SCM shows solid pace at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 with only Ligier in the field
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (22 January 2024) – Sean Creech Motorsport (SCM) came out of the box strong at last weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24, showing consistent improvement with the reintroduced Ligier JS P217 as the team prepares for its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship LMP2 class debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona (NBC/USA/Peacock, 1:40 p.m. Saturday-Sunday).
With solid pace throughout the weekend, the No. 33 SCM Focal One Ligier JS P217 – helmed by drivers Lance Willsey, João Barbosa, Jonny Edgar, and Nolan Siegel – showed that it has all the ingredients to factor into the race as the team, along with Ligier engineers, writes a brand-new development book for the car. With the team starting on the sixth row of the LMP2 grid in next weekend’s 62nd running of the endurance classic, four-time winner Barbosa feels quite positive about the car’s trajectory.
“It’s been super interesting, working with this car and this team to bring the Ligier back to life,” said Barbosa. “We knew it was going to be a big challenge and we took it head on – and it’s paying off. Looking at all the hard work the crew has put in behind the scenes, to catch up on all these years of non-development, it has been really rewarding to watch the car go. The week has been very successful, and the team is very motivated to continue that progress.”
The Jupiter, Fla.-based team came into the Roar weekend with a checklist of final setup options for the No. 33. Team engineers and drivers worked closely to continue the development arc the reintroduced Ligier chassis has been on through off-season testing.
Five practice sessions encompassing 450 minutes of track time meant that the test weekend would be crucial, as the SCM team looked to continue building a database around the Ligier JS P217 – battling 12 teams racing with an Oreca chassis that has seven years of development behind it.
In the second of two practice sessions on Friday, Siegel turned heads up and down pit lane by throwing down a flyer lap of 1:39.927 that put the team on top of the speed chart for the opening 10 minutes. At the end of the session, that time proved to be the second quickest in the LMP2 class.
Saturday’s three practice sessions saw continued refinement of those changes, with multiple changes lessening understeer, adding front grip and traction. Barbosa took the car to P1 early in FP4 with a lap at 1:39.467, finishing the session P5. Night practice ended the day, with all four drivers cycling through to become acclimated to traffic under the lights – including Edgar, preparing for his first 24-hour race by running at night for the first time in his young career. Siegel reset the team’s best time of the weekend, with a solid lap time of 1:39.006.
Meanwhile, Willsey saw double duty on the weekend, competing in the team’s venerable Ligier JS P320 in the VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, earning a seventh place in race one and a sixth-place finish in race two – gaining valuable racing track time ahead of the grueling endurance race ahead. Willsey took the green flag Sunday in LMP2 qualifying and put down his fastest lap of the week, a 1:41.496 that places the team P12 on Saturday’s starting grid.
Now the attention focuses completely on the task at hand – making sure the Ligier JS P217 is ready to take the fight to the experienced Oreca teams.
“This is a new car for all of us,” said Willsey. “And it’s radically different than driving the LMP3 car. But the crew has worked hard, along with everyone at Ligier, to pull this all together. We’ve made progress in every session. We came into this with a blank slate, whereas the other teams have four and five years of data. We’re taking big swings at it, but we’re pretty close now. I’m certainly not pleased with my qualifying time, compared to my peers out there, but it’s one of the best laps I’ve turned here. I’ve got a lot more in me, it’s just about getting comfortable with this car and its capabilities. But I think we’re in a very good place.”
“The car has improved a lot since I last drove it (at the IMSA series test in December) and that was really nice to see,” said Edgar, 19. “All four of us had a similar feeling in the direction we wanted to go. We made quite a few changes through the course of the day yesterday and when I jumped back in my car the night session, it felt really good – though it took me a few laps to adapt to driving in dark for the first time! But every time I got in the car, it was better. I think we’re a lot closer than where we were, and we’re quite close to a lot of the others’ times. Some of these teams have years with these cars so I think it’s gone well so far. I’ve never done a 24-hour race so I’m focusing on being ready for long stints in traffic, figuring out where you can pass – I’ll use the experience I’ve gained already this weekend.”
“I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect coming in,” said Siegel, 19. “It’s the first time in many years that this car has seen significant development, so it’s pretty cool to be the only one in the world – and to be showing as well as we have is quite impressive. That is a testament to how hard everyone has worked. We’ve made huge improvements with the car and we’re really in the mix. I think it’s really promising for the race weekend, and I’m excited to see where we stack up.”
“We knew what we had in front of us coming into this weekend,” said team principal Sean Creech. “The crew did an outstanding job preparing this car to tackle all the test time this week and next, and be ready to run flat out for 24 hours. The drivers have adapted to the Ligier really well, so next weekend is all about fine tuning, getting as much drive time for them as we can, and being as ready as we can be. This race takes a good bit of luck as well as skill and strategy, so we’ll be as prepared as we possibly can be.”
SCM thanks partner Focal One for its continued support.
The 62nd Rolex 24 at Daytona takes the green flag Saturday at 1:40 p.m. Eastern. The race will be broadcast live in the U.S. on the NBC, USA Network and Peacock streaming, with the first and last hours on network NBC. International viewers can watch via IMSA.tv, with IMSA Radio also available at IMSA.com.