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The returning Daytona Prototype king searching for a becoming IMSA homecoming

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Porsche’s inaugural marketing campaign with its 963 within the IMSA SportsCar Championship final yr took some time to get into its stride, so the Penske-run operation made a giant name to retrieve Dane Cameron from its World Endurance Championship line-up to bolster its American efforts.

The softly spoken 35-year-old Californian, a former rising star in open-wheel racing, has turn into famend as one of many world’s best sportscar racers. After falling from the ladder to IndyCar, regardless of successful the Star Mazda crown in 2007, he grew to become one thing of a sportscar racing nomad.

It was an IMSA GTD class championship in 2014, driving a Turner Motorsport BMW Z4, that propelled him to a seat with Action Express Racing in its top-class Corvette Daytona Prototype for 2015, and he took the general title on the second try with team-mate Eric Curran. Cameron then moved to Penske’s manufacturing unit Acura programme in 2018 and claimed his second DPi title alongside Juan Pablo Montoya a yr later.
His huge expertise made him one in all Penske’s first hires for its Porsche 963 mission, and he warmed up for his WEC marketing campaign with some LMP2 outings for the group in 2022, sharing with ex-Method 1 racer Felipe Nasr. They’re now reunited in Porsche’s #7 IMSA GTP 963, after Cameron contested final yr’s Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring within the sister automobile. Australian younger gun Matt Campbell switches locations with him to race within the WEC.

“It looks like coming house, for positive,” reckons Cameron. “Doing WEC was one thing that I actually needed to attempt, particularly to do it with Porsche and Penske within the total class – that was actually a private aim of mine. That mentioned, it’s good to be again in IMSA, someplace I’ve spent loads of time and had little bit of success. It’s a little bit of a change, but it surely’s an excellent calendar with a lot of basic American race tracks, so I’m trying ahead to it nonetheless.”

So why the swap?

“Finally the group decides who goes the place and does what, however I put my hand up for WEC, to provide it a shot,” he replies. “It was a possibility that doesn’t come round loads in motor racing, and I loved the expertise of doing it.

Picture by: Michael L. Levitt

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Cameron first joined Penske in 2018 and received his second IMSA title with Montoya in 2019 when it ran Acura’s DPi programme

“What was disappointing about it was to overlook out on a few podiums right here and there, as a result of we have been shut at Spa and Monza. On the finish they mentioned ‘possibly come again right here’ – so it’s effective. They place us the place they suppose it’s one of the best match. I’m glad that I acquired to do it with this group, similar to I’m glad to be again right here now.”

Cameron claims he’s benefited from the expertise of racing within the international sequence and is able to reacclimatise to American prototype competitors.

“It’s a unique format and a unique model,” he admits. “There’s issues that I’ve realized [in WEC]; I’m higher for it as a driver, that’s for positive. And it additionally checked off loads of tracks from my checklist, in order that’s good to have in my pocket as effectively. Issues are naturally a bit completely different between the 2 teams which might be working the vehicles, so I can lean into that. I believe it’s good to have each views.”

He’s frank in regards to the struggles the group encountered final yr, however is inspired by the progress made, which included three races wins on the IMSA facet, though he didn’t get to style any success personally.

“I believe it’s honest to say that the 2 [types of cars] have been extra completely different than folks anticipated, I imagine that can proceed to enhance on the WEC facet” Dane Cameron

“It undoubtedly was a giant studying curve,” displays Cameron. “To construct the construction of each [WEC and IMSA] groups and the right way to run a race weekend, divvying up issues, I believe there have been some rising pains in the beginning of the yr, however we actually made some good strides.

“I believe the group is ready up in a significantly better place. Hopefully that can provide us one other step forwards now that the mud has settled. The vehicles are working way more like regular now, far fewer stoppages, and it’s feeling like a standard race group once more – that’s an excellent step.”

One facet he received’t have to fret about this yr is the efficiency balancing act between Le Mans Hypercars and LMDh racers that WEC should take care of. It is going to be a straight combat between all-LMDh equipment from Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Porsche and, for a lot of the longer-distance races, Lamborghini.

“By the best way the outcomes went, it was clear that it was troublesome in the event you have been within the different [LMDh] class,” says Cameron, as soon as reminded that in IMSA there’s no restriction on voicing an opinion about BoP. “Having a yr’s value of data, I hope issues can go simpler on that facet this yr.

Cameron feels like he has 'come home' after two years racing in WEC, and relishing the absence of LMH-LMDh politicking

Picture by: Eric Le Galliot

Cameron looks like he has ‘come house’ after two years racing in WEC, and relishing the absence of LMH-LMDh politicking

“It appears, from the space I used to be at, that it went fairly effectively in IMSA. I believe the sanctioning our bodies at all times really feel happier after having the vehicles on monitor for a yr and so they can have extra confidence in that kind of factor.

“However it’s simply easier in the event you don’t have the 2 completely different classes. I believe it’s honest to say that the 2 [types of cars] have been extra completely different than folks anticipated, I imagine that can proceed to enhance on the WEC facet. On the IMSA facet, all of it appeared very calm – prefer it did on the finish of DPi. Simply small changes.

“As you be taught the automobile, and slight variations emerge, I believe that’s OK. In case you’re continuously attempting to micro-manage these little variations, then you will get out of synch.

“In DPi, you simply knew one automobile could be robust right here, and one other could be robust there. You’d go about your weekend, and if the monitor didn’t favour you, you’d go about getting all of the factors you possibly can. If it favoured you, you’d do all the things to win to profit out of your package deal.”

Cameron groups up with Nasr for 2024, and the pairing has some historical past collectively.

“He was my substitute!” laughs Cameron. “Once I got here to Penske the primary time, he took the [Action Express] seat that I vacated. We first drove collectively in Penske’s P2 automobile and we spent loads of time collectively by means of the 963’s growth section and we get on actually, very well. Wanting ahead to having him by means of this season, as a result of he was at all times one of many greatest ache within the asses to race towards once we have been in numerous vehicles! Now we have good respect for one another.”

He’ll be happy to listen to that the sensation is mutual from Nasr’s facet, too…

“It’s nice to have Dane again,” enthuses the Brazilian, who acquired 39 F1 begins beneath his belt with Sauber. “An excellent man to have within the group, super-easy to work with. He has loads of expertise in IMSA and is aware of all of the tracks fairly effectively.

Cameron and Felipe Nasr raced together at Le Mans in 2022 when both were part of Penske's LMP2 effort to gear up for its WEC entry

Picture by: Marc Fleury

Cameron and Felipe Nasr raced collectively at Le Mans in 2022 when each have been a part of Penske’s LMP2 effort to gear up for its WEC entry

“I’m fairly positive we will work effectively collectively and be combating for the championship. With the group working in two championships, the knowledge circulate is at all times faster, so having Dane coming throughout from WEC, we’re going to be in competition instantly.”

Nasr can be trustworthy about what the 963 lacked in comparison with its IMSA rivals final yr.

“We scratched our heads at some instances, and at others we’d roll out of the truck and it was nice!” he remembers. “With our automobile, as a consequence of reliability issues, we solely actually began our season at midway. Then the podiums got here, and the win at Street America was actually cool. At instances, although, we felt fully misplaced. We have been out of the window with the automobile, we didn’t know the right way to function to get into it, however then it felt like we acquired nearer and nearer since midway.

“He was at all times one of many greatest ache within the asses to race towards once we have been in numerous vehicles! Now we have good respect for one another” Dane Cameron on Felipe Nasr

“It’s been fairly a yr for the mission – new automobile, new group, new rules – and now we have a lot extra expertise beneath our belts now after many ups and downs. We’re higher in each means, actually by way of the right way to optimise our automobile.”

The season begins with America’s greatest sportscar race – it’s one which Nasr has received in GTD with Porsche, however victory has at all times eluded Cameron on the Daytona 24 Hours.

“We really feel effectively ready,” declares Nasr. “Fixed working is the one means you’ll be able to actually optimise all the things for this race. It’s a must to perceive the tyre warm-up, degradation and the steadiness shift between stints, particularly in the event you’re double-stinting the tyres, or altering left-sides or right-sides solely. All of that’s so invaluable, which is what we targeted on in testing.

“It’s type of a locked homologation – it places way more focus in your techniques, your electronics, set-up philosophies – so now we have to run by means of all of this now, as a result of once we hit the race weekends, there’s not a lot time to attempt issues. If we will get it proper now, so the automobile is working contained in the window of the place we need to run, it makes our lives simpler as drivers. Then it’s only a case of being constant and staying on high of all the things.”

Make no mistake, after a primary season that missed the goal of ‘Penske perfection with German effectivity’ – particularly within the longer races – the expectation stage right here is amped for 2024.

Can Cameron's IMSA comeback spell a third top class title for both he and Nasr?

Picture by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Can Cameron’s IMSA comeback spell a 3rd high class title for each he and Nasr?

Indy 500 winner Newgarden provides star attraction

IndyCar ace Josef Newgarden made his Daytona 24 Hours debut within the LMP2 class final yr, a couple of months earlier than his best victory thus far within the Indianapolis 500 for Team Penske. The 33-year-old from Nashville’s enthusiasm was lit by his maiden prototype expertise, and he later accepted the supply to hitch Penske’s Porsche IMSA GTP line-up within the season-closing Petit Le Mans at Street Atlanta as an ‘endurance further’.

“That was powerful,” he admits. “It’s an outstanding monitor, one in all my new favourites in North America, I cherished how old-school it’s. It’s very punishing, there’s no relaxation, you’ll be able to’t take it straightforward. It was intense, the site visitors was continuous due to the scale of the monitor and the sphere measurement.”

After his in-at-the-deep-end expertise, Newgarden has had much more seat time accessible as he joins Dane Cameron, Felipe Nasr and Matt Campbell within the #7 963 this week at Daytona. Chatting with Autosport throughout testing, he provides: “It’s been studying expertise, to get the cadence and the processes down earlier than we come again for the actual factor. For me, entering into the programme to do my half, do an excellent job to assist them, I’m actually inspired. Profitable Daytona could be a giant deal for everyone, successful any of the endurance occasions – together with Sebring or Petit. I’m excited and honoured to be part of it.”

Newgarden additionally factors out that Daytona’s 3.56-mile highway course poses a completely completely different problem to the majestic swoops of Street Atlanta.

“It’s a enjoyable monitor, but it surely’s not super-complex whenever you have a look at the format,” he factors out. “There’s loads of straightaway but it surely’s actually thrilling as a result of it’s super-high velocity in loads of respects. The infield is gradual, however the Bus Cease stands out as a type of make-or-break corners, the best way you take care of site visitors exiting that within the race can be so necessary.

“It’s a enjoyable change-up for me as a result of it’s completely different to wherever we go in IndyCar. The problem of being profitable over 24 hours is one thing I’m not used to, so I’d like to succeed at that.”

Newgarden enjoyed his first experience of Daytona last year in LMP2 and is back for more this year

Picture by: Artwork Fleischmann

Newgarden loved his first expertise of Daytona final yr in LMP2 and is again for extra this yr

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