United Autosports co-founder Zak Brown has said that his team has a “shot” for a top-three finish at the Daytona 24 Hours despite describing preparations as “tough”.
Brown gave further insight into its experience of the pre-race events at Daytona on the main stage of the Autosport International show in Birmingham.
His team of Fernando Alonso, Phil Hanson and Lando Norris finished 12th in the mock qualifying session that decided grid boxes, 1.7 seconds adrift of Whelen leaders Mike Conway, Eric Curran, Stuart Middleton and Felipe Nasr.
The other United line-up of Hugo de Sadeleer, Paul di Resta, Will Owen and Bruno Senna completed the session a further three places back.
“Testing was tough,” Brown said.
“The DPi [Daytona Prototype] cars were one through eight.
“They need the Balance of Performance, IMSA only got the LMP2 data in December, so we didn’t have much time, it’s a pretty difficult job to get those balanced.
“What we learned from the test is the DPi cars need to be pulled back, and they will, let’s just hope they pull them back enough.”
Brown believes that a streamlined operation will assist their chances, expecting to continue to struggle on pace alone.
“Our particular chassis, compared to the other LMP2s, it’s strength is the more higher-downforce circuits,” he added.
“Le Mans was our poorest qualifying last year, and we finished fourth.
“I anticipate qualifying will be tricky, and ultimate race pace will be a little bit off.
“We need to do what we did at Le Mans, be the faster team in the pits, spend the least amount of time there, have the drivers do an awesome job – there’s a lot of traffic at Daytona, trickier to navigate than Le Mans because of the short in-fields.
“I think if we’re there at the end we’ll grab a shot at the podium.
“As far as out-and-out pace, the DPi cars have us covered.”
Alonso ‘feels welcomed’ by United States
Brown also described how Alonso continues to take the attention of American paddocks and a role of ‘team leader’ while working with Hanson and Norris.
It will be the Spaniard’s second non-F1 race in the country following last year’s Indianapolis 500 attempt, and his first at the Daytona circuit.
“They all get their photo with him and meet him,” he added.
“That’s what great, especially about the US racing, they don’t hide their emotions, they don’t have this tough pitlane image.
“When they see Fernando, they admire what he’s done, they are all F1 fans, so there’s a lot that want to get pictures with him, get his Kimoa hats, and things of that nature.
“It’s one of the things he likes about the States, he feels so welcomed.
“He’s enjoying it, he’s never raced with team-mates.
“He’s quickly become team leader which isn’t a surprise.
“He’s settled into the whole endurance format and, in traffic, his race pace is where he’ll really stand out.”
The Daytona 24 Hours takes place between January 25 and 28, with racing underway on January 27.