they learn that sweating the small stuff is vitally important for that smoothness: it’s important to over-communicate the agenda and movements of each person throughout the weekend, and carefully note every step that needs to be completed – from major jobs to be completed on the cars to ensuring that the batteries for all of the team radios are charged.
Throughout the weekend, both cars – which were running on the spec Ultra 94 fuel for the Canadian series and not the 110-octane race gas that is standard in the American GT3 Cup Challenge – ran competitive lap times.
For Fidani, who is graduating into the Canadian Cup challenge this year after a season running regional races, it was a great way to put into practice the learning he’d acquired during the previous season and during the off-season. Having arrived very well-prepared already, Fidani spent the weekend learning from Green the art of giving detailed feedback to his race engineers, building a rapport that will translate to better performance throughout the season. A minor-off track excursion causes some damage to the rear of his Cup car, requiring a tow back to the pits and some repairs; better these kinks are worked out during a pre-season test rather than a points-earning weekend.
“Orey’s very much a student of racing,” says Steve Bortolotti, who’s managing the team in 2015. “He came very well-prepared, he’s mechanically inclined, and most importantly, he understands just how much work is ahead of him this year. He knows he’s shooting for improvement over each weekend rather than wins, his experience at Calabogie and CTMP will serve him well.”
Everyone from the technicians to the team photographer are volunteers from within the Pfaff organization with a passion for racing. A tremendous source of pride for everyone involved, it’s their chance to volunteer their time and participate in high-level motorsports, and demonstrate their capability on a national stage.
As such, they have high hopes for the 2015 season and the challenges that lie ahead.