Detroit – The NFL’s Super Bowl will once again be played in February without a Detroit team. But next week the Super Bowl of US endurance racing will take place with three iconic Motown brands vying for glory.
For the first time since the turn of the century, Cadillac will join GM corporate sister Chevrolet’s Corvette on the grid for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. Ford will also enter a formidable fleet of four GTs, the same car that placed first in class in last year's 24 Hours of LeMans.
Corvette’s GTLM cars have been a fixture in Daytona’s victory lane for years, including a dominating 1-2 finish in last year’s race. But for Cadillac, the 2000 event – and three subsequent races at the 24 Hours of LeMans in France - were disappointments. Caddy’s return to prototype racing is a major commitment to perform at the very pinnacle of motorsport. It is also a further step in positioning the brand as an elite production brand on par with Audi, Porsche, and Mercedes.
After two years of developing its V8-powered DPi-V.R racer with chassis-maker Dallara and Wayne Taylor Racing, Cadillac is ready for kickoff after weeks of winter testing.
“We have a lot trust in the guys at Dallara and Cadillac, and we’ve done a great job building this car for Daytona and getting ready for the rest of the year,” said driver Jordan Taylor, who visited the Detroit Auto Show (along with brother and teammate, Ricky) Friday morning.
Including Daytona, the Cadillac team is entered in all 11 rounds of the IMSA Weathertech sports car series with a June stop in Detroit for the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic. Held on Belle Isle, the race is part of a weekend of racing that includes IndyCar.
In addition to the Taylor boys Cadillac has assembled an all-star team of drivers for its Daytona run. NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon and endurance Max Angelelli will also be in the lineup when the Cadillac takes the green flag at 2.30 PM, January 28.
Jordan Taylor, 26, says it’s been a blast testing with the 45-year old Gordon.
“He loves the car – it’s new to him. NASCARs are big and heavy,” said Jordan from the Cobo Center floor. “This car is way stiffer and more responsive to what he’s used to. The carbon brakes are night-and day-different. He said he hit the brakes the first time and felt light-headed they stopped so fast.”
The Cadillac program is part of a total reset of the IMSA prototype class – the quickest of four groups that includes a slower “Prototype C” class and two GT classes, GTLM and GTD. Dallara, Ligier, Riley, and Oreca all provide chassis. Cadillac added its own unique body to the Dallara platform and will run against other manufactures like Mazda and Nissan.
Taylor Racing is one of the most experienced teams in pit lane and had run a Corvette DP prototype (separate from the GTLM car) since 2012 before taking on the Cadillac program.
Jordan Taylor says the carbon-tub Cadillac is in another league from the old, tube-framed ‘Vette.
The new chassis, says, Jordan, is “very safe, very stiff. The Corvette DP car felt like a big GT car – it moved around. This car is much more aerodynamically driven. It’s incredibly fast.”
Purpose-built race car though it is, the DPi-V.R shares signature pieces with Cadillac production models – for example, the same 6.2-liter engine block found in the Escalade SUV, Brembo brakes, and a rear camera mirror first introduced on the CT6 sedan.
The race car is part of a larger Cadillac performance narrative. Team Taylor’s job doesn’t end trackside, but continues into the marketplace.
“It’s interesting how much Cadillac has redefined itself,” says Jordan’s brother Ricky, 27. “Cadillac is poised for growth. To be part of that now as it gets into sports car racing is very exciting.”
The Taylors commitment includes interacting with customers at Cadillac’s “V Academy” where owners get to track test V-series Cadillacs like the 464-horsepower ATS-V.
“The thing that Cadillac really hangs their hat on is that it’s the American luxury brand,” says Ricky. “Cadillac owns American optimism. For us as young American drivers that message really speaks to us.”
Of course the real message will be sent on track.
At the “Roar before the Rolex 24” test January 6-8, the Cadillac was eighth fastest of 12 entries, though only 1.3 seconds separated the field. Mazda and Dragonspeed (a private entry) were quickest.
“It’s hard to tell how we measure up because we were doing reliability testing,” said Jordan. “We didn’t’ seem that fast compared to Mazda and Dragonspeed but once we get to the race weekend we can work on that and we’ll be OK.”
The Corvette team will be defending its Super Bowl title in the GTLM class against Ford’s GT and BMW and Porsche competitors. The Chevy team is managed by Pratt and Miller Racing out of New Hudson, Michigan.
The Rolex 24 at Daytona runs Saturday-Sunday, January 28-29. Tickets for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, June 2-4, can be purchased at detroitgp.com.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne.