Cadillac’s unexpected slump: The tire compound switch turning IMSA on its head?

Cadillac’s recent performance dip in the IMSA SportsCar Championship has caught many off guard, including veteran racer Sebastien Bourdais. The renowned driver of the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-Series.R, shared by Renger van der Zande, believes a significant factor in this altered form is the recent shift in Michelin’s tire compounds.

Bourdais, an accomplished 44-year-old French racing star, particularly noted the change in tire compounds that took place three races ago during the Six Hours of The Glen. “We’ve noticed that the tire usage has varied across cars, heavily dependent on racing conditions,” said Bourdais. He observed, “Since Watkins Glen, we’ve transitioned to Michelin’s harder tire. This switch certainly reshuffled performance rankings. Cadillacs generally performed better on the softer compounds, which were gentler on the tires. As we’ve moved into summer with these harder tires, set to continue in the upcoming Indianapolis race, extracting optimum performance has become challenging for us.”

The captivating dynamics between different tracks and evolving circumstances are intriguing for Bourdais. He opined on the present state, “The Balance of Performance (BoP) has been efficient, and we’ve witnessed various race winners. This promises exhilarating experiences for the audience.”

Shedding light on the Cadillac GTP, Bourdais remarked, “It’s a distinct model. Being a heavier car, it’s equipped with superior tires but possesses more weight and reduced downforce. This requires a balanced approach of patience and aggressive racing. The competition is fierce; you have to earn every inch.”

2023 started promisingly for Bourdais, with a notable third-place finish at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. His only victory so far came at Laguna Seca in May. Nevertheless, following the Six Hours of The Glen, the #01 car’s best performance has been fourth. Consequently, Bourdais and van der Zande currently stand sixth in overall rankings with two more races looming.

Reflecting on Cadillac’s journey, Bourdais shared, “With a completely new car, Cadillac’s learning curve hasn’t been distinct from other teams. Our test run at IMS post-Sebring was enlightening. It was a rewarding venture to Road America. Even though the race weekend didn’t pan out as anticipated, we felt we had gained some momentum.”

As Bourdais gears up for the IMSA event at IMS, he’s no stranger to glory here. He clinched victory in 2012 alongside co-driver Alex Popow in a Daytona Prototype during the Grand-Am days, raced on the then 2.534-mile track, now a 2.439-mile circuit.