Thursday, July 25, 2024

Cadillac Racing’s Laura Wontrop Klauser on Cadillac V-LMDh Development

GM sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser participated in a media conference hosted by IMSA with the three other manufacturer LMDh project leads. After nearly two years of preparation, including five months of on-track development encompassing more than 20,000 kilometers, three Cadillac V-LMDh race cars will debut on Jan. 28-29 in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

YOU’VE BROUGHT THE CHIP GANASSI RACING, AND ACTION EXPRESS RACING TEAMS UNDER ONE UMBRELLA AS CADILLAC RACING. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THAT PROCESS HAS GONE?“This program, in general, has really rallied all of us to work together – even across the OEs. We had such compressed timelines. We have a brand-new hybrid spec system in the car. The chassis are all new for all of us, so we had to pull resources together to get to the point where we had running cars at Daytona last week and as we prepare for the Rolex. So, it’s the same approach for the teams. If we try to be off on different islands, we would be unable to compete once we got to the Rolex. We had to work together. We had to swap parts back and forth to make sure cars were running. We had to share learnings, and, I think, necessity can be the best tool that you can have in your toolbox because there really was no other option to get this program done than to collaborate. That has driven the message, and what I think has been great is seeing the results of the collaboration, seeing the ability to get the test program more done by having the two teams helping us and running two cars instead of running one car. The benefits are coming in. We still have a huge mountain to climb and constantly pushing that rock up the hill. Thankfully, we’re all rallying behind the rock together – depending on which rock we’re pushing that day. So, it’s nice to have people standing next to your right and left while you’re trying to do something incredible.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE PRINCIPAL CHALLENGE IS AHEAD OF THE ROLEX 24?“Parts management has been a struggle; to get enough parts and to make sure that the quality is what we need. Especially with fielding three cars, we want to make sure we have everything for primaries, we have spares, and then, God forbid something happens in the Roar, we have backups for backups. Some of it we’re probably going to get just before, and some we might not have backups for backups. Really, just having enough parts to field the cars successfully and working with the supply chain. Of course, Christmas makes things a little tricky, too. Trying to get things this time of year is a challenge, but we have a full team on it and working through it.”

HAVE THERE BEEN ANY UNIQUE CHALLENGES OR SURPRISES IN GETTING EVERYTHING TO WORK SEAMLESSLY?“The sheer amount of code and software that has been written to run this car is daunting. We cannot have enough software engineers working right now because everything on the car is connected. Things that we never had to worry about influencing each other in the past with the DPi or other race programs, now if one thing is slightly off, it’s not going to run or turn or brake or whatever it needs to do. The importance of making sure that all the calibrations are correct and then the safety critical component of that to make sure that everything is correct is huge. Working through all of that has probably been the biggest mountain once we had all the parts on the car to test. This whole program has been a challenge.”

HOW DID YOU GET TO THIS POINT WITH YOUR ENGINE PACKAGE?“Like everyone, we did not have much time to make a decision and move on with what we wanted to do with this car. A lot of it is leaning on the experience that we’ve had for decades racing at GM – both Chevrolet and Cadillac – especially with the DPi and the eight-cylinder. As quickly as we could, we did some engine packaging studies for multiple engines, and after we reviewed what we were trying to do, the criteria, and the performance requirements for this platform, for us and our experience, it made sense to carry forward with the V8 architecture. This is a new engine for this car, but leaning heavily on the experience and architecture of V8 engines that we have across the portfolio. No regrets, especially as we look to our trip overseas to run in the WEC. I think we’re bringing America pretty loud and strong with our Cadillac, and we’re proud of that.”

HOW DO YOU SEE THE EQUIVALENCE BETWEEN THE HYPERCAR AND THE LMHD CAR FOR THE WEC?“In terms of the two platforms racing against each other, there’s been so much work that has gone into that, countless technical working groups meetings, discussions, lots of decisions that were made to try to bring parity between the two platforms. The effort has been put forward to make it happen correctly. Did we miss something? Maybe. There’s always that one thing that once you worry about all the bigger things, then the little things become big things. I really applaud the effort from the two sanctioning bodies as well as the manufacturers. This is definitely a team sport to figure out how to get all these cars together so they can race in parity.”

HAS IT BEEN MORE OF A CHALLENGE FOR YOUR BRAND THAN YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD BE GOING IN?“I still have a lot of growing and experiences ahead in my career. I can’t wait to compare whatever the next challenge is to this one because this one has been incredible. And it’s been incredible what we’ve done in a short period of time with all of the economic factors in the world that have influenced how everyone is running their businesses these days. Labor shortages, supply chain. They are real, and they impact us every day. We have brought on some incredible young people to our program that is just blowing us away with what they are able to do. If you say, ‘Hey, we have this problem to solve. Figure it out,’ and then give them the freedom and the ability to do what they think is right; it’s been awesome. It really is the future. It’s seeing how we can mesh people with 20-plus years of experience in racing with new people who have more experience in this new software and everything we’re bringing on board. You can see the mature and the up-and-coming working together and how they are learning from each other. It’s given us a great opportunity to just grow what our motorsports family is in terms of everyone who is working on the cars and the types of people being part of this.”

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