Sean Creech Motorsport kicks off 2024 with successful LMP2 test
Sean Creech Motorsport (SCM) completed a successful test of its Ligier LMP2 car last week at Sebring International Raceway as preparation continues in earnest for the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Drivers Lance Willsey and João Barbosa are set to return to SCM in 2024, with two additional drivers for January's Rolex 24 at Daytona yet to be announced. Both full season drivers gained significant experience behind the wheel of the No. 33 Focal One Ligier JS P217 at Sebring, as the car paced 213 trouble-free laps in a test abbreviated by inclement weather.
SCM made the switch from the LMP3 class to LMP2 and chose to remain with Ligier in a JS P217 chassis. The team has competed in multiple IMSA series with the Ligier LMP3 car for the past five years, but both drivers quickly realized that the only characteristic the Ligier P3 and P2 cars share is the label.
“The Ligier is an extremely capable car,” said Willsey. “But it’s a completely different car to drive than the P3 so it requires a very significant resetting of muscle memory with regards to everything from brake points to throttle applications. That means I am starting over to an extent, but we have a solid team at SCM and a great deal of engineering assistance from Ligier, which is a huge help.”
Last week’s test can be summed up in one word: incremental – as in incremental changes to the setup, with team engineers learning what makes the Ligier JS P217 LMP2 car work, and incremental adjustments by the two drivers as they come to grips with the myriad of differences between the LMP3 and LMP2 cars.
The test was scheduled for two full days, but Florida weather had other ideas, as a persistent low-pressure system held Wednesday's test to only 33 laps in the early morning. But Barbosa was able to get a solid read on the car, happy with the balance and grip level before the rains came and washed out the remainder of the day.
Conditions were cool Thursday morning, with intermittent light sprinkles as Willsey took his first laps in the car. As the day progressed, the team worked on a wide variety of setups and adjustments as knowledge of the car was gained and the track evolved. Both drivers were quite encouraged at the end of the day, having run 10 hours completely trouble-free.
“It was a steady progression of developing the car, which went extremely well,” said Willsey. “Then for me, it was just a matter of figuring out all the nuances to this car. But I'm extremely pleased – and I would say that I'm most pleased about the effort that the team has put in, stripping the car and completely rebuilding it flawlessly. We rolled out at Sebring and just did fuel and tires all day long without a single issue. So barring the weather hiccup, it could not have gone smoother from the perspective of our to-do list. We had a set of changes we wanted to work through and quantify, and we ticked off all those boxes.
“We’ve got a long road ahead to completely learn this car, but we're on that path.”
“The car was just spot-on, and that’s down to all the hard work by the team,” said Barbosa, a four-time winner of the Rolex 24. “They did a superb job – after all the late nights and the long hours at the shop, it was great to see their faces as the day progressed, knowing that the hard work really paid off. The car ran like clockwork and we were able to go through a lot of our test items, even more than we were expecting. So for our first proper test day with this car and with the crew getting to know how it operates, it was very, very positive. We’re excited about the test in Daytona and the chance to see where we stack up.”
As Barbosa gained more experience behind the wheel of the Ligier, he found that the LMP2 car was much closer in performance to the cars he ran for years in the DPi class, rather than to the LMP3 car.
“The Ligier P2 just does everything better than the P3: it's a five-star car. I had to go back to the DPi days to find related performance. It's a bit like one of those cars: obviously a little bit less power but everything else is similar. We know that Daytona is going to be a different animal, but I think we're ready to go. The crew is pumped up.”
At the end of the test, team principal Sean Creech was very pleased with the car's performance and that of the crew, after the long months of preparation.
“Reliability and strategy will be key in the endurance races and last week’s test was a good look in terms of reliability,” said Creech. “We ran 10 hours trouble-free on Thursday and if there's a weakness in this car, this track would have found it. But I can’t say enough about the crew – they did a phenomenal job on this car, and that work showed. It was a good start to the 2024 season.”
Next up for the SCM team is the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s official series test at the Daytona International Speedway. The LMP2 teams will be on track December 6 and 7, in preparation for January’s season opener, the 62nd Rolex 24 at Daytona.