Since the announcement in August that Juncos Racing would be fielding a Cadillac DPi-V.R in the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the team has been systematically working to assemble all the pieces it needs.
The process isn’t unique for the team, which has fielded successful Road to Indy programs and an IndyCar program over the past several years. At the same time, it also was helpful that the Cadillac DPi package the team is using is already well established.
“It’s very simple, actually,” explains Juncos Racing President Ricardo Juncos. “It’s been quite good. From when we got the car in pieces brand new, it took nine days to fire up. Everything was smooth, no issue whatsoever in any of the electronics, engines or gearbox. No surprises.
“We’re working with the same system that we actually developed in the team through the years. It’s no big deal. I think the car is very well done from Dallara, very high quality. Everything is done properly and it became easy to work on it. It sped up the process, because everything fit properly, everything is ready to go.”
The team is now ready to go testing, which it plans to do a lot over the next month prior to the Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 4-6, 2019. It also has named its first driver, American racer Will Owen, who the team introduced on Tuesday.
“We are going to be testing on the fifth and the sixth [of December] privately at Homestead,” Juncos said. “From there, we go to the Michelin test at Daytona [on Dec. 11] and then we’ll come back to Indy and we’re going to paint the car, because now the car is without paint.
“It’s too much to do everything now, so we’ll come back, we’ll fine-tune everything based on the test situation and what happened. Obviously, everything is new, so we’ll have to make sure everything is the way we want and to be ready for the Roar. That’s the plan.”
Juncos estimated that the team has been working nonstop for the past two months on the new DPi program. However, his interest in participating in IMSA dates much further back than that.
“Since seven years ago, to be honest, I was trying to find a way to jump into IMSA somehow,” he said. “In ’19, the original intention was to maybe be a team on the LMP3 side, because at that moment, we didn’t know what was going to happen with Pro Mazda. We won the championship in Pro Mazda, so we will continue with the Pro Mazda program, but we had an opportunity with Cadillac through General Motors because we have this relationship with Chevrolet on the IndyCar side that we could become one of the DPi teams in IMSA.
“Instead of starting with LMP3, we decided to get the big challenge. It’s obviously very big for us, but we feel OK to do something like this based on our IndyCar experience. We started getting good opportunities with drivers so that’s why we chose to do this DPi program, knowing that for the next three years, it’s going to be the same homologation. I think it was proper timing.”
Juncos also has been pleased with the level of support his team has received since making the decision to go sports car racing.
“Everything is going smooth,” he said. “We’ve got great support from IMSA, from Cadillac, from Dallara, from ECR, which are the engine guys. I mean, it’s been great so far. It’s a really, really nice group of people to work with.”
The group figures to get larger in the coming days. On the heels of the Owen announcement, Juncos expects additional drivers to be introduced over the next two weeks.
As far as the race team is concerned, Juncos and his colleagues have been building a dedicated staff for the WeatherTech Championship program, just as it has done for other racing programs over the years.
“Each team has a team leader, like a team manager, then you have a crew chief and then you have your mechanics,” he explained. “We have four separate teams now all together with the same shop and sharing some of the same people, like me, the accounting department, the lawyers, the technical director and bodywork guy and fabricators. That’s common to all the teams here in the shop, but each team has its own leaders and they work individually.”
And what are Juncos’ expectations heading into the team’s maiden WeatherTech Championship voyage in 2019?
“Our expectation is, like I always say, to learn as much as possible, at least for me and a few other guys who have zero experience in IMSA or any endurance races,” he said. “For me, it’s a big learning curve, but I have people in the team that have already won 24-hour races before, so some of the guys I have, they have massive experience. Some of them don’t, so we will take it easy and try to learn as much as possible, try to finish the races and try to make no mistakes.
“Obviously, it’s one of the biggest series in the U.S. that we’re going to be doing, so it requires a lot of effort and timing and patience to learn. It’s like I always said, it takes time to be something really solid, and it’s OK, because we’re talking about something really big here.”