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24 uur van Daytona

Van der Zande on hunt for historic Daytona win - and IndyCar greats as teammates

Renger van der Zande will be hunting for his third win in the 24 Hours of Daytona this Saturday from the second starting spot. In an interview with RacingNews365, the Dutchman looks ahead to the prestigious endurance race and explains why this race is so special.

Renger van der Zande Daytona 24
To news overview © Chip Ganassi Racing

Heading into this weekend's Daytona 24 Hours, two-time winner Renger van der Zande is feeling optimistic of adding a third.

A winner in 2019 and 2020, van der Zande's team is to start second on the grid in the twice-around-the-clock endurance race in their #01 Cadillac Racing machine - and is confident of adding a third.

"We are second on the grid and have a very fast car, I think," Van der Zande told RacingNews365.

"Of course, we do have to deal with Balance of Performance, so you never quite know how other teams go into qualifying.

"It's also kind of the age-old sandbagging thing that happens. We expected more from the BMWs and the Acuras and the Cadillac just went really hard.

"I think we are fairly exposing our hand, and that could also be dangerous if everyone is going to kick on later in the race."

Teammate Palou gets compliments

37-year-old van der Zande is part of a strong line-up aboard the Cadillac, with IndyCar greats Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon and Alex Palou.

Between them, that trio has 12 US open-wheel titles, with Bourdais a quadruple Champ Car champion, Dixon a six-time IndyCar victor while Palou is the reigning two-time champion, and Dixon also boasts an Indy 500 victory and countless near-misses as well.

"They are seasoned drivers, which just shows that they are guys who know what they are doing and how to drive hard," says van der Zande of his team-mates.

"But the trick in endurance racing, of course, is to stay out of trouble.

"When I look at [Palou's] IndyCar seasons, it was very noticeable last year that I think he finished every race in the top ten. That's one of the things he does very well and so you do stay out of trouble, especially in such an aggressive championship like the IndyCar.

"He has the least experience in endurance racing, so we definitely did talk about what can happen during such a race. We also looked at the replay from last year, where all the damage occurred and where people went wrong."

"That's the preparation you do, but what they bring back very much is that you spend a year and a half developing the Cadillac and over time things creep in that are not very good about the car.

"But because we get so used to it, for example, things with the cockpit that we say are not very bad, they are not always a priority to be fixed.

"Palou just gets into the car and for him everything is new, so he can also give good feedback on the little things about the car. Those are good moments where he is also really an addition to our program again."

"We do drive very much the same way and stand for the same things, so that's not the point. There's no-one on the team who has a crazy driving style.

For my career, those big wins were

- Renger van der Zande

Special race

The Daytona International Speedway includes only 12 corners, but is nevertheless challenging, with conditions playing a key role.

"In itself, it's fairly straightforward, but it's a changeable track," says van der Zande.

" uring the session the grip can change within an hour. In turn three and turn five, normally the apex, the inside of the line, is the fastest, only sometimes that changes suddenly to the outside.

Once you know that, you can be very responsive to it. But you have to constantly keep paying attention to where the grip is."

"Why that is, is not entirely clear, although of course there are a lot of cars on the track and therefore sand is sometimes sprinkled on the track.

"I won twice, of course, and for my career those were big wins. I'm very proud of that, though, so it's always nice to return here.

"I also think American life is very beautiful and special. I think the 24 Hours of Le Mans is more prestigious, but I personally really enjoy racing in Daytona as well.

"You also do get welcomed in America as a Daytona winner and are one of the few. Overall winning in Daytona remains very special and hopefully, we can achieve that for the third time."

Interviews RN365 News dossier

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