Rolex 24 At Daytona

  • 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona

    A great way to start the racing year in the Florida sunshine!

    Video Credits: IMSA Official

  • 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona: 10 Hour Report

    As the halfway point looms closer, it is the #5 Mustang Sampling Motorsport leading the way, as it has since the green flag started the race. Ford Chip Ganassi have found their footing in the GT Le Mans class and have steadily been increasing their lead over the Corvette Racing cars who round off the top three. It had been the #29 Montaplast GT Daytona car dominating the scene, but a long stop/go penalty just a few hours ago has handed the advantage to Mercedes-running #33 Team Riley Motorsport.

    Cadillac and tyres were the talk of the opening ten hours of racing at the 56th Rolex 24 at Daytona, with both aspects dominating the race. Cadillac had shown the pace over the week, but within the first hour the manufacturer had locked out the top four. Helio Castroneves and the #7 Team Penske have been the only non-Cadillac running Prototype to put in any sort of challenge for the overall victory, currently running second to the Mustang Sampling car.

    It was drama from before the green flag as the #58 Wright Motorsport Porsche suffered damage. On cold tyres, the car was lost on the formation lap and spun, hitting heavily into the barriers. The car limped back to the pits, unable to make the start. It returned to the track two and a half hours into the race, currently running in last place.

    The battle for the prototype/overall lead of the race originally looked to be a battle between the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing and the #5 Mustang Sampling, but a puncture saw the #10 drop down the grid with a lot of work to do if they wished to repeat their successes from last year. Punctures would quickly become the talk of the race as car after car made an unscheduled pit stop to replace damaged tyres.

    The battle was actually between #5 and #7 as the Team Penske crew fought hard to overcome the pace deficit they had on the Cadillac-running cars. Pit stop cycles keep swapping the cars, but at the time of publishing it’s the #5 Cadillac controlling the race.

    The only change to this came in the sixth hour of the race. The rain had started to fall, and Mike Conway pitted his #31 Whelen Engineering Racing at the perfect time to swap for wet weather tyres. He was rapid off the bat, blasting into the lead of the race with superior pace and skills on the damp track. Unfortunately, this only lasted until the rain stopped and the track began to dry. After that, normal proceedings of Mustang Sampling vs Team Penske returned.

    Fernando Alonso’s 24-hour race debut got off to a strong start as he finished his first hour stint in ninth place overall. His team mates Lando Norris and Phil Hanson continued his good work to get the #23 United Autosports placed eighth overall as the highest placed LMP2 car on track. However, just before publishing the #23 was taken behind the wall for repairs and has yet to return to the circuit.

    Only two full course yellows have hindered the racing in the first half of the race, with significantly better weather conditions this year compared to last. The #38 Performance Tech Motorsport was making an impressive debut at the IMSA Rolex 24 at Daytona when, in the third hour, it ran out of fuel at the oval.

    The second full course caution came in the early stages of the morning. The #52 Mathiasen Motorsport came out of the pits on cold tyres and pushed too hard. The result was a big spin into the barrier with a lot of debris to clean up. The second full course caution lasted about twenty minutes.

    GT Le Mans has been dominated by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing since the third hour. It had looked like Corvette Racing were going to put in a decent fight for the lead, but the two Ford GTs have disappeared into the distance with a competitive 1-2 in class.

    The Porsche 911 RSRs have started to come to life in the last few hours. The #911 Porsche GT Team car was competitively fighting for the last spot of the podium in hour six and seven; and is still in contention now as they battle with the #62 Ferrari Risi Competizione. They are still within a big chance of taking a podium finish in their first race of the year.

    James Calado had some misfortune in the #62 which dropped the car down to fourth in class. A loose door saw him have to take an unscheduled pit stop during the first full course caution, meaning that he lost time in his stop. The Ferrari team are currently in a close battle with the two Porsches holding the positions in front and behind them.

    The GT Daytona class looked to be in the hands of the #29 Monatplast, with the promise of a to-the-line battle with the #33. But race stewards dashed that hope when they handed the GTD leader a 5 minute stop and go penalty for a violation of the balance of Performance. Monatplast team boss thought the issue was to do with the fuel flow rate, but nothing further has been said on the matter.

    The Ferraris have dropped back a bit in GTD, leaving the lead to be taken and extended by the Mercedes #33. It had looked like the Ferraris were going to be a threat to the front runners, but such pace has not been seen since around the third hour of the race.

    Amid all the damage and issues the cars have been having, particularly the two Mazda prototypes that hav been in and out of the pits for repairs and electrical issues througout the first half of the race, only one car has officially retired from the race. The #90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac was forced to park in the garage as a misfire issue plauged the car in the ninth hour and was not repairable. A maximum of 49 cars will take the chequered flag.

    Images courtesy of imsaphoto.com

  • Action Express Racing Stay Fastest for Qualifying

    Action Express Racing managed to claim a 1-2 in the Prototype class for qualifying for the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona. The two cars were split by 0.070 seconds at the chequered flag and appeared untouchable to the field behind. James French took the Prototype Challenge pole with style, claiming a competitive pole position that no one could pry out of his hands. In the GT classes, Ford dominated the GT Le Mans class, putting three of their four cars into the top three. GT Daytona pole went to Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3. He led home the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari and the #98 Aston Martin.

    The Prototype pole was fought for mainly between #5 Action Express Racing, #31 Action Express Racing, and #10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. It looked like Ricky Taylor had pole position in the bag as he found an extra two seconds on his second flying lap, but it was an advantage that the others all found too. Joao Barbosa managed to get the advantage on everyone to take pole, but the competition was close to the chequered flag. Neel Jani in the #13 Rebellion Racing ORECA was on an intense lap for his final lap. It was his fastest lap of the session and looked like it could be challenging for a front-row start. He did make an improvement but it was not enough to get him any higher than third.

    The BAR1 Motorsports cars looked like a force to be reckoned with in the Prototype Challenge class. Off the start, they shot ahead of the rest of the class competitors, just as they had in practice sessions. However, James French saved his best laps for when they countered, putting in an incredible performance in the last few minutes to make him the only Prototype Challenge driver to dip into the 1m39s. Johnny Mowlem fought back just as hard in the #26 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09 but French kept finding more time out on track. Mowlem starts in front of teammate Buddy Rice in the second BAR1 Motorsport car.

    There was not a chance of getting ahead of the Ford drivers in the GT Le Mans class; the team was too fast for the rest of the field. Olivier Pla even had a spin, just about missing the tyre barrier on the outside of the circuit, and was still able to hold onto third. It was Joey Hand who took the glory back to Ford GT, placing the #66 on pole. In numerical order, the other two Fords of #67 and #68 completed the top three. There was a moment where a top-four lockout was possible for Ford, but the #911 Porsche 911 RSR got in the way of that. Patrick Pilet prevented a Ford top-four from happening until Toni Vilander put his Ferrari 488 GTE in front of the Porsche for fourth. The #69 Ford GT will start tomorrow fifth in class.

    Ferrari left their mark in GT Daytona as they took the top two places on the grid. Guidi took a competitive pole position in his Ferrari 488 GT3 and managed to hold off last year’s GT Daytona Champion Alessandro Balzan in the Scuderia Corsa #63. The Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R held third position for most of the session and looked to be set to take third in class. A late charge from Marco Sorensen in the #98 Aston Martin Vantage saw that slip away. Manthey Racing #59 take fourth whilst the Aston Martin crew line up third in class.

  • Action Express Racing Stays on top for Practice Two

    In a much shorter but much more action-packed second practice session, it was Action Express Racing #5 that, once again, took the fastest lap time. This time with Joao Barbosa at the wheel, he set the fastest lap time of 1:42.016. BAR1 Motorsports continued their impressive pace by taking the fastest lap in their class with the #26. But the tops of both prototype fields were a lot closer in the half-hour session. The top of the GT Le Mans class saw three different manufacturers feature, but it was Olivier Pla repeating his impressive performance from this morning that saw Ford come out fastest. Matthew McMurry displayed great pace in the GT Daytona class, holding the top of the field for the whole 30 minutes.

    image: motorsport.com

    It was all action from the green flag as the #2 Tequila Patron failed to fire up on pit road. It was nearly hit from behind by the sister car #22 as the two were fairly close in the queue to the track. The session got a bit better for the Nissan DPi-running team but they never look in for a chance at challenging the pace at the front. Their session ended with the #22 stopping out on track as it ran out of fuel.

    #5 Action Express Racing was the car to beat again in Practice 2. Ricky Taylor had a new opponent in Barbosa as he tried to go faster than the Cadillac DPi. With the cooler track temperatures, Taylor managed to place the #10 Koncia Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R much closer to the #5, with only 0.177 splitting the pair at the end.

    VISIT FLORIDA Racing had a disrupted session as the right-hand side window blew out whilst Marc Goossens was lapping around the Daytona International Speedway. Rather than lose time in what was already a fairly short session, the team decided to leave Goossens out in the Riley/Multimatic with some ‘extra air conditioning’. The team finished right at the back of the Prototype field.

    This session also ended a few minutes early due to a red flag. Loic Duval crashed the DragonSpeed #81 into the concrete barrier on the exit of Turn 1. The driver was OK but the heavy impact caused a lot of damage to the front of the ORECA. The car had to be brought back to the pits on a flatbed as it failed to complete the lap.

    It was also very close at the top of the Prototype Challenge class. BAR1 Motorsports came out on top by 0.027 seconds to #38 Performance Tech Motorsport. This could show a close battle for class pole when they come to qualifying later on. The rest of the Prototype Challenge class was spread throughout the timesheet. #8 Starworks Motorsport failed to complete one lap as it spent the session in the pits. This does not bode well for the team’s qualifying hopes.

    The GT classes, this session, showed a bit more consistency in lap times. Although the splits were close, both Pla in the #68 Ford GT for the GT Le Mans class and McMurry in the #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R for the GT Daytona class held onto the top spots for the duration of the second practice session. Three different manufacturers were present at the top of the GT Le Mans class. Ford came out on top with Risi Competizione #62 Ferrari 488 GTE second fastest and the Porsche of the Porsche GT Team #911 rounding off the top three. Pole position in the GT Le Mans class could go in favour of any manufacturer.

    It was more of a two horse race in GT Daytona. McMurry was the only non-Ferrari to finish in the top three, with Spirit of Race #51 and last year’s GT Daytona Champions in the #63 Scuderia Corsa finishing behind in second and third respectively. The Ferraris have proven they have competitive pace in the GT Daytona field, but McMurry proved that they are not unbeatable.

    Most of the teams do not think qualifying counts for too much. There are no extra pole position points to be gained and over the course of 24-hours anything could happen to make the starting positions a moot point. Qualifying is completed in four 15-minute sessions with GT Daytona qualifying first and ending with the Prototype class. The first qualifying session kicks off at 15:10 ET – make sure to follow @SpeedChillsView on Twitter for LIVE updates as the sessions unfold.

  • Action Express Racing take the Fastest Time of Practice One

    The first 60-minute practice session of the Rolex 24 at Daytona ended with Christian Fittipaldi fastest in the #5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. The team spent most of the session at the top of the timing board with very little challenge for the position. In the Prototype Challenge class, BAR1 Motorsports looked to be the strongest, being the only two Prototype Challenge cars to be in the competitive times of the Prototype class and finish the session at the front of their class. Oliver Pla was the fastest GT Le Mans runner in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, whilst the Scuderia Corsa #63 crew picked up where they left off at the end of last season, going fastest in GT Daytona.

    About five minutes into the session, a red flag halted track actions as a track inspection was conducted. The teams all filed back into the pits for the five-minute delay before carrying on with their testing sessions as the track returned to green. A lot of drivers were focusing on setup for this session, so fastest time was not high on the agenda. With reliability most likely to be the deciding factor of the race on the weekend, it may not be who is fastest but who can survive the 24-hours longest.

    Fittipaldi’s pace was uncatchable for the rest of the Prototype field. He finished 1.477 seconds faster than Ricky Taylor behind in the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac. Taylor managed to get the gap down to 0.796 but a late improvement from Fittipaldi saw the Brazilian maintain an impressive pace advantage. Fittipaldi and Taylor were the only two drivers to get their cars below the 1m40s mark. Mike Conway made it a Cadillac top three in the Prototype class as he finished third fastest in the second Action Express Racing car, #31.

    The #13 Rebellion stopped twice out on track. The first time the car managed to get moving again after only a short delay. However, the second time was more critical. Ending the session about 30 seconds early, the car stopped out on track with its lights flashing manically. It could have been an electrical fault that saw the car pull to a stop. The Rebellion did get moving again but it limped very slowly back to the pits.

    It appeared that Starworks Motorsport might have been suffering an issue at the beginning of the session with their Prototype Challenge ORECAs. It took the team about 40 minutes to get either of their cars setting competitive times, and even then they were over four seconds off the pace of their class challengers. The BAR1 Motorsports Prototype Challenge ORECAs were the only ones to be setting competitive times around the pace of the slowest Prototype cars. If this pace is representative it could be easy for the BAR1 Motorsports cars to get a decent lead on a pace basis for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

    The GT Le Mans class was tightly fought for, with the cars being separated by a maximum of a couple of tenths. Pla got his Ford GT only 0.029 seconds ahead of the #912 Porsche 911 RSR. James Calado has come over from WEC to race for Risi Competizione alongside Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander in a Ferrari 488 GTE. They finished the session fourth behind the second Ford, piloted by Dirk Mueller.

    The GT Daytona class was just as close as the GT Le Mans one, hopefully indicating for some fast, wheel-to-wheel racing in these classes come the 24-endurance race on the weekend. Starting the new season as they finished the last one, Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan finished the session with the fastest time in their class. They are joined for the Rolex 24 at Daytona by Sam Bird and Matteo Cressoni. The #61 Grasser Lamborghini Huracan and the #29 Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS finished off the top three in this class. Dream Racing Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 had an off-track moment at Turn 1 early on in the session. It is unknown whether the car was knocked off the track or lost the car, but it got moving again fairly quickly.

    The next WeatherTech SportsCar Practice session will commence at 13:30 ET.

  • An introduction to VISIT FLORIDA Racing

    With the Rolex 24 At Daytona just around the corner, the excitement is starting to build. Our partners in the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona, VISIT FLORIDA, are getting ready for their biggest race of the year. But who exactly are VISIT FLORIDA Racing?

    Here we give you an insightful look at the team pushing for their first Rolex 24 At Daytona victory.


    From Left to Right:  Marc Goossens, Rene Rast and Renger Van Der Zande.

    Team owner Troy Flis established VISIT FLORIDA Racing in 1987 and has been with the team ever since, helping to evolve the club-racing team into one of the fiercest competitors in endurance racing. The team’s home is just down the road from the World Centre of Racing in Daytona Beach, basing them right at the heart of American motorsport. VISIT FLORIDA is a familiar face in the IMSA paddock, with the team having competed in every season of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship beginning with the former GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series in 2000.

    The team runs in the highly competitive and highest class of endurance racing available in IMSA: the Prototype class, as of 2017 split between the Daytona Prototype International cars and the WEC spec LMP2 cars. Under the new format, VISIT FLORIDA made the switch from running a Corvette based Daytona Prototype to the new Gibson-Riley LMP2 car which they will run for the course of the 2017 season.

    The team has had a successful history, with six victories and 18 podiums to date since 2004. Notable performances include 3rd place finishes overall in the Rolex 24 At Daytona for the past two years, 2015 and 2016. Even though the rules and regulations for the Prototype class have been heavily altered this year, VISIT FLORIDA still expect to be achieving overall race wins and will be hoping to start the year strongly with the Rolex 24 At Daytona. With VISIT FLORIDA Racing now running the internationally eligible LMP2 car, the team are also hoping to compete at the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans.

    Racing History

    2012 marked the year of change for VISIT FLORIDA and started them on their path to the great successes they have achieved since. Chevrolet, VISIT FLORIDA’s then car provider, introduced its new Corvette Daytona Prototype bodywork that VISIT FLORIDA took in their stride. The car was fast, competitive, and reliable. It took the team to three pole positions, three race victories, four podiums, and seven top-five finishes to claim third in the Rolex Series Championship. VISIT FLORIDA knew this car was impressive and exactly what they had been searching for to make their mark on the endurance scene.

    They stuck with the Corvette Daytona Prototype in 2013, putting Ricky Taylor and Richard Westbrook in the cockpit for the full season. The team could not repeat the success of the previous year, but they did demonstrate a consistent and reliable car, completing 97% of all the laps raced during 2013. Their best performance of that year was a 3rd place finish at Barber Motorsport Park, whilst their Rolex 24 At Daytona campaign saw them finishing 5th overall.

    In 2014, GRAND-AM and ALMS combined to create a new IMSA series: the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. It was another successful year for the team, with Westbrook staying on in the team to partner Michael Valiante. Coming third in the championship, the year saw VISIT FLORIDA add another race victory to their name – victory at the 6 Hours of the Glen – and three more podiums: 2nd place at Chevrolet’s home base in Detroit and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, and 3rd place and the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    As successful as those years were, 2015 has been VISIT FLORIDA’s most successful year to date. The pairing of Valiante and Westbrook stayed together and proved to be an extremely strong pairing. Throughout the full season, the team was never placed outside of the top five. 2015 saw VISIT FLORIDA add two more race victories, claim, six podiums and achieve their best ever result at Rolex 24 At Daytona (3rd place overall), and finished second in the championship. Their victories came at Mazda Raceway, Laguna Seca and 6 Hours of the Glen. All the years racing with Chevrolet were paying off, as the team got ever closer to achieving the elusive championship title.

    The love story with Chevrolet was due to end, however, as 2016 marked the final year of Daytona Prototypes. The Daytona Prototypes had been around for 13 years and it was due to the desire to make the Daytona Prototypes available to race on an international scale that saw the rules and regulations for the class change for 2017. Two new drivers came into the team for 2016: Ryan Dalziel and Marc Goossens. They were joined by Ryan Hunter-Reay for the Rolex 24 At Daytona and repeated their best ever finish of third overall. VISIT FLORIDA had another winless season last year, but once again proved the consistency of the car and team by completing 95% of all laps raced. Their best finish was second place at Laguna Seca.

    Drivers

    In the theme of international availability for the Daytona Prototype Internationals, VISIT FLORIDA have an international driver line-up for the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Marc Goossens (Belgium) stays on with the team for this year and is partnered by Renger van der Zande (Holland) for the full season. Rene Rast (Germany) completes the Rolex 24 At Daytona line-up making it a fully European affair.

    Marc Goossens was born in 1969 in Geel, Belgium. He started his race career when he was three years old, taking up karting. He won three Belgium Kart Championship and the European Title before he switched to cars in 1990. He raced in several open-cockpit single-seater series for a few years, eventually making the move over to sports car racing in 1996. In this same year, Goossens made his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut. Goossens has 12 24 Hours of Le Mans starts to his name, with his best finish being 2nd in 1997. He has also competed in NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity events since making the move to sports cars. He, like VISIT FLORIDA, started out in IMSA racing series in 2000. Before joining VISIT FLORIDA in 2016 he had mainly raced in the GT class for Riley Motorsport.

    Ahead of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Goossens said: "We’ve had several good tests and I think that the things we tried showed us where we need to be setup wise. Now it is just about making the car more reliable. I think that the key to doing well in this race is being the team that spends the least amount of time in the pits. Whoever does that, is going to be the one challenging for the win in the end. It was great to be on the podium in this race last year and hopefully, we can be there at the end to fight for a big result again this year."

    Partnering Goossens for the full season is Renger van der Zande, a dutch driver with a wealth of experience behind him in both single seaters and sports cars, this will be his first time out in the Prototype class and his first time in an LMP2. Along with his racing commitments, Zande is also a driver coach for upcoming kart drivers. He also works at Nijmegan Radbound University as a coach for the sports physics department. Working closely with Mercedes SportMedizin program, he additionally spends time as a fitness professional.

    Ahead of his Prototype class debut, Zande said: "I am very happy with my new teammates this year and the team environment at VISIT FLORIDA Racing. The Rolex 24 is one of the biggest racing events in the world. You see all of the hot shot drivers in Prototype racing are here. Several competitors are ex-Formula 1 drivers and are World Champions, so we’re competing among the best of the best. One of VISIT FLORIDA’s strengths is the team's experience and calling the right strategy when the race changes with caution periods or with the weather here in their home race. I think there are a lot of cars that have a lot of reliability question marks, so we will try to minimize that and try to win."

    Rene Rast joins the team just for the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The Minden-born German driver has had a lot of experience in prototypes having recently finished a successful season in the FIA WEC with G-Drive racing. He has three Le Mans appearances to his name, racing for G-Drive in 2014 and 2016 and one appearance for Audi Sport Team Joest in 2015. He already has several 24 hour race wins to his name, the 24 Hours of Nuburgring, raced around the infamous Nordschleife circuit. Rast has competed in the Rolex 24 At Daytona for the past five years, but only in the GT Class. He took the class win in 2012 and 2016 with Magus Racing.

    Rene said: "I think that we can fight for victory. Where all the teams are right now (in outright pace) is up in the air because we do not know much about the other competitors and their new equipment. Obviously, it would mean a lot to me to win the Rolex 24 At Daytona. This is one of the few prestigious races that I haven't won overall yet. I have a lot of faith in the VISIT FLORIDA Racing guys that they can prepare the car to be a contender in the final stages of the race"

    Images Brian Cleary/VISIT FLORIDA Racing

  • Cadillac Dominate the first Four Hours

    It has been a Cadillac 1-2-3 at the front of the field, with Action Express Racing trading the lead of the race with #10 Wayne Taylor Racing. As the fourth-hour finishes, Max Angelelli has the advantage in the #10, leading the field by 1.5 seconds. The GT Le Mans class has continued to be dominated by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing as the #66 has held the front of the field since setting pole on Thursday. The Prototype Challenge class has seen each team take a turn leading the field through the first four hours. #38 Performance Tech Motorsports held the lead for most of that duration but the lead ends the first four hours in the hands of #88 Starworks Motorsports’ Sean Rayhall. The most action-packed class has been GT Daytona. At the end of the fourth hour, #63 Scuderia Corsa leads the class.

    From the start of the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Cadillac DPis looked like the car to beat. Pulling away from the rest of the field, Action Express Racing spend the first few hours trading the lead between their two cars. The Wayne Taylor car was never too far behind them and in pit stop cycles it was possible for either of the three of them to take the lead. The most impressive aspect of the first four hours in the Prototype class was Sebastian Morris’ performance in the #31 Action Express Racing. In his debut to Prototype racing, Morris put in an incredible performance that had him leading the race for his entire stint in the car. He managed to make his tyres and fuel last long enough for the sister car to have to pit first, meaning the #31 had a lead of 20 seconds plus the pit stop time of the #5.

    Issues, however, befell on the Action Express Racing cars. All of Morris’ hard work was made in vain as the #31 had a start up issue as it tried to leave the pits. The entire lead Morris had built up was lost as the team tried to fire the car back up and nearly had to push it back into the pits. The #5 had a rear lights failure, which forced the team to replace the complete rear wing. Luckily, they could do this on pit road so they did not lose too much time on track.

    VISIT FLORIDA Racing has had a decent first four hours. Each driver has now had a stint in the car and the fastest lap has come from Rene Rast, setting a 1:39.183. The #90 car spent most of the third hour ‘best of the rest’ behind the Cadillac DPis and look to be in a strong position with good pace.

    The GT Le Mans class appears to be a fight between the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing cars and the #62 Risi Competizione. The Corvettes are placed just behind the lead fight, but with the temperature dropping, they appear to be finding an advantage. Ford managed to have four clean pit stops during the second Full Corse Yellow and they pitted each of their cars for tyres and fuel. The #66 looks like the car to beat, currently holding an 8.700-second gap to the Ferrari behind.

    The Prototype Challenge class has seen a few incidents. The #26 BAR1 Motorsports car spun off at Bus Stop chicane, using the run-off road to stay out of any trouble. It managed to get going again but it severely affected its class and overall position. The BAR1 Motorsports do not seem to be running as well as they were through practice sessions, with the Starworks Motorsports stepping up to challenge the #38 Performance Tech Motorsports car.

    GT Daytona saw seven different manufacturers holding the top seven positions in the class at the beginning of the race, showing just how close the class is. Even at the end of hour four, there are still five different manufacturers in the top five positions in class. The racing has been close, tight, and exciting throughout the race so far and definitely promises to be the closest fought class.

    The #73 Park Place Motorsports had been leading the class and competitively running in a class podium position throughout most of the race. It was towards the end of the third hour that the #8 Starworks Motorsports Prototype Challenge car came across the grass at Bus Stop Chicane, losing control of the car and tagging the rear of the #73. The Porsche was sent straight into the tyre barrier on the outside of the track before the #8 followed it, spearing straight into the side and pinning it against the wall. Since the incident, reports have come out that both drivers have cleared the medical inspections and are OK. The incident put the #73 instantly out of the race. This was devastating for the team as they had been running competitively and strongly.

    Three other cars have been lost from the first four hours of racing. Within hour one, the #24 BMW Team RLL was the first to retire. An unknown issue saw the car back into the garage and unable to return to the race. Another retiree was the #59 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. The car suffered a blown engine that prevented it from competing any further in the race.

    In an almost repeat of the crash Loic Duval had in practice on Thursday, the #14 3GT Racing Lexus became the second retiree of the race. Losing it through the exit of Turn 1, Scott Pruett took the car straight into the outside barrier and ripped off the bonnet. Pruett has been confirmed OK and has cleared his medical examination. The car was retired due to extensive chassis damage.

    Make sure to follow @SpeedChillsView for LIVE updates on the Rolex 24 at Daytona as the action unfolds.

  • Daytona lap record looks set to fall.

    Lap times fell on the second day of running at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona with Mazda leading the way throughout, Jonathan Bomarito setting the fastest time of the day in the night session with a 1:34.533 in the #55 Mazda Team Joest DPi. Times weren't just falling in the DPi class however, most of the field were lapping faster than the best race times from 2018.

    Harry Tincknell was the first to break the 1:35 mark in the first session of the day, the Mazda running fastest and closing in on the 1993 lap record, a 1:33.875 set in a Toyota Eagle MK III. Tincknell set a time of 1:34.925, Fernando Alonso just behind with a time of 1:35.052 before the session closed. Renger Van Der Zande fought back in the fourth session though, the times dropping again to 1:34.534 in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac. Ricky Taylor put the #7 Acura ARX-05 second in the fourth session with a time of 1:35.017 with the top three rounded out by Mike Conway in the Action Express Cadillac.

    Jonathan Bomarito fought back in the final session of the day, and the first night practice session for the class of 2019. It was a close fought session though, Bomarito going just 0.444 faster than Van Der Zande by the end of the session. Initially Bomarito was just 0.001 seconds faster than Renger Van Der Zande but as the session wore on, the Mazda crew pulled further ahead. The #55 Mazda went six tenths up in the final stages of the session before the #31 Action Express Cadillac of Pipo Derrani fought back to split the two Mazda's with a time of 1:35.179.

    The #52 PR1 Oreca finished the second day at the top of the time sheets, Gabriel Aubry once again at the front and over a half a second up on Ben Hanley in the DragonSpeed Oreca. Aubry set a time of 1:36.99, 2.457 seconds off the pace of the front running DPi cars.

    Porsche finished 1-2 in GTLM in the final session of the day, the #911 ahead of the #912, former Porsche LMP1 driver Nick Tandy posting a time of 1:43.402 to close of the days action. Porsche lead the way in the first session of the morning, Mathieu Jaminet topping the times with a 1:43.862 in the #912 just 0.007 seconds up on Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette. Ford fought back in the second session of the day, Scott Dixon taking the fastest time of the GTLM class at the Roar so far with a time of 1:43.148, 0.075 up on Patrick Pilet in the #911. Scott Dixon couldn't quite beat the Porsche's at night, coming within four tenths of Tandy in the night session.

    Porsche also lead the way in the first session of GTD, the #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 RSR of Matteo Cairoli setting a time of 1:45.919, 0.026 quicker than the #96 Acura NSX of Trent Hindman and Meyer Shank Racing w/Curb-Agajanian. Hindman took the top spot in session two of the day though, going quicker again with a time of 1:45.533, eight tenths up on the #57 sister car. Paul Dalla Lana caused the only red flag of the session, the Canadian this time at the wheel of a Ferrari 488 GT3 rather than the Aston Martin Vantage GTE car he runs in the WEC, hit the barrier head on at the second horseshoe in the final moments of the session. The #13 Via Italia 488 GT3 Ferrari finished the day at the top of the time sheets, Victor Franzoni setting a time of 1:45.842, two tenths faster than the #71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3 which took second.

    All images courtesy of IMSA

  • Goodbye Daytona Prototype, Hello Daytona Prototype International

    The Daytona Prototype cars have participated in 171 races over the 14 years in which they competed. A record of winning 163 of those races showed the Daytona Prototypes were cars to be taken seriously on the racing scene. But after 14 years of spectacular racing, the Daytona Prototypes as they were known have hung up their helmets for the last time. 2017 will no longer see the fleet that originally competed in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, as the new Daytona Prototype Internationals (DPi) take their place in todays IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship.


    Image: www.imsa.com

    The Daytona Prototypes have had a long and successful life of racing. The class was initially started in a hope to reduce costs of running cars and teams. The number of participants for the Rolex 24 At Daytona was high but it was the expensive cost that saw teams put off of entering the series for a full season. The Grand American Road Racing Association (GARRA) saw, in 2002, that something needed to be done to increase the full-season entrant numbers. A new class of cars was introduced that would be a lot cheaper to run for a full season and also addressed the issue of the top speeds being too great around concrete-walled Rovel Speedways: the Daytona Prototypes.

    Their introduction in 2002 was not easy; a lot of speculation surrounded the new Daytona Prototypes, especially with the reduced top speeds to make them safer. Grand-Am took the Daytona Prototypes and started a new, stand-alone North American racing series to introduce them to the Motorsport World. They kept the costs highly capped, meaning that manufacturer-owned teams were not allowed to compete in this series. Alike the FIA LMP2 class, there was a set car that teams purchased so they could race in the series with restricted development and modifications. Every Daytona Prototype ran a turboframe chassis from a series chosen chassis supplier and relatively high-powered engines that were derived from production engines from major production manufacturers.

    Three generations of Daytona Prototypes were created before the introduction of the United SportsCar Championship in 2014. The popularity of the series grew as it started to gift some of the closest and most exciting wheel-to-wheel racing in any motorsport series.

    The Daytona Prototype cars took part in 141 Rolex Sports Car Series races and 30 IMSA races (since 2014). Only having lost eight of the races that they took part in, the Daytona Prototypes could be one of the most successful sports car series of all time. Chip Garassi Racing is the team with the most Daytona Prototype wins. Felix Sabates helped take them to their 46 series wins. Scott Pruett, however, holds the record for the most wins by one driver, with 44 wins to his name. It was in 2006 that the Rolex 24 At Daytona 24 saw the most Daytona Prototypes on the track, with 30 competing in the series blue-ribbon event. In the 14 years of racing, 103 Daytona Prototypes were manufactured, with team Riley having produced the most with 47 cars to their team’s name.


    Image: Mazda Racing

    The Daytona Prototypes have raced alongside the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) series of cars since the birth of the IMSA Sportscar Championship in 2014. The main reason for the change from the Daytona Prototypes to the DPis was to try and allow the DPis to be eligible to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. IMSA worked with the ACO and FIA to try and make the regulations for the DPis class the same as those for the LMP2 entrants of Le Mans. Different business goals for IMSA and ACO/FIA did not ultimately make this achievable.

    Whereas the Daytona Prototypes only shared similar regulations to the LMP2 series, the new DPis share the exact same regulations. All participating DPis must run one of the four selected manufacturer chassis and use the same standard specification of Cosworth electronic package. Engines, like they always have, will be selected from major road car production manufacturers and must be homologated by IMSA. The four chassis providers for the DPis differs from the LMP2 list, with Dallara, Onroak Automotive, ORECA, and Riley/Multimatic being the four chassis providers for the DPis.


    Image: Ligier Racing

    With the DPis being the top class of cars in IMSA, in comparison to LMP2s not being the top class of the FIA’s World Endurance Championship, the aims of the two classes in their respective series differs. Because of this, the DPi teams have a little more freedom in the modifications they can make to their bodywork. The bodywork used has to be an IMSA homologated manufacturer-designed and branded bodywork but the teams can make modifications to their nose, sidepods, rear-wheel arch, and rear valance to allow for variation through the field. If the DPis wish to enter into the Le Mans 24 Hours they must run a low downforce bodywork package for that event.

    The same chassis of the LMP2s and the DPis will allow and encourage closer and fairer competition between the two car classes. The severe alterations to the Daytona Prototypes to make them Daytona Prototype International is to help integrate the DPis into more racing series so the opportunity to go racing is higher. The same ‘core car’ in both series will allow the two series to compete against each other in more IMSA and ACO competitions. What originally started out as a cost-efficient sports car racing class in America has now stepped up onto the international field, with more exciting competitions now within its reach.

  • Heavy Downpour Halts Action

    For the last four hours of racing, the action has mainly been muted as the Full Course Yellow has dominated most of the running. For the last three hours there have been three Full Course Yellows, only one of which was for an on-track incident. The Yellows are being held out for so long as the marshals do not want to red flag the 24-hour endurance race. Red-flagging the race would mean they would have to restart, and that does not just mean sending the cars back out but maintaining all the different engines and getting them off running at optimum performance. The race would probably lose more time if they red flagged it, hence why there is such a long duration of Full Course Yellows.

    The class leaders have not changed a great deal through the last four hours because of the Full Course Yellows. At the beginning of the four hours, Rene Rast managed to put the VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley/Multimatic into the overall lead for the first time of the race. This lasted for about 45-minutes before the team pitted and fell behind the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing.

    The VISIT FLORIDA #90 was aided in taking the overall lead as the #10 had a drive through penalty. They had pitted just before the first Full Course Yellow, which looked to have put them at an advantage. However, one of the Wayne Taylor mechanics jumped over the wall and started working on the car before the car had come to a complete stop. Due to this infringement of the rules, the #10 was handed the penalty.

    After a long delay in the pits to undergo more repair work, the #88 Starworks Motorsport came back out on track from behind the wall. Still trying to repair the heavy damage incurred to the car when the #31 made contact with it, the team had had to pull the car back behind the wall. They are currently running on track but are very far down the field.

    One of the Full Course Yellows, and the shortest, was brought out because of an incident on track. In the wet conditions, the #50 Riley Motorsports Mercedes AMG-GT3 spun the car, losing control and crashing nose first into the barrier on the outside of the track. There was heavy front and left-hand side damage on the Mercedes, causing sparks to kick up as the car limped back to the pits. It has not been confirmed that the #50 has come back out from behind the wall or in the garage; with the amount of damage on the car it is assumed it has not returned to the track.

    In the three Full Course Yellows that were on the track within a time period of two hours, 11 and a half minutes of green-flag racing were completed. The teams have been using the lull in action to make any repairs they could to their cars. The #15 team have replaced the wheel fender that they taped together earlier, whilst #13 Rebellion changed the front nose on the ORECA and the #3 Corvette Racing car changed its brake discs.

    There is hope that the racing will get underway soon but the rain is persistently falling. As long as they can get away with it, IMSA will continue to run this race under Full Course Yellows rather than Red Flagging it.

    Whenever the action gets back underway, make sure you are following @SpeedChillsView so you do not miss a thing.

  • Heroes and underdogs

    Lewis Hamilton has cleaned out his social media history, apparently, after a thoughtless Christmas gaff involving some unfortunate comments about his little nephew wearing a princess dress caused the world champion a heap of angry heat.

    Yep, that's as good as it gets on Formula 1 news this winter. Let's just say it's been a particularly quiet off-season in the Grand Prix world.

    Thankfully, there's been plenty of real news to savour in sports car racing. Forget F1 - long-distance endurance racing has given motor racing fans plenty to chew on during the bleak midwinter.

    First, there was the 'Roar before the Rolex 24', the traditional test weekend at the Daytona International Speedway in early January that offered action-starved race fans something of real nourishment to savour.

    Cadillac's DPi dominated, with Action Express, Spirit of Daytona and Wayne Taylor Racing showing the rest the way. Felipe Nasr, recently of Sauber F1 fame, set the pace in the final day 'qualifying' session that decides garage allocations for the race itself on January 27-28. He's raced at Daytona before, way back in 2012, so the Brazilian shouldn't have any trouble recalibrating to long-distance sports car racing at the end of this month.

    Roar Before the Rolex 24 Cadillac DPi

    The bigger question will be whether Fernando Alonso - a slightly higher profile and more successful F1 ace - can make the transition as smoothly.

    The Spaniard was surprised at the lack of running he managed in his first taste of Daytona for the United Autosports team, driving an LMP2 Ligier JSP217. That was a consequence of the test schedule rather than a team shortfall, but whatever the reason, Alonso will be taking steps into the relative unknown come race weekend.

    He was only 12th fastest at the 'Roar' in a car that isn't entirely suited to Daytona's mix of oval banking and twisty road course, but speed is hardly likely to be a problem for one of the great racing drivers of the modern era. What will test him is to know when and how to use that awesome natural ability.

    Lapping traffic is a significant feature at Daytona, perhaps more than at any other sports car race thanks to the size of the grid and the - ahem - mixed quality of drivers. The Rolex 24 remains a genuine pro-am challenge, which makes for an unpredictable cocktail. Is a backmarker you are approaching an experienced hand who knows how to keep clear of contact while maintaining his own pace - or is it a so-called 'gentleman' driver who hasn't checked his mirrors? Alonso won't have a clue.

    Victory at the Rolex 24 certainly looks a long shot for the two-time F1 champion, sharing with impressive youngsters Lando Norris and Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 champion Phil Hanson. Still, his progress will be fascinating and he's sure to be a huge story at Daytona.

    And as the man himself has admitted, this is all about laying the groundwork for a future Le Mans campaign. When and in what car this will happen is impossible to say - sadly it looks unlikely to be 2018 and in a Toyota at this stage - but Le Mans is Alonso's real target.

    For another genuine global motorsporting hero, Le Mans has also long been in his sights, but like Alonso, Alex Zanardi will be testing the waters at Daytona - although he has at least raced in GTs before.

    The Italian, who lost his lower legs in a terrible Indycar crash back in 2001, told me when I interviewed him two summers ago that Le Mans was still an ambition for him. Now, with long-time manufacturer partner BMW, he has gone public on an aim to race at the Rolex 24 in 2019, with a specially adapted M8 GTE. After that, Le Mans will surely be next.

    Zanardi is hugely popular in America after his dominance of Indycar racing in the late 1990s - and his accident only lifted his folk-hero status to new heights.

    When I met him he was preparing for the Rio Paralympics, in his new sport of hand cycling. Success in Brazil added to his London medal haul in 2012, and he now has four golds and two silvers to add to the eight world titles he has won in this discipline. The man is quite incredible, up there with the most charismatic and inspiring racing drivers I ever had the good fortune to meet.

    He'll be a huge draw at Daytona next year.

    Many thousands of miles from the Florida speedbowl and a little closer to home, there was more to whet sports car appetites this week.

    The annual Autosport International racing car show took place in Birmingham, where the wraps came off Ginetta's striking new LMP1 car. Beside new racers from BR Engineering and Rebellion Racing, whose car will be seen for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show in March, the Ginetta represents a shot in the arm for privateer participation at Le Mans.

    Ginetta G60 LMP1 Launch

    As I wrote in my last blog for Speed Chills, new regulations promise to allow non-hybrid privateer entrant a genuine chance to compete with the technical masterpieces that have come from the factory teams in recent years - now reduced to one in the form of Toyota, following the consecutive withdrawals from first Audi and then Porsche.

    Former F1 team Manor Motorsport will run at least one Ginetta at Le Mans in June, and appear to carry genuine hope that the new rules will give them a shot. The evidence of 2016, when an LMP2 almost won overall thanks to the problems endured by the factory hybirds, offers support to that point of view.

    Sitting here right now in the depths of January, before the Ginetta has turned a wheel in anger, it's hard to believe Manor can really challenge Toyota. But the Japanese giant is famous for its abysmal record at the greatest race in the world - so who knows?

    The day of the underdog could be about to return.

    Whatever the reality, right now there is so much to look forward to as Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship begins a bright new era. And it's certainly more interesting than Lewis Hamilton's Twitter feed.

    POSTSCRIPT: Before I sign off, I must add a word or two about another hero: Dan Gurney, the great American all-rounder whose death was announced on Monday morning this week.

    For sports car fans, Gurney's headline achievement was sharing the winning Ford MkIV with AJ Foyt at Le Mans in 1967 - then subsequently inventing the tradition of spraying champagne.

    But of course, that was just one glorious moment in a wonderfully full life. Gurney could race anything, anywhere. A winner in F1, sports cars, Can-Am, Indycars, Trans-Am and NASCAR, he also had a brilliant engineer's brain and in the Eagle Mk1 F1 car, was perhaps responsible for the best-looking Grand Prix car of all time - and one in which he conquered Spa just a week before that Le Mans win.

    Later in life, Gurney's Eagles also took IMSA by storm in the high-powered GTP era of the 1980s and early '90s.

    His life and career straddled the eras like only a handful of other racing men - and perhaps most impressively of all, he remained a much-loved gentleman through it all.

    A great all-rounder in more ways than one, then. RIP.

    Damien Smith, former Editor of Motor Sport Magazine

  • How To Watch IMSA

    The International Motor Sports Association came about in 2014 as a merge of the GRAND-AM series and the ALMS series. Originally, the series was started by the executive director of the Sports Car Club of America, John Bishop, his wife Peggy, and with help from Sr. of NASCAR Bill France in 1969. IMSA is the governing body of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as well as other smaller Championships. One of the biggest IMSA events is the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which kick-starts the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship every year.

    image: imsa.com

    With the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona under a week away, here is everything you need to know about IMSA and the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to get you ready to enjoy one of the most anticipated 24-hour races of the year.

    IMSA Series

    IMSA is the governing body for a few American-based sports car series, the pinnacle of which is the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship consists of racing at 12 of North America’s leading sports car venues, including Daytona International Speedway – the World Centre of Racing – Sebring, Watkins Glen, Road Atlanta, Long Beach, and Road America. The Championship holds four classes of cars: Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans, and GT Daytona.

    Alongside the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, smaller series run inside the governing body of IMSA as support series to the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge is one that runs in tandem with the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship; they share ten rounds. The cars that race in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge are “showroom to speedway” cars, meaning that modifications are limited to the areas of safety and competition. The series showcases the latest in American-made and imported high-performance sports cars, coupes, and sedans. Two classes of cars participate in this series: Grand Sport and Street Tuner.

    The IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazdasees open cockpit ELAN prototypes with Mazda power go head to head on the racetrack. The series allows for semi-professional drivers to compete in a world-class environment, giving them an experience of the pressure racing on a world stage with Lites 1 and Lites 2 classes. Some of the rounds of the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda are raced with the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

    The rest of the series within IMSA are ran by manufacturers in an attempt to give up and coming drivers some experience in their sports cars and sports car racing before they progress into the higher series like WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohamawas put together so young and upcoming drivers and veteran semi-professionals could race together. This allows the younger drivers to take on the experience and knowledge of their older competitors. They race iconic Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car for the entire series, competing in the Platinum or Gold Cup. A Master Championship is also raced for those drivers who are over the age of 45, but they may also compete in the Platinum Cup. Each of the eight weekends in the series contains two 45-minute races on North American circuits.

    The Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canadaruns by the exact same rules as it’s American counterpart (above). Instead of being hosted on North American race circuits it allows those drivers based in Canada the chance to compete on some of the best Canadian sports car racetracks. This too consists of eight race weekends of two 45-minute races.

    One of the three Super Trofeo North American series, Lamborghini Super Turbo, is also governed by IMSA. It gives race experience to rookie professional and amateur drivers in 620-HP Huracan Super Trofeo LP 620-2, the first purpose-built racing Lamborghini. There is six race meets in a season of Lamborghini Super Turbo, with each meet consisting of two 50-minute races.

    Finally, IMSA has the Ferrari Challenge. This is a single model championship for Ferrari clients with a passion for racing. The series started in 1993 in a way to allow those customers of Ferrari to race against each other. The series has Gentlemen drivers rather than professional race drivers and is not usually a feeder series into higher IMSA series.

    For 2017, the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has 12 rounds, starting at the end of January and ending at the beginning of October. Half of the rounds have a duration of 2h40m, making this the standard race duration in the series. Two events have a shorter time of 1h40m, whilst the other four rounds stand out as special events with much longer race durations. The longest race is the Rolex 24 at Daytona, which is also the opening race of the series.

    There are four test sessions in the season, with three of those focusing on the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Every class of car participates in each of the tests, apart from the Prototype Challenge, which does not appear in the second test at Daytona International Speedway. Below is the full season calendar for the 2017 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, including the four test sessions.

    DATE

    EVENT

    LOCATION

    DURATION

    November 15/16 2016

    TEST

    Daytona International Speedway

    Test

    December 13/14 2016

    TEST

    Daytona International Speedway

    Test

    January 6-8 2017

    Roar Before Rolex 24

    Daytona International Speedway

    Test

    January 26-29 2017

    Rolex 24 at Daytona

    Daytona International Speedway

    24 Hours

    February 23/24 2017

    TEST

    Sebring International Raceway

    Test

    March 15-18 2017

    Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring

    Sebring International Raceway

    12 Hours

    April 7-8 2017

    BUBBA Burger SportsCar Grand Prix

    Long Beach Street Circuit

    1h40m

    May 5-7 2017

    Circuit of the Americas

    Circuit of the Americas

    2h40m

    June 2-3 2017

    Chevrolet Belle Isle Detroit Grand Prix

    Raceway at Belle Isle Park

    1h40m

    June 30 – July 2 2017

    Sahlen’s 6 Hours of The Glen

    Watkins Glen International

    6 Hours

    July 7-9 2017

    Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix

    Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

    2h40m

    July 21/21 2017

    IMSA WeatherTech Northeast Grand Prix

    Lime Rock Park

    2h40m

    August 4-6 2017

    Continental Tire Road Race Showcase

    Road America

    2h40m

    August 25-27 2017

    Michelin GT Challenge

    Virginia International Raceway

    2h40m

    September 22-24 2017

    Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix

    Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

    2h40m

    October 5-7 2017

    Petit Le Mans

    Road Atlanta

    10 Hours

     

    Race Format

    The races see the grid complete formation laps before a rolling start. All four classes race on the track together but for some of the rounds, only a selection of the classes participates. Only the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes race IMSA WeatherTech Northeast Grand Prix and the Michelin GT Challenge. The Prototype Challenge class does not take part in the BUBBA Burger SportsCar Grand Prix or the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix, meaning this class’s season is only eight races long. Only the GT Daytona class completes a full 12-race season as the GT Le Mans cars do not take part in the Chevrolet Belle Isle Detroit Grand Prix.

    Qualifying takes place in four 15-minute blocks, with each class having the track to themselves during their qualifying session. Only one driver qualifies for the car, with the fastest in each class taking the class pole position. The grid is organised class by class; Prototypes lead the field as Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans, and GT Daytona line up behind them.

    The Championship

    In the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, there are three titles for each team to fight for. Both a Driver’s title and a Team title is available in every class, with a manufacturers title also available for the Prototype, GT Le Mans, and GT Daytona classes. Last year, the Prototype Driver Championship was taken by Dane Cameron and Eric Curran; an all-American line-up for Action Express Racing in a Coyote Corvette DP Chevrolet 5.5l V8. They did the double by also taking the Team Championship for Action Express Racing. The pair return again to try and retain their title, but with the Daytona Prototype regulations changes, this year they will be fielding a Dallara-based Cadillac Dpi-VR 6.2L V8. Chevrolet took the Manufacturers Championship for the Prototype Class, beating Honda by 14 points.

    In the Prototype Challenge, it was Alex Popow and Renger van de Zande who took the 2016 Drivers Championship. They fielded a Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM 09 powered by a Chevrolet SL3 6.2L V8 that also took the Team Championship. This year, Zande progresses up to the Prototype class and will race a full season for VISIT FLORIDA alongside Marc Goossens whilst Popow stays another season with Starworks Motorsport.

    GT Le Mans saw Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner take the Driver Championship, driving in a Chevrolet Corvette C7.R 5.5L V8 whilst also taking the Team Championship for the #4 Corvette Racing. Chevrolet claimed two of the three Manufacturer’s Titles by also taking the GT Le Mans Manufacturer’s Championship. Gavin and Milner continue on as a winning pairing for Corvette Racing in GT Le Mans this year and hope to retain their 2016 Titles.

    It was Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen who took the Drivers Championship for GT Daytona. They raced the Scuderia Corsa #63 Ferrari 458 GT3 and also won the Team Championship for them. Both drivers stay on for Scuderia Corsa in 2017 and are joined by Sam Bird and Matteo Cressoni for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. However, it was Audi who took the Manufacturer’s title in the GT Daytona Class. Chevrolet, who won the other two Manufacturer’s Title, were not competing in this class.

    Points

    Points are scored at the finish of each race for all cars that classify. The points system can be seen below; with all cars up to position 30 receiving points for finish the race. On top of this, ‘starting points’ are awarded to drivers and teams that start the race.

    image: wikipedia.com

    For drivers, points are only awarded if they complete the minimum required drive time that is assigned at the beginning of each race. All drivers to successfully complete their minimum driver time receive full points depending on where they finish, as well as a ‘starting point’.

    For the Teams Championship, the points are handed out in the same way as they are for the Drivers Championship. The top 30 in each class gets points assigned as above and every car gets a ‘starting point’. The Team Championships sees each car as a separate competitor even if there are two cars racing for the same team.

    Manufacturer’s points are assigned differently. There are no ‘starting points’ assigned for the Manufacturer’s Championships, only the point scoring system indicated above. For the Manufacturers Championship, the manufacturer only scores points from their highest finishing car. For example, if an Audi finishes first, third, and fifth, Audi will only take points for their first-place car. This means that potentially, a manufacturer can have their highest car finish fourth but still get second-place points in the Manufacturer’s Championship because the top three are all from the same manufacturer.

    Pit Stops

    The rules of a pit stop in IMSA and WeatherTech SportsCar events are consistent irrelevant to where the race is taking place. No mechanics or crew are allowed over the wall until the car comes to a complete stop. Once the pit stop begins, four mechanics are allowed to the car to work on refueling the cars and changing the tyres. Damage repair, changing brake pads and rotors, and wing adjustments are also done inside pit stops for the longer endurance races. The 60kph speed limit down the pit lane is enforced strictly and any drivers caught speeding down the pit lane will be handed a drive-through penalty.

    Car Classes

    Four classes of cars race in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship: Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona. For full season entry, most teams run a two driver line-up, with additional drivers joining the teams for the longer endurance races like the Rolex 24 at Daytona. At least two drivers must be in every car for every event to be allowed to compete.

    Prototype

    image: imsa.com

    The Prototype class has taken on a big regulations change for this year, with the 14-year running Daytona Prototypes being replaced with the Daytona Prototype Internationals (DPi). Along with the DPis, LMP2 cars from the World Endurance Championship can take part in this class. This class features the most technologically advanced and fastest cars in North America. These cars are designed for track racing and look a lot different to road cars.

    Cars in this class have a top speed of 200mph with 600 brake horsepower. Racing in this class will be Mazda DPi, Cadillac DPi, Nissan DPi, Ligier LMP2, Multimatic-Riley LMP2, Oreca LMP2, and Dallara LMP2, powered by either a Gibson V8, Mazda 4-cylinder turbo, Cadillac 6.2L V8, or a Nissan V6 Turbo.

    Prototype Challenge

    image: imsa.com

    In the Prototype Challenge class, every entry races the same car. This year, the car will be an ORECA FLM09 chassis powered by a Chevrolet LS3. The cars are open cockpit with a top speed of 185mph and 485 brake horsepower. Five cars have confirmed to be racing in this category for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with only two of those signing up, so far, to complete the full season.

    GT Le Mans

    image: imsa.com

    The cars in GT Le Mans are based on production models and modified to extract ultimate performance. Because of this, they are the fastest GTs available on the track. These are of the specification as the GTLM cars that race in the World Endurance Championship. Last year saw the #98 Aston Martin take part in the first two WeatherTech SportsCar Championship rounds as well as a full season of WEC. GT Le Mans is a good proving ground for manufacturers to trial their new GT cars directly competing against their sales rivals.

    With a top speed of 180mph and 500 brake horsepower, the GT Le Mans have the same speed as the GT Daytona cars (see below) so the two categories could be racing close together in race sessions. The cars available to teams in this category are: Aston Martin Vantage V8 with an Aston Martin V8, BMW M6 GTLM powered by a BMW V8 Turbo, Corvette C7.R GTE running a 5.5L Chevrolet Pushrod 2-Valve, Ferrari 488 GTE with a Ferrari V8 Turbo, Ford GT GTE powered by a Ford EcoBoost Turbo, or Porsche 911 RSR GTE running a Porsche Flat 6.

    GT Daytona

    image: imsa.com

    This class of cars has enhanced technology on board. Although very similar, the GTDs are not as powerful or aerodynamically advanced as the GTLM cars. These cars can have up to 500 brake horsepower but not exceeding but still run the same top speed as the GTLMs. In this class, the cars are all of an FIA-GT3 specifications regulation.

    The cars on this field will consist of: Acura NSX GT3s, Aston Martin Vantage GT3s, Audi R8 LMS GT3s, BMW M6 GT3s, Ferrari 488 GT3s, Lamborghini Huracan GT3s, Lexus RF GT3s, Mercedes AMG-GT3s, Nissan GT3-Rs, and Porsche 911 GT3-Rs. The corresponding engines will be used in each make of car: Acura V6 Turbo, Aston Martin V12, Audi 5.2L V10, BMW V8 Turbo, Ferrari V8 Turbo, Lamborghini 5.2L V10, Lexus 5.0L V8, Mercedes 6.2L V8, and Porsche 4.0L Flat 6.

    Number System

    The number system on the cars allows fans to easily determine whether the driver line-up is a Pro line up or a Pro-Am one. It also lets spectators see where the cars are in their respective classes. A Pro line up usually consists of only professional race drivers, whereas Pro-Am is a professional and an amateur combination.

    The position of a car in their respective class is indicated with a LED number at the rear of the car. This will change throughout the race so fans car see what the position of the car is within its class. The colour of the LED number on the cars corresponds with the type of driver line up racing. A red number indicates a Pro line up whilst green is for Pro-Am. These colours also appear on the wing mirrors, race number panel, windscreen banner, rear wing end plate, and the class decal.

  • Interview with a Champion - Neel Jani

    Neel Jani, Porsche factory driver and FIA World Endurance Champion doubles up with Rebellion in LMP2 to contest the North American Endurance Championship in 2017 alongside his regular duties at Porsche. Jani will be making his racing debut at Daytona and the Rolex 24 in the brand new Rebellion Oreca 07. Jani already has a Le Mans win to his name and has now set his sights on another 24 hour classic, the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

    In a Speed Chills Exclusive, we sat down with Neel and discussed his return to Rebellion Racing, the Roar Before the 24 and the upcoming Rolex 24 At Daytona.

    How did you get on at the Roar Before the 24?

    It is kind of hard to say, we obviously got on really well the first two days, we topped the time sheets but teams are holding back, not wanting to show their true performance just yet, but we were not playing games. We wanted to get out and see what the car could do. The Mazda is quick but Cadillac looked slow, but I’m not paying too much attention to lap times yet. We focused on our preparation, the new Oreca 07 is great, its clearly very different to the 919 so a lot to learn. It is a new car to everyone on a new circuit, and to me, I have never driven LMP2 so it was quite an experience doing my first LMP2 laps around Daytona. The team did a great job to build the car in such a short space of time after Stephane (Sarrazin) destroyed the first one at the December test at Sebring. The team had to completely rebuild the car from a new chassis and get everything set up in just a few weeks. It was important to us to get kilometres on the car to test the reliability and performance over long distance runs and the car performed perfectly all test.

    How is it being back at Rebellion after running with Porsche for 3 years?

    It is great to be back at Rebellion, there have been a number of changes to the team since I was first here but a lot of the top guys are still around (Team Manager Bart Hayden). We have a very strong line-up for the Rolex 24 and the North American Endurance Cup with Seb (Buemi) Steph (Sarrazin) and Nick (Heidfeld) in the car. It's nice to be partnered with Nick again after this time and although we have an on track rivalry, everyone gets on well and works together well, we have all come through the development together and so know each other well. It is our first time running an LMP2 car together so it is new to us all. But it is what I wanted to do. I didn't want to race in GT, I have never done it, it is very different to my background. I wanted to race in LMP2 and fight for overall victory and I believe with this team we have a very good chance, we have arguably the strongest line up. We work well with each other, we all have a lot of experience and we trust each other, that is important.

    This year, you will also be joining Rebellion for their North American Endurance Cup Races?

    We worked hard with Porsche to agree this deal with Rebellion and I am very happy it paid off. Porsche are usually very strict with other commitments so it is nice to do. It is great to get Rebellion Racing back in to North America and see what happens. (Rebellion have taken on the Robertson Racing facility in Georgia for their American campaign this season). Two of the four races will be done by the start of the WEC season so it is easier to manage than the guys doing Formula E. I am looking forward to it, we last raced here in 2013 along with Nick (Heidfeld) so it's good to be back. We are keeping one car in the US and hoping to use the same team on WEC and the North American Endurance Cup.

    This is your first time at Daytona, how did you find it and what were your impressions?

    Wow! Daytona is an incredible place and track. My first experience of Daytona was playing an old Nascar video game when I was a child so to be there racing now it was great. Doing the track walk before the test was amazing. The banking is so steep! you wonder.. how can you drive on that? It really is a special place. Driving the first few laps were very special with the car up on the banks at speed, thinking, how steep are these banks?! You get used to it quite quickly. The car took to the circuit well and I got used to it and start to push it. The infield is tight and bumpy but the outside oval is very quick. Traffic is very different to WEC, traffic is a bit easier because we don’t gain that much lap time through corners but we are much faster than the GT along the straights, better breaking and more grip. The new Daytona Prototypes, the Mazda in particular look amazing. Balance of Performance will come in to it, but IMSA have all the data and will decide accordingly so it is perhaps too early to gauge cars performance just yet. That said, it is going to be an impressive race. The grid is like a who’s who of racing with some very talented drivers from GT, Nascar, Indy Car and Prototypes. It is going to be a very hard fought race. We haven't really stopped yet. The off season was 3 weeks between end of season testing and Roar Before. It's great that the race falls when it does as it keeps me sharp and on form and helps me train and prepare for the upcoming season. I have a little bit of time off between Sebring and The Prologue at Monza but we have two big races and testing with Porsche before that time off so were always busy.

    What are your thoughts on Audi withdrawing from the WEC?

    It will be strange with only two manufacturers in LMP1, they will be missed. We had some great battles with Audi last year and in previous years. Nurburgring last year was great, going wheel to wheel with Andre (Lotterer) to finish fourth. It was a disappointing result for us but a great race. We fought hard, we fell down and got back up again and closed the gap. I think that Toyota will come back strong this year and be competitive. Toyota are racing a brand new car (as of the start of 2016) whereas the 919 is a three year old chassis. But I am confident and I am looking forward to it. We have a lot of testing before the start of the season and it is going to be a good fight.

    How did you feel winning Le Mans 2016?

    Winning Le Mans was great! We fought hard for the whole race and always felt like we could win. However, winning it with Toyota breaking down was a shock. You don't wish that on anyone and I feel for them. But equally, I think we deserved the win. We had a lot of bad luck in that race. We had two punctures in the last six hours but we kept fighting back. The car was quick and definitely capable of winning on it's own. In the end, it was a two car race. But I want to repeat my point, you don’t wish Toyotas luck on anyone. It was a shock result that is for sure and one that will go down in history and that is something I am proud to be part of. I know my friends and family will never forget it and neither will I. I hope we have many more wins to come.

    There have been some big changes at Porsche since Bahrain, how do you feel about going into the season as the only World Champion?

    Yes it is a big change for the whole team. I feel confident though, Nick (Tandy) and Earl (Bamber) have experience racing the 919 (Le Mans winners 2015 along with Nico Hulkenberg). We have done a lot of testing at Motorland Aragon and everyone is getting on well. Andre is obviously new to the car and has to adjust to it. We have a lot of testing coming up in the next few months and I feel confident that Porsche will do well this year, we have a good team and Toyota are going to be tough competition. Its going to be a great battle this season!

  • Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R Fastest in Night Session

    This was the longest session of the day and the only practice session the teams get at night before the Rolex 24 at Daytona. After being beaten to the top of the time sheet all day, the 10 crew racing a Cadillac DPi-V.R took the fastest time of the final session of the day. Continuing their good form from qualifying, both the #38 Performance Tech Motorsports Prototype Challenge and the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing finished fastest of their respective classes. A repeat performance of his earlier practice pace saw Matthew McMurry finish fastest of the GT Daytona runners in the #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

    With it being the longest practice session of the weekend, this was the only chance to get extremely long runs completed in the cars and collect as much long-run data as possible. This was sadly not possible for the #81 DragonSpeed team who are still undergoing repairs from the big crash Loic Duval suffered in the second practice session. It is suspected front suspension damage and it is hoped that the team can get the car back on track ready for tomorrow morning’s final practice session.

    The #22 Tequila Patron ESM led the first part of the session as the #10 suffered an unknown issue that had it stopping out on track. This was the first of three red flag incidents that would halt the track action. Tequila Patron looked very strong in the first half of the session, with both cars looking like contenders for the front of the grid. This could mean that the Nissan DPis are better suited for racing in the cooler temperatures of the evening and that may give them a pace advantage when it comes to the night stages of the race.

    With 55 cars filling a 3.56mile track it is not surprising that a lot of traffic will be found around the track. The GT cars were making some bold moves throughout the 90-minute session, with the Ford #66 nearly taking out one of the Lamborghini as it passed by fairly close. The #69 Ford had to take evasive action off track to stay out of the way of passing traffic. With these close calls appearing in practice, there is a high chance incidents like this may come up in the race. The fastest Prototype time set by Max Angelelli in the #10 was a 1:37.757. In comparison to this, the fastest GT Daytona time set by McMurry in the #73 Porsche was a 1:48.084. With around a ten-second pace difference traffic is most definitely going to be a factor in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

    The day got worse for the VISIT FLORIDA Racing team #90 as it came to a halt on track. Causing the second red flag of the session, the Multimatic/Riley Gibson V8 did get moving again without assistance, heading straight into the pits. Marc Goossens finished the session seventh in the VISIT FLORIDA car, 3.175 seconds off the pace of the front-running Cadillac DPi-V.R.

    The last delay came about 20-minutes before the end of the session. This time it was a GT car that stopped out on track. The #16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan could not make it back to the pits and was towed off the track.

    One more practice session remains before the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona takes centre stage on track. Tomorrow’s practice session will be treated like a race warm up by most of the teams, as it will be the final time they run the cars before the start of the race. The session is an hour long and starts at 10:00 ET.

  • Lamborghini win first ever 24 hour enduro

    Felipe Albuquerque brought the #5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac home with 808 laps complete to take the distance record and Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona victory. Albuquerque was under instruction from the team to lift and coast during the final hour, even switching off the engine completely in an effort to keep the overheating issue under control. He crossed the line with a 70 second lead over the #31 Whelen Engineering car to take his first overall victory at Daytona whilst Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa celebrate their third each.

    British GT4 Champion and Sunoco Challenge winner Stuart Middleton took the #31 car home in second place ahead of Colin Braun in the #54 CORE Autosport P2. The #32 United Autosport Ligier was handed P4 late in the day with Antonio Felix De Costa called into the pits for a penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Will Owen took the #32 car home 15 seconds ahead of De Costa. Middleton takes the record for the youngest podium finisher in the Rolex 24, a record he took from team mate Felipe Nasr who previously claimed it in the 2012 event.

    Taking 11th place overall, the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GT won the GTLM class.

    "It was just an amazing 24-hour race," said Westbrook. "Racing with our team-mates, they're our friends, and racing that hard for 24 hours, there was just nothing in it. It felt like ages we were just one second apart. It was just incredible and was so intense. I thought we put on a really good show. To come away with the 200th win for Chip and have Dan Gurney on our car made it ever so sweet."

    "To get to drive a Ford GT is just a dream come true and to win the Rolex 24 is just awesome," added Briscoe.

    It was a disappointing start for BMW with the new M8 GTE which finished seventh and ninth in GTD. BMW felt they were hit badly by the Balance of Performance guidelines and will be looking to discuss this with IMSA officials before the next round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship in March at Sebring International Raceway.

    The #11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini took the win in GTD, claiming Lamborghinis first ever 24 hour race victory, not just for the Huracan but overall. Despite starting at the back of the grid, Mirko Bortolotti, Rik Breukers, Franck Perera and Rolf Ineichen fought through the pack to take the win.

    Stefano Domenicali, the Chairman and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, was delighted to see the Italian mark on the top step of the podium: "First of all I would like to congratulate the Grasser Racing Team and the Paul Miller Racing Team for this extraordinary result," said Domenicali. "The first and third position in GTD class represent something special, obtained in one of the most famous endurance races in the world. Along with them the drivers, who did a fantastic job and have conducted our cars in an impeccable way.

    "A special thanks to the whole team of Lamborghini Squadra Corse, from our Chief Technical Officer Maurizio Reggiani to the Head of Motorsport Giorgio Sanna and to all those who work with passion every day in motorsport at Sant'Agata Bolognese, but also worldwide in the various championships where Lamborghini is racing with its cars and its customer teams.

    "I was also particularly pleased to see the Italian flag waving on the podium in Florida. The United States is a reference market for us and having achieved such an important victory in the US gives us the boost to continue improving both on motorsport and product side."

    Images courtesy of imsaphoto.com

  • Last Minute Drama for VISIT FLORIDA Racing

    Engine issues have been plaguing VISIT FLORIDA as they tried to prepare for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The team has battled through potential failures to make sure they are prepared and ready for the endurance challenge, but reliability is going to be at the front of their minds as they take to the stage on Saturday. It appears that pace will not be the thing that stops VISIT FLORIDA from being a contending force in the race but their reliability in the new Daytona Prototype International.

    image: Brian Cleary

    In the run up to the Rolex 24 at Daytona, VISIT FLORIDA racing has had some last-minute stress with their WEC-spec Riley/Multimatic Mk 30 P2. Issues had been brewing with the Gibson engine during the Roar Before the 24, which stalled a lot of their running at the beginning of the test. It was last Saturday evening that another issue was found in the car, leading the team to rush in an attempt to fix the issue before this weekend’s race.

    With a fresh Gibson V8 engine that was due to be used for the race, VISIT FLORIDA were completing a warm-up of their engine to make sure everything was running smoothly. This test lasted less than a minute as the team had to abort in fear of breaking the engine. One of the inlet trumpets ingested something hard which put the engine at risk of damage or failure.

    The team was forced to make an impromptu visit to the temporary base set up for Rebellion Racing in Florida to retrieve the Gibson engine they had been using through the Roar Before the 24. That engine had been returned to Rebellion Racing as a backup in case the Rebellion race engine did not show up in time for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It was very lucky for VISIT FLORIDA that Rebellion’s engine did arrive otherwise they may have had an issue competing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

    Because the damage to the race engine was so close to race day, the race engine has not been repaired in time for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. This means that VISIT FLORIDA will race the 24-hour race with their pre-season test engine. The updates that would have been on the race engine will be completed by Gibson trackside at Daytona and not require the engine to be removed from the Riley/Multimatic. Hopefully, this will be the last ‘big drama’ VISIT FLORIDA suffers for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

  • Mazda top Roar Before the 24 Qualifying

    Mazda have dominated all weekend at the Roar Before the 24, threatening all day Saturday to beat the PJ Jones lap record of the Daytona infield set in 1993, Oliver Jarvis unofficially smashed the record on his third qualifying run with a time of 1:33.398, half a second faster than the 1:33.875 set by PJ Jones in the AAR Toyota Eagle MK III. Harry Tincknell was the only visible competition for the former Audi WEC driver, Tincknell 0.025 of a second further back.

    “It felt incredible, big thanks to Mazda Team Joest, Multimatic and AER,” Jarvis said. “The tyre is outperforming last year, the car has been an absolute joy to drive. We ran full qualifying spec, we pushed the car to the limit and that’s what we love as drivers, getting everything out of the car. This is confidence inspiring, we’ve got a good package, we’ve done tons of work over the winter. We’ve had a really good Roar, when you look back at how tough it was last year, but we know that our competitors will be closer when we come back later this month.”

    Ricky Taylor was eight tenths off the pace in third, the #7 Cadillac set a time of 1:34.261 taking third ahead of the #5 Action Express Cadillac of Filipe Albuquerque. Filipe Nasr completed the top five.

    Once again, Gabriel Aubry lead the LMP2 field in the PR1 Oreca leading the #81 and #18 DragonSpeed cars with a time of 1:35.930.

    The #3 Corvette qualified first in GTLM, Jan Magnussen setting a time of 1:42.651, the fastest ever GTLM lap around Daytona. Magnussen and Richard Westbrook in the #67 Ford exchanged fastest laps at the front before setting a 1:42.779 and boxing early.

    “Come Qualifying we did what we did last year, agreed who would tow who, and it was me again getting towed by the other car with Oliver in, he did a great job placing himself at Turn 6 so I could tow past him. We did the exact thing last year to get pole last year. It worked well for us” said Magnussen after the session. The #66 Ford took third ahead of the two Porsches which had performed so well on Saturday. Earl Bamber lead Nick Tandy across the line, Bamber with a time of 1:42.919, Tandy with a 1:43.051.

    All images courtesy of IMSA

  • Neel Jani on top at the Roar Before the 24 

    Neel Jani topped the time sheets in the #13 Rebellion Racing Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 in both sessions. The Swiss driver, who has never driven at Daytona, or on a banked circuit, posted a time of 1:39.164 in the first session ahead of Ricky Taylor in the #10 Cadillac DPI (-0.332s) and Dane Cameron in the #31 Cadillac DPI (-1.976s).

    The second session saw Jani improve his time to 1:39.160 ahead of the #85 JDC Miller Oreca 07 (-0.274s). Jani’s team mates Sarrazin, Buemi and Heidfeld were all in Las Vegas on Formula E duty giving Jani the car to himself for the day, the trio are due to make an appearance on Sunday, the final day of the test.

    The #10 Wayne Taylor Cadillac took third (-0.875s) with the #52 PR1/Mathiasen car fourth (-0.973s) and the #81 Dragon Speed Oreca fifth (-1.166s). With very limited running, VISIT FLORIDA Racing took 12th (-2.427s). The #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport Ligier JSP217 topped the speed trap at 194.3 mph with the #10 Wayne Taylor Cadillac clocking in at 191.5mph.

    The Mazda crew were busy assembling a brand new chassis for the #55 car for most of the first session but they managed to get it out on track for some installation laps. Mazda are experimenting with a new exhaust system and are using the Roar Before as a test bed before finalising the set up for the Rolex 24. Both cars had issues however, the #55 stopped on track during FP1 with electrical problems whilst the #70 car stopped in FP2 with suspension issues.

    Overall, it appears that the Gibson powered LMP2 cars hold an early advantage over the DPI cars, three of the French Oreca’s were in the top five overall. Early driver observations indicate that the P2 prototypes are better on the brakes whilst the DPI cars have a more torque and accelleration out of the corners. Lap times were nearly two seconds slower however than the December test, indicating that the cars have more to give and teams are unwilling to show their true potential just yet.

    2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice moves back to sports cars with BAR1 Motorsport running in the PC category, the four cars in class all running within 0.4 seconds of each other with Rice posting the fastest time of a 1:44.025. The Performance Tech Motorsport PC entry unfortunately became the first casualty of the 2017 season, IMSA Lites champion Clark Topped spun the #38 Oreca FLM09 in to the wall at the bus stop chicane, breaking the gear box and suspension system. The team are targeting a return to track in time for Saturday’s night practice session, providing they are able to replace the gearbox. In the second session, Johnny Mowlem topped the session in the #26 car by over a second posting a time of 1:42.701.

    The first GT Le Mans session was lead by Corvette Racing with Jan Magnussen posting the fastest time in the #3 Corvette C7.R (1:44.76). The Ford GT’s now in to their second season of racing looked strong with Ryan Briscoe putting the #67 Ford second just three tenths back (-0.287s) in the first session with Dirk Muller a further tenth back in third place (-0.399). In the second session of the day, Muller topped the time sheets in the #66 Ford GT with a time of 1:44.773. British driver Andy Priaulx took second place in the #69 (-0.071s) with Oliver Gavin taking third place in the #4 Corvette C7.R (-0.196s).

    Conor de Phillippi led the way in GT Daytona in the #29 Audi R8 LMS posting a 1:47.629 with the #75 Mercedes AMG GT3 just 0.078s back. The established European GT3 cars were on top again in FP2, this time with the Stevenson Motorsports #6 Audi R8 LMS posting a 1:47.553. Two Mercedes AMG GT3 cars were less than two tenths behind. The brand new Acura NSX GT3 took ninth place (-0.663) whilst the new Lexus RC F GT3 took 13th (-0.783). GTD however looks to be an incredibly close fought battle during the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the top 19 cars were separated by just 1.075s.

    Session 1 Results

    Session 2 Results

    Photograph John Dagys - Sports Car 365

  • No Rest in Hour 12

    There appeared to be a ‘curse of first’ during the last four hours of racing, with every car that managed to lead a class falling to some sort of turmoil. The only car to have led the Prototype Class, so far, and not suffer any issues is the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing. They currently still lead with their biggest challengers, to this point, having suffered problems that dropped them down the grid. The Porsches have seemed to find some strength in the midnight running as they have taken the current lead of the GT Le Mans class. #38 Performance Tech Motorsports continues to be the best Prototype Challenge car. That field has turned into a three-car field, as the two Starworks Motorsport Prototype Challenges are around 86 laps down due to lengthy repair delays. The GT Daytona class is still wide open as, again, the leader of the class has changed frequently. As the 12-hour mark passes it is #86 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 who leads the field.

    The four-hour session started under a full course yellow and ended under one. #96 Turner Motorsport was the first front-runner to be hit with a problem. An unknown issue saw the #96 drop from second to being at the bottom of the grid as it had to go behind the wall for repairs. Luckily, the stop was not too extensive for the team, but they lost their shot at leading the class.

    Two big blowouts took out another two cars. The #29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport suffered a right-rear puncture that dropped them down the order. The team has managed to recover some positions since suffering the puncture and are currently running second in class. The #15 3GT Racing was not as lucky. Their rear puncture caused a lot of damage to the bodywork and internal area of the car, which saw them behind the wall for repairs for a lot longer than the #29. The team returned to the track with their cracked door stuck together with tape.

    The #16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan has officially now retired from the race. After two more big spins, one being at the Bus Stop Chicane and causing one of the many Full Course Yellows, the team declared that there was too much damage to be repaired. This retirement marked the sixth retirement of the race, meaning only 49 cars remain in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

    The second Full Course Yellow to occur in this four-hour period was brought out by Brendon Hartley in the #22 Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsport Nissan DPi. With the cold track temperature and the cold tyres, Hartley had limited to no grip from his Continental tyres after his pit stop. The team had been looking in a good position to definitely finish on the podium, if not challenge for the win. After going off the track twice due to lack of grip, Hartley had a twitch in the car heading towards NASCAR 3. It as a lack of speed that had the Nissan dip down the banked corner and caught the back of one of the Porsche GTs. The Nissan was thrown up the banked corner and hit hard into the barrier at the top. With damage to the steering column, Hartley sensibly parked up the car and got it towed back rather than risking losing control of the car on the way to the pits. The team lost 26 laps due to the incident and fell right down the order and out of contention.

    After being in the pits for 5 hours and 57 minutes, the #70 Mazda Motorsport returned to the track as the halfway mark was hit. The team initially thought it was a clutch issue but a re-evaluation showed that it was a gearbox failure. The team are down 179 laps after changing the gearbox.

    With less than half the race to go, make sure to follow @SpeedChillsView so you do not miss anything from the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona.

  • Oliver Jarvis breaks Daytona lap record

    Mazda lead the way in opening practice.

    British driver Oliver Jarvis led the way in the opening session at the 2019 Roar Before the Rolex 24, leading the 10 DPi cars that took part in the session. Jarvis posted a best lap of 1:35.989 in the #77 Mazda. His team mate Olivier Pla in the sister #77 car finished third on the time sheets with a time of 1:36.449. Jarvis went quicker than the lap record set by Renger van der Zande last year in the #10 Konica Minolta Cadillac during qualifying in 2018.

    Cadillac held five of the top seven spots with Jordan Taylor leading the Cadillac entrants with a time of 1:36.407 in the #10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. Fernando Alonso ran six laps in the first session, posting a time of 1:36.984, half a second slower than his team mate Jordan Taylor. Felipe Nasr was fourth in the #31 Whelen Engineering car with Filipe Albuquerque rounding out the top five in the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac with a time of 1:36.872. Ricky Taylor was the fastest of the two Penske Acura's with a time of 1:37.825 in the #7 car whilst the #54 CORE Autosport Nissan did not take part in the session.

    In the LMP2 ranks, only two cars made it out, neither DragonSpeed ORECA setting times in the opening session. The fastest of the two was the #51 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA thanks to a 1:39.828 by Gabriel Aubry. The sister #52 car was a little slower with a time of 1:40.694.

    Porsche finished 1-2 in GTLM with Patrick Pilet setting the fastest time in the #911 Porsche 911RSR, a time of 1:44.866 enough to put him at the top of the time sheets ahead of team mate Earl Bamber who posted a time of 1:45.028 in the #912 Porsche 911RSR.

    Jeroen Bleekemolen went fastest in GT Daytona, the #33 Wynn's Mercedes AMG GT3 setting a time of 1:47.188.

    All images courtesy of IMSA

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