IMSA: Rolex, Endurance Challenge fields released
Wednesday, 18 January 2017
RACER Staff / Image by Marshall Pruett
The season-opening race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will see 55 cars try to conquer the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona Jan. 28-29.
IMSA officials released entry lists for the Rolex 24 and the the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge for the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, set for Friday, Jan. 27.
The 55 entries continue the trend of the entry list amount serving as a parallel to the annual event tally; the 53rd running of the event featured 53 entries in 2014. Coverage begins Saturday, Jan. 28 on FOX at 2 p.m. ET, with flag-to flag-coverage available via FOX Sports GO with FS1 authentication.
Twelve cars make up the Prototype class ranks, with Daytona Prototype international (DPi) entrants from Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan joined by a host of global LMP2 spec cars. Defending overall winner Tequila Patrón ESM will kick off its return to full season IMSA competition, taking on what is perhaps the strongest collection of driver lineups in recent history and highlighted by marquee drivers such as four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon and IndyCar star James Hinchcliffe.
Eleven factory efforts will battle in GT Le Mans (GTLM), with reigning class champion Corvette Racing returning after an exhilarating 1-2 finish in the 2016 Rolex 24. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing brings four Ford GTs, as Porsche fields a pair of all-new 911 RSRs and Ferrari returns with a single entry. BMW is entering a pair of cars, one of which being the first BMW Art Car ever to race in the Rolex 24.
The largest class of the field, GT Daytona (GTD), features 27 GT3 spec race cars from nine premium automotive manufacturers, including series newcomers Acura, Lexus and Mercedes. Prototype Challenge kicks off its final season in the WeatherTech Championship with five ORECA FLM09s taking to the track.
The racing action will kick off, however, on Friday with the BMW Endurance Challenge, the first of two new four-hour enduros for the Continental Tire Challenge. The race will feature 40 cars from two classes tearing around the high banks of the World Center of Racing.
The Grand Sport (GS) class welcomes global GT4 spec cars to its ranks for 2017, with 20 cars ready to race. Manufacturers include class regulars Aston Martin, Ford and Porsche, joined by newcomer McLaren. Also featuring 20 entries, Street Tuner (ST) includes a healthy mix of cars from Audi, BMW, Mazda, MINI, Nissan and Porsche.
The BMW Endurance Challenge will stream live on IMSA.com at 12:15 p.m. ET on Jan. 27, with a telecast scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 11 at 11:30 a.m. ET on FS1.
This chassis led 6 of 7 Roar before the 24 sessions:
IMSA: Fire interrupts Corvette's Daytona Roar
Sunday, 08 January 2017
Marshall Pruett / Image courtesy of DailySportsCar/Martin Spetz
Defending Rolex 24 at Daytona winners Corvette Racing have had their fill of fire-related woes at Daytona International Speedway.
The team's No. 4 Corvette Racing C7.R caught fire during the first Sunday test session when a fuel injector line malfunctioned with Marcel Fassler on board, and thankfully, the Swiss driver was able to pull over and get out safely. The front of the V8-powered machine, however, was burned significantly before the blaze could be extinguished.
According to the team, the fuel-related fire burned the bodywork, windshield, and a significant number of items beneath the hood. With the use of high-pressure direct fuel injection to feed the C7.R's monster V8 engine, any leak or breakage in the fuel delivery system will spray flammable liquid with considerable force due to the thousands of pounds of pressure in play, and can quickly coat the surrounding areas – the engine bay, in particular – in a fraction of a second. The damage was not enough to require a move to the spare car, however.
With the No. 4 loaded into the Corvette Racing transporter, it's expected to arrive back at the team's shop in Michigan by 12 p.m. ET on Monday, where repairs will begin immediately. The setback, while considerable, will not impact the team's ability to field the No. 4 and the sister No. 3 Corvette – which was parked just to be safe – during the Jan. 28-29 Rolex 24 race.
Although the damage was less severe, the new fire follows 364 days year after a blaze at the rear of the No. 4 slowed the team's progress at the Roar Before the 24 in 2016 (pictured, Marshall Pruett image). That fire, which burned a fair portion of the C7.R's right-rear, was caused by a faulty FIA-mandated fuel check valve. The No. 4 was fixed at the track and went on the lead an incredible 1-2 finish in the GT Le Mans class.
And there was another heat-related issue for the team at the recent mid-December test at Daytona where a lithium-ion battery in one of the cars began to fail in the garage. Quick thinking ensured a battery fire was avoided when one of the crew members grabbed the toasty unit and dropped it into a bucket of water.
IMSA: Roar Before the 24 Saturday notebook
Saturday, 07 January 2017
Audi's new TCR-spec RS3 LMS is on display in the WeatherTech Championship paddock. It also spent time in the Continental Tire Series paddock as well earlier in the day and was swarmed by interested parties looking to 2018 when the Street Tuner class is expected to embrace the TCR formula.
The RS3 LMS is expected to do a lap with one of the R8 GT3 LMS GT Daytona cars this weekend to give Audi's photographers a nice side-by-side promotional shot for future use.
OK FOR PT
The Performance Tech PC team made it out with its repaired No. 38 car after losing most of Friday with a hard crash suffered in the first session. The No. 38 was fastest in class when it returned for today's afternoon outing.
"It was good, and it was quick," said rapid Wisconsin product James French. "And we were able to get all of our drivers the laps they needed to run to satisfy IMSA's requirement, so that's a bonus."
French also said its likely the team will need to find a new fourth driver for the race.
Changing conditions have led to modified run plans for some teams, including Corvette Racing. From 70 degrees and sunny on Friday to rain and clouds this morning to ambient temperatures in the 40s for the afternoon, Tommy Milner says the factory GT Le Mans program can always find something useful to accomplish, even when lap times are far from optimal.
"We've just been running to see what the car feels like," Milner said. "We did a lot of driver change practice when the track wasn't very good, and in the last session, we ran on Michelin's new wet tire to get some information—pressures, cambers, and all that—and then when the conditions were mixed, we switched to race running. It was still a little bit wet at the Bus Stop, so we were sliding a bit there, but it was dry mostly. We're hoping it's just cold tomorrow so at least it's consistent all day."
OLLY'S ODD COMPLAINT
Milner also mentioned his fellow IMSA GTLM champion and teammate Oliver Gavin expressed one of the stranger complaints heard from a race car driver.
"We feel good where the car is setup-wise and the changes over the winter have been good for the C7.R," Milner continued. "Oliver was complaining the car is too comfortable to drive! It's a good thing to hear about the car because it's the state it will run in the race, but it was a funny comment to hear. He said, 'the car is always hard to drive here...now it's too comfortable...'"
The defending Rolex 24 winners might have to stray from that comfort zone if more speed is required once the series returns for the race later this month.
"We can make it less comfortable to drive and it might end up being faster, so we can do that if necessary and then maybe Olly will be happier, but it will take seeing what everyone else is doing to know if that's the right direction to take," Milner added.
NISSAN TIMES 2
The No. 2 Nissan Onroak DPi will have spent most of the day in the garage while the sister No. 22 has logged the lion's share of laps.
The reason for its absence is an engine change (below), and with the newness of the car in mind—the first chassis arrived on Dec. 21—team co-owner/driver Scott Sharp says the Tequila Patron ESM crew have focused on completing the change and learning the best practices for a motor swap instead of rushing to get out. The No. 2 should be in action for the night session which closes Saturday's testing activities.
The big trap speed numbers for Daytona Prototype internationals seen at the mid-December IMSA test are down at the Roar due to the Balance of Performance changes made between the events.
The 200.5 mph peak achieved by Ricky Taylor in his No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R last month set the tone for the new formula's speedy potential, but that number has been knocked down to 191.5 (so far) for the No. 10—which led the other DPis--in dry running on Friday.
The drop has been attributed to a tall 30mm Gurney tab added to the back of the Cadillacs through the BoP (below), and with the increase in rear downforce and drag, the parachute-like effects of the change are told through the decreased top speed.
With a need to run in low downforce and drag settings to maximize speeds on the long Daytona straights (seen below in December), the 30mm rear Gurney has cause an imbalance for the Cadillacs; solving the imbalance by adding more front downforce is the obvious solution, but that fix would increase overall drag and downforce, which goes against the need the aforementioned need to run in a slippery aerodynamic configuration...
Fastest of all on Friday was the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 WEC P2 with a 194.3 mph. Second went to Taylor at 191.5, third belonged to the Rebellion Racing ORECA 07 WEC P2 at 191.5, and among the remaining prototypes, the Nissan Onroak DPi was next at 188.4, followed by a Mazda RT24-P DPi at 187.6 and at the bottom, the Riley/Multimatic Mk 30 WEC P2 managed a 187.1 mph trip through the traps on the front straight.
VISIT FLORIDA REST
Rene Rast will be the busy man during the early portion of today's test for Visit Florida Racing. Renger van der Zande, one of the team's two full-time drivers, is feeling ill and will rest while letting Rast and Marc Goossens handle the team's Riley Mk 30 WEC P2. Along with most of the new cars in IMSA's Prototype field, the No. 90 Visit Florida entry has been dealing with small issues, including engine cooling.
A THING OF BEAUTY
The front suspension layout on Acura's new GT3-spec NSX is a beautiful thing to behold. The easy access for damper and spring changes, the nice machined billet control arms and the unobscured chassis mounts for those control arms is impressive.
The right-front suspension control arm breakage that halted the No. 70 Mazda RT24-P during Friday's session proved to be a rallying point for the teams using the Riley/Multimatic Mk 30 chassis. The two-car Mazda team, which uses the Mk 30 as the base for its RT24-P Daytona Prototype international, and the Visit Florida Racing team, which fields the WEC P2 version of the car, have kept each other abreast of any issues, and once the suspension breakage was found, the SpeedSource-led Mazda team alerted VFR. All three cars were grounded until new pieces could be fitted overnight.
On an unrelated but interesting front with the RT24-Ps, SpeedSource has made extensive use of 3D printing wherever possible on the RT24-P while the team finalizes the various ducts and components being tested. The rapid prototyping efforts allow the team to try different solutions at a low cost before selecting the best options and having them made from carbon fiber.
The team also reports its gearbox cooling issues, which slowed recent testing progress, has been solved.
The transmission issues that hampered Ford's 2016 Roar Before the 24 event have made an unwelcome return. The No. 67 Ford GT has been down while the gearbox undergoes a serious inspection and diagnosis effort by the Blue Oval's factory team.
THE GHOSTS ARE BACK
Ford isn't the only works effort on the sidelines. Some of the electronic gremlins that parked the Cadillac DPis on the first day of the mid-December test returned this morning to vex the No. 31 Action Express Racing entry. The Whelen-sponsored car sat parked during the wet opening session as a result of its problems. It's expected to head out for the 1:05 p.m. session.
Memo Gidley to make highly anticipated return to Daytona
Tuesday, 24 January 2017
Popular sports car racer Memo Gidley is returning to Daytona International Speedway this week, three years after he was injured in a heavy crash during the third hour of the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Gidley and his wife, Mari, are attending the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28-29, as guests of IMSA. Gidley will participate in a media availability on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. in the Daytona International Speedway media center, and also plans to visit with doctors and staff later this week at Halifax Health Medical Center, where he was transported after the incident and spent several days undergoing treatment for his injuries.
"Daytona is a special place for me and I've been wanting to get back as soon as I was healed," Gidley said. "It's been a long recovery journey, and a big part of my motivation was to be here now. The healing has gone so well and I've been cleared by doctors to drive again.
"I'm looking forward to saying 'thank you' to so many people that were part of helping me when I was injured. IMSA and everybody associated with this race gave me a lot of support and I want to say thanks. Even though many have been in contact on email or over the phone, I haven't seen them in person for three years. When you work to help somebody, it's always nice to see how it ended up, and I want them to see how strong I am and that I'm back. I also hope that my recovery can inspire anybody else dealing with something similar."
The 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona kicks off the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. FOX Sports will offer 23 hours of live race coverage, beginning with a three-hour FOX network telecast beginning at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 28, followed by expanded coverage on FS1 and FS2.
Some of the Daytona 24 prototype cars, aero designs and suspensions will be posted here:
Chassis & Suspension Tech
|The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship kicks off a new era this weekend with Saturday’s 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona at Daytona International Speedway in the twice-around-the-clock race on the 3.56-mile road course.
The race will be streamed live flag to flag on the FOX Sports GO app with FS1 authentication, beginning at 2 p.m ET on Saturday, January 28 and continuing to 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, January 28. Live TV coverage begins on FOX from 2-5 p.m., switches to FS2 for 5-10 p.m. as well as 11 p.m.-1:00 p.m. and then finishes off on FS1 from 1-3 p.m.
The weekend also features the opening round of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge in Friday’s BMW Endurance Challenge, a four-hour endurance race that will be streamed live on IMSA.com and the IMSA mobile app, beginning at 12:15 p.m.
IMSA.com and the IMSA mobile app will stream in-car cameras, live timing and scoring, and IMSA Radio’s play-by-play live on Saturday and Sunday. IMSA.com and the IMSA mobile app will also stream Thursday’s WeatherTech Championship qualifying, along with live timing and scoring throughout the weekend.
IMSA Radio, a co-production with Radio Show Limited, continues providing live audio coverage of all IMSA sessions. Tune in live all weekend long on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com, Sirius Channel 136, XM 204, and Sirius XM Online 963. You can also listen live at-track on scanner channel 454.000.
Thursday, Jan. 26 (All Times ET)
WeatherTech Championship qualifying gets underway at 3:10 p.m. and will be aired live on IMSA.com and the IMSA mobile app. It will be followed by Continental Tire Challenge qualifying at 5:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 27
Friday’s schedule features the four-hour Continental Tire Challenge BMW Endurance Challenge race, which will take the green flag at 12:15 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 28
The Rolex 24 At Daytona – opening round of the WeatherTech Championship – takes the green flag at 2:30 p.m. The race will be streamed live, flag to flag, on the FOX Sports GO app with FS1 authentication, beginning at 2 p.m. Live coverage begins on FOX from 2-5 p.m. then switches to FS2 for 5-10 p.m. as well as 11 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 29
Rolex 24 coverage continues on FS2 from midnight to 12:30 p.m., finishing off on FS1 from 12:30-3 p.m.
***Live international broadcast stream available on IMSA.tv and the IMSA mobile app.
Rolex 24 Wednesday Notebook
Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Marshall Pruett (words and images)
BACK UP AFTER ALL
The Corvette Racing team altered its plans to rebuild the No. 4 C7.R after it caught fire on Jan. 8 during the final day of testing at the Roar Before the 24. The initial routine mapped out by the defending Rolex 24 GTLM class winners had the burned No. 4 being completely repaired after a high-pressure fuel injection line malfunctioned and sprayed the flammable liquid onto the V8 engine's exhaust.
Once the No. 4 made its way back to the team's shop in Michigan, a new course of action was chosen where the team's spare car would be prepped to race this weekend. The spare, which underwent approximately 300 miles of testing and turned its most recent laps during last year's Goodwood Festival, will return to its position as a spare following Daytona as the primary No. 4 will be rebuilt in time for the Mobil 1 Twelve hours of Sebring in March.
The Visit Florida Racing team is coming into race week with very little sleep after experiencing late-night dramas that set the WEC-spec Riley/Multimatic Mk 30 P2 program back. With the clock approaching midnight last Saturday, the team attempted to warm up its fresh Gibson V8 race engine, which lasted less than a minute before the motor went off after it ingested something hard through one of the inlet trumpets.
Halted before a complete engine failure took place, the team was forced to make a dash down to Rebellion Racing's temporary base in Florida to retrieve the Gibson V8 it used in testing through the Roar. That motor, sent to Rebellion as part of a contingency plan if the Swiss team's race motor did not arrive in time, was driven back to the VFR shop and plugged into the No. 90 machine.
Owing to the short turnaround time involved, the damaged motor will not be ready for the race, leaving VFR to use its pre-season testing engine. Upgrades to that motor, including the drive-by-wire system, will be completed by Gibson at the track and will not require the motor to be removed.
FUN TO COME?
Peter Baron's Starworks Motorsport team is waiting to finalize its PC lineup. The newly bright pink and yellow entries are easy to spot, and depending on how a few things fall today, the driving roster could see the addition of a familiar name to the program.
IMSA assembled its annual group photo on pit lane this morning. On top of getting a glimpse of a few new liveries, it also gave the series a chance to demonstrate the size and diversity contained within the four WeatherTech Championship classes.
RACER's Rolex 24 at Daytona Resource Guide
Wednesday, 25 January 2017
An incredible start to the fourth WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season kicks off this week at Daytona International Speedway, where more than 50 cars are preparing to earn overall and class honors at the 55th Rolex 24 at Dayonta.
RACER has you covered from the grounds at DIS. Be sure to follow @RACERmag and @MarshallPruett for regular updates on Twitter, and RACER.com for photos, videos, session reports and feature stories.
IMSA RADIO: Click Here
ENTRY LIST: Click Here
TICKETS: Click here
WEATHER: Click Here
SPOTTERS GUIDE: Click here
IMSA LIVE TIMING & SCORING: Click Here
WEATHERTECH CHAMPIONSHIP EVENT SCHEDULE:
Thursday, January 26 (all times Eastern)
- 10:20 a.m. – 11:20 a.m. Free Practice 1
- 1:30 p.m. – 2 p.m. Free Practice 2
- 3:10 p.m. – 4:40 p.m. Qualifying
- 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Free Practice 3
Friday, January 27
- 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Free Practice 4
Saturday, January 28
- 2:30 p.m. – Race start, WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Round 1
Sunday, January 29
TV TUNE-IN INFO
Fifty Years after Daytona Sweep, Ferrari 488s Target GT Class Victory in 24 Hours
Thursday, January 26, 2017
This year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona marks fifty years since one of the race’s most famous finishes.
Ferrari arrived at the 1967 Rolex 24 At Daytona with four cars targeting the overall victory, including the two examples of the new 330 P4. After twenty-four hours, the 330 P4 of Chris Amon and Lorenzo Bandini had done just that. The image of the three red Ferraris, led by Amon and Bandini’s No. 23 Ferrari 330 P4, became one of the most famous images in the race’s history.
Fifty years later, three Ferrari 488s will look to add to the company’s legacy as Ferrari celebrates its 70th anniversary.
Edwin Fenech, President and CEO of Ferrari North America is excited to return to Daytona, “After hosting an epic Ferrari World Finals in December at the Daytona International Speedway, we are looking forward to returning to the track for the start of the GT season where three Ferrari 488s will battle on the high banks to open the next chapter in GT racing here in America . The historic Ferrari win at Daytona 50 years ago certainly serves as great inspiration for us and the teams.”
Risi Competizione will represent Ferrari in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE scored a dominant victory in last year’s IMSA finale, the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. The winning driver lineup from that race of Ferrari factory drivers James Calado, Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander will return with Risi Competizione, each seeking their first victory at Daytona International Speedway. Team Principal, Giuseppe Risi said, “As a Ferrari dealer [Ferrari of Houston], over the years we have raced the same model Ferraris that we have on the showroom floor and continue to do so with the Ferrari 488 GTLM. We’re proud of the successes we have had on the race track and hope it shows our customers the proud tradition of the Ferrari name.”
Scuderia Corsa and Spirit of Race will represent Ferrari in the GT Daytona (GTD) class. This will be the first 24 Hours of Daytona race for the Ferrari 488 GT3.
Scuderia Corsa returns with defending IMSA and North American Endurance Cup GT-Daytona champions Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen, who will be joined in Daytona by Ferrari factory driver Sam Bird and Matteo Cressoni in the no. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3. Team owner Giacomo Mattioli commented, “2017 marks the 70th anniversary for Ferrari and the debut of the 488GT3 in Daytona. There would not be a better way to celebrate than a success for Scuderia Corsa at the race track, where it all began.”
In the No. 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 will be Peter Mann, Rino Mastronardi, Maurizio Mediani, former 24 Hours of Daytona winner Alessandro Pier Guidi, and Ferrari factory driver Davide Rigon.
*Photos courtesy of Ferrari North America
Rolex 24 Thursday notebook
Thursday, 26 January 2017
Marshall Pruett and J.J. O'Malley / Images by Marshall Pruett
NISSAN PLEASED WITH QUALIFYING
Tequila Patron ESM’s week got off to a rough start when its new No. 22 Nissan DPi was hit by a camera crew and sustained radiator damage during a Wednesday car-to-car photo shoot. The troubles continued during Thursday’s practice, with the No. 22 running out of fuel near the end of the second session.
Then everything fell into place for the defending Rolex 24-winning team during qualifying. Brendon Hartley was fifth in the No. 22 Tequila Patron Nissan DPi (1m37.609, 0.706 seconds behind the pole-winning No. 5 Cadillac), with Ryan Dalziel clocking sixth fastest in the No. 2 (1m38.251s).
“We really don’t have a lot of expectations for this weekend,” admitted team owner Ed Brown, who co-drives the No. 22 car. “Our cars are brand new, and everybody has way more laps than we do. So it was a very solid performance in qualifying. We made big leaps today; we’re very pleased with the speed. It’s such a new car, and we haven’t had them very long, and we’ve made big gains. We’re really looking forward to the season – I think we’re going to be solid.”
DRAGONS UNDER FIRE
Elton Julian’s DragonSpeed Racing team was forced to miss qualifying after driver Loic Duval went off in FP2 and damaged the team’s ORECA 05 tub beyond immediate repair. A quick visit to the ORECA spares transporter resulted in a brand-new ORECA 07 tub being wheeled into the garage, and the long process of transferring everything over from one tub to another, along with installing all of the components that attach to the tub externally will push DragonSpeed’s mechanics into Friday before the fresh No. 81 car is ready to go.
Cadillac went 1-2 thanks to Action Express Racing to capture the first-ever pole for Daytona Prototype internationals; Ford claimed a 1-2-3 in GT Le Mans – after running 1-2-3 in multiple sessions at the Roar Before the 24 – and Ferrari swept the GTD front row with the 488 in the hands of Spirit of Race and Scuderia Corsa.
In GTD, where Acura, Lexus and Mercedes-AMG are making their WeatherTech Championship debuts, the NSX GT3 led the trio (P7), followed by the best Lexus RC F (P13) and the top Mercedes-AMG GT3 (P1 in a significant reversal of fortune from recent testing at Daytona where the German cars were fast right out of the box.
One surprise from qualifying involved the pace, or rather, the newfound lack of pace by Mazda’s pair of RT24-P DPis. Coming off a strong Roar performance that ended with P2 for the event on the (1m38.363s), seeing the Mazdas take ninth and 10th in a class of 12 cars with a best of 1m39.940s would suggest significant problems were being experienced. Not the case, according to the team.
After securing multiple poles in 2016 and suffering multiple failures while leading or contending for the win, the SpeedSource-led team has taken a different approach to open the season by focusing on the finish line. The team pushed hard at the Roar and gauged the RT24-P’s speed relative to its rivals, and with that benchmark in place, Mazda appears to be planning for a 24-hour race where its cars play the unfamiliar role of tortoise among the hares.
With every Prototype team dealing with reliability concerns, the RT24-Ps have been set on a path of endurance instead of lap records. Come Sunday afternoon, we’ll know if it’s the winning strategy.
SOMEONE LEFT THE SAND AT THE BEACH
The mysteriously missing speed among the Cadillac DPi-V.R camp at the roar Before the 24 magically appeared during the first and second practice sessions. Rising winds have kept top speeds in check, but that hasn't stopped the trio of Cadillacs from locking out the top three in that department so far, or from running 1-2-3 in FP1 and FP2.
The margin from the fastest Cadillac to the best non-Cadillac in FP1 was 2.160s (Rebellion Racing's WEC ORECA 07-Gibson), and in FP2, it was a similar 1.926s (DragonSpeed's ORECA 07).
Seeing the Cadillacs up front is far from a surprise. Having it happen straight away in the event ... not so much.
The Nissan team encountered unexpected adversity while doing tracking shots around Daytona. Side-to-side contact between the Patron-sponsored Nissan Onroak DPis left one of the cars with a crumpled left intercooler and bodywork in need of repair. Owing to the late delivery of the cars, spare parts production has been slightly behind, and with the need to dip into the team's spares after the clash, new spares are being carried over from Onroak's base in France to Daytona by plane.
IndyCar star James Hinchcliffe has an interesting schedule heading into Saturday's 24-hour race. The "Mayor of Hinchtown" isn't scheduled to get into his No. 55 Mazda RT24-P DPi until night practice, leaving most of Thursday open for his general amusement, and once the session is over, he's off to New Orleans for a pre-arranged promotional stop on behalf of IndyCar.
The most significant stretch of time he'll have in the 2.0-liter turbocharged prototype will come after the green flag waves.
15-YEAR OLD TAKES RRDC AWARD
Neil Verhagen, a 15-year-old Connecticut native, was recognized as the youngest winner of the Mark Donohue Award at the annual Road Racing Drivers Club dinner Wednesday evening at the Dayonta 500 Club. Verhagen was voted the honor for his efforts in the 2016 SCCA Runoffs at Mid-Ohio in winning the Formula F championship.
Verhagen is now residing in Holland to prepare for joining the Red Bull Junior team in 2017 Formula Renault two-liter competition on premier European circuits. His goals are to compete in Formula 1 or IndyCar, with the Rolex 24 also on his bucket list.
"Neil Verhagen is a superstar – a record-breaker and record-maker," Dorsey Schroeder said during the award presentation.
Other awards included the Phil Hill Award, to Chip Ganassi, and the Bob Akin Award, presented to Murray Smith.
GUASCH HAPPY TO BE BACK HOME
Mike Guasch admits that his successful bid to win the ELMS P3 championship wore him out, involving 15 round trips to Europe. This year, he's running a new Ligier – the only JSP217 in the Rolex 24 field. Guasch returns with Tom Kimber-Smith for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup in the No. 52 Gibson-powered entry.
"I'll have a lot more time at home and catching up on life," Guasch said. "This new car is a monster. It really comes on like a bat out of hell."
EXPERIENCE PAYING OFF FOR STEVENSON IN GTD
Andrew Davis returns for Stevenson Motorsports, co-driving with Robin Liddell, Lawson Aschenbach and Matt Bell in the No. 57 Audi R8 LMS GT3.
"We're one of the few teams with the same car and same driver lineup," Davis said. "We hope the lessons we learned last year will help us. We're far ahead of where we were here last year. We're optimistic, but it's going to be very tough. It's exciting to see all the manufacturers here with strong cars and strong driver lineups. It's at a new level – maybe the toughest competition ever – and it's going to be a very exciting race."
GURNEY FAMILY STILL HOLDS DAYTONA SPEED MARK
While Alex Gurney’s three-year old IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge Prototype class record was shattered during Thursday’s qualifying session, his father still holds the Rolex 24 all-time mark.
Joao Barbosa ran 1m36.903s as the top six eclipsed Gurney’s 2014 mark of 1m38.270s, with the No. 5 Action Express Cadillac DPi driver the fastest qualifier at Daytona in 24 years.
However, the all-time Daytona mark remains in the grip of Dan Gurney’s All American Racers, with P.J. Jones running a sizzling lap of 1m33.875s in the No. 98 Toyota Eagle back in 1993 – a prelude to that year’s victory co-driving with Ricky Moran and Mark Dismore.
C.J. WILSON TRADING MITT FOR HELMET
C.J. Wilson told Radio Le Mans that he will be concentrating on cars in 2017. The former all-star lefty pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels will be racing in the Porsche GT3 Cup this season, in addition to overseeing his racing team and auto dealerships.
“For the past 16 years, I’ve been a pro baseball player,” Wilson said. “But my whole life I wanted to be something completely different.”
Action Express claims Rolex pole, front row sweep
Thursday, 26 January 2017
J.J. O'Malley / Image by Marshall Pruett
Action Express Racing's new Cadillac DPis swept the front row in Thursday's qualifying for the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona, led by Joao Barbosa with a Prototype class-record lap of 1m36.903s in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi.
Barbosa nipped Action Express Racing teammate Dane Cameron (1m36.973s in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering entry) by 0.070s. Neil Jani led the international specification LMP2 cars, running 1m37.123s in the Gibson-powered No. 13 Rebellion Racing ORECA.
"I pushed really hard," Barbosa said after winning his first career IMSA WeatherTech Championship Total Pole Award. "It took awhile for the tires to come up to temperature, but the car was really great. Hats off to all the Action Express guys for fixing the little glitches. It's great to be on the pole for our first race here for the new era of Prototype cars. Qualifying is good for what it is, but the race is 24 hours. I think it's going to be a tremendous race."
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing swept the top three GTLM positions running in numerical order. Joey Hand (1m43.473s) won the pole in the No. 66 Ford GT, followed by the No. 67 of Richard Westbrook (1m43.704s) and No. 68 of Olivier Pla (1m43.987). Pla had a scare late in the session when he spun in the International Horseshoe, but managed to avoid contact.
"Dirk Mueller put this car on the pole at Le Mans and we won," said Hand, who will co-drive with fellow 2016 Le Mans winners Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais. "We were struggling today trying to get it together, because it felt a lot different from what it did at the Roar. We all put our heads together. We wondered if we should throw the book at it or just wing it. I'm a 'wing it' kind of guy, so we made a small change to the car and I went for it."
The fastest non-Ford was the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander (1m44.121s), with the top seven cars separated by 0.886s.
Ferraris swept the front row in GTD. Alessandro Pier Guidi won the pole, 1m47.099s in the No. 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3, 0.018s faster than defending class champion Alessandro Balzan (1:47.117s) in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa entry. Different marques took up the next five positions, with the top seven separated by 1.169s.
"It was really tough," Pier Guidi said. "I pushed like hell from the beginning, and the car was great."
James French ran a fast final lap of 1m42.559s to lock up the PC pole in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09. French denied No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports driver Johnny Mowlem (1m43.396s) his third consecutive Daytona pole by 0.837s.
"Absolutely, I was pushing 100 percent [for the pole]," French said. "We wanted to start out the best we could, especially with the tough GTLM field, so I did the best we could."
Fifty four of the 55 entries qualified for Saturday's race, which starts at 2:30 p.m. ET. The lone car on the sidelines was the No. 81 DragonSpeed ORECA, which was badly damaged in FP2 but is expected to be ready for Friday morning's final practice at 10 a.m. ET.
Angelelli leads Rolex 24 night practice
Thursday, 26 January 2017
J.J. O'Malley / Image by Marshall Pruett
Gearing up for his final race, Max Angelelli turned in the fastest lap during Thursday's third practice session for the Rolex 24, running 1m37.757s in the 90-minute session run under the lights at Daytona International Speedway.
"We've turned a lot of miles, so we feel that we are very well prepared," said the two-time Rolex 24 winner, who is also the program manager for the Cadillac DPi program. "Our advantage is we were able to do more testing than the other competitors, and this is the main reason why our car is quick. It's a long race. Starting position means nothing. Tonight went very well for me personally. I'm comfortable, so I'm a lot happier. Cadillac must win – end of story!"
Felipe Albuquerque was second at 1m37.905 in the pole-winning No. 5 Action Express Cadillac DPi, followed by the two Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPis: Brenton Hartley (1m38.943s) in the No. 22 and Scott Sharp (1m39.011) in the No. 2.
Rolex 24 reliability a big worry for prototype teams
Thursday, 26 January 2017
Marshall Pruett (words and images)
A recent IMSA Prototype champion said it best at the mid-December Daytona test: "This race is going to be won in the garages. The best ones or the fastest ones to fix all the little problems everyone will have is going to win."
Nightmarish tales of electronic gremlins related to every Cosworth steering wheel (used on 10 of the 12 new-for-2017 cars in the Prototype class) continue to linger; gearbox cooling issues with multiple manufacturers using Xtrac transmissions have those teams hoping for cool ambient temperatures across throughout the race; and a wide array of other problems – from recalcitrant alternator belts to blown engines – have teams preparing for worst-case scenarios.
The days of torrid 24-hour qualifying-style battles at Daytona will likely return in 2018 – once the Prototype field has suffered and cured the new-car failures that will inevitably take place – and according to leading drivers from the three Daytona Prototype international brands, having mechanical or electronic interruptions is all but guaranteed.
"It will be the most unpredictable 24 Hour in the prototype category in many, many years here for sure," said reigning Prototype champion Dane Cameron, who races a Cadillac DPi-V.R for Action Express Racing. "I think that is for sure the common theme. Nobody really knows where they stand, nobody really knows; is it a $20,000 part that will let you down or a five-cent part? We are not sure yet because nobody has enough miles. Everyone is a little behind on where they would like to be."
Scott Sharp's Tequila Patron ESM team and its ultra-new Nissan Onroak DPis arrived stateside just a few days before Christmas. With a shortage of testing mileage, the sports car veteran has modest expectations for ESM's fortunes once the green flag waves.
"The reliability is the hugest thing as you are going into [Daytona and] Sebring and you want to be getting points in all these races," he said. "So for us, if we are able to get both cars to the end, and certainly have one in the running in some form at the end, I think we would be feeling pretty successful from where the true inception of our program started, which was only a couple weeks ago."
So what might we expect to see in the race? Opinions vary.
"For us, it absolutely had to be flat out the past couple of years and it had turned into a sprint race," Cameron said of the bulletproof Daytona Prototypes that were retired last year. You might see little more pacing, [but] I don't think you're going to see people rolling around trying to survive to the end. Instead of seeing 10/10ths for 24 hours, you might see eight or nine [tenths] for the first two hours and then see if everything is okay and the people for sure going to turn to a sprint at the end.
"But I don't think anybody knows who has the strongest package at the moment or who's going to make it to the end. There's going to be a lot of surprises I think all throughout. So it will be a different game plan I think for everyone. I think everyone's going to have their own idea on what they think is the best."
The Mazda team, as evidenced by its conservative approach in practice and qualifying, is going to leave the sprint portion of the race until the end is in sight.
"Your head is kind of spinning," said veteran Mazda ace Jonathan Bomarito. "I think for the first 20 hours, [it] is getting in the flow of all of that, understanding the race, conserving the car. And like [Cameron] said, the cars that are on the lead lap for the last four hours, it is a sprint race, for sure."
Bomarito also thinks the high attrition rate will shift the focus from the race taking place on the 3.56-mile circuit to the rapid-fire fixes going on in the Daytona garage. And provided most teams encounter reliability problems as expected, extended garage time might not kill everyone's chance of coming away with a decent finish.
"Once you went out, you lost 20 or 30 laps you knew your race was done, you were finishing next to last," he said of the most recent race dynamics at Daytona. "Now, I think if you lose [five or] 10 laps, instead of losing 30, that could be a few spots. And for a championship, those extra five, six points could make a big difference.
"So, I think that fight and the struggle that the crewmembers are going to go through in the middle race when you have these little gremlins, if we do, or whoever does, are going to be even more important this year."
Race car drivers are accustomed to being celebrated for their heroics in the car. By the time the checkered flag waves on Sunday afternoon, Prototype mechanics could emerge as the true heroes of the event.
01-27-2017 02:08 PM
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