Daytona Prototype International

  • 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.


    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Rain Falls to Hour Eight

    An action-packed four hours brought the race to the eight-hour mark. Wayne Taylor Racing #10 currently holds the lead of the race, but disaster has struck the Action Express Racing team as both cars have suffered issues that have dropped them out of podium contention. Starworks Motorsports have had an extremely busy last four hours with both of their cars ending up in the garage before returning to the track. #38 Performance Tech Motorsports continues to lead the Prototype Challenge class. Although the lead in the GT Le Mans class has changed hands throughout the time period, the #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing leads the GT Le Mans class at the eight-hour mark. GT Daytona has, once again, been a tightly fought class with the leader changing at every pit stop. At this time, the #54 CORE Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 R leads the GT Daytona class. It is the first time it has lead all race.

    The battle for the top three, until the final hour of this period, was fought exclusively between Action Express Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing. The Cadillacs continued to stream off in a class of their own and no one behind appeared to be able to get close. However, when the rain began to hit the teams behind were able to close in on the front-runners more so than they had been able to. At one point, the top five cars in the class were all on the lead lap.

    Disaster struck Action Express Racing as both of their cars suffered issues. The worst fell on the #31, who spent about half an hour in the pits and lost five laps on the leaders. The issue is unknown but it is rumored that it was a suspension toe link failure that had the car sat in the garage for so long. Just before the eight-hour mark the #5 suffered a puncture, which forced the team to pit the car early. The team lost around a lap to the leaders which dropped them into fourth.

    More power issues hit the #81 DragonSpeed car, forcing it back into pits for more repairs and dropping it down the grid. The #70 Mazda Motorsports car was diagnosed with a clutch issue. This has seen the prototype drop out of the top 31.

    For their collision with the #73, the #8 Starworks Motorsports car was hit with a ten-minute stop and hold penalty. This was the least of the team’s issue as they had to repair both of their cars within the last four hours. The #88 was hit out on track, spinning around with heavy contact, whilst the #8 was still being fixed from the hour four crash. With the #88, the #31 tried to overtake the Prototype Challenge car by going high up the banked curb. An error in judgment saw the Prototype car in a closing gap and contact was made. Impressively, Starworks Motorsport managed to get both cars repaired and back out on track racing within the four hours.

    The #51 Spirit of Race made it back out onto the track after a 40-minute delay in the pits, but it sadly was not meant to be. #51 is the only confirmed retirement to announce in this four-hour report. The #16 Change Racing and #98 Aston Martin Racing also appeared back on track after a very long delay in the pits.

    #4 Corvette Racing brought out another Full Course Yellow after it stopped out on track with a suspected electrical issue. Before the car suddenly stopped out on track, it was hit by the #69 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and spun around. It is not known whether the issue that stopped the car was as a result of the contact. The #4 managed to get back out on track, only losing a few laps.

    Sam Bird had excellent timing in taking the lead of GT Daytona. It was a tight move, with the Brit just about getting his nose in front and sweeping across the track to maintain the lead position. It was a few seconds after Bird had made the move stick that the Full Course Yellows came out preventing the car behind from attacking back. Once again, six different manufacturers were placed in the top six positions within the class. With a number of lead changes in the class that happened over only four hours, it is probable that this race will come down to the wire.

    Keep up to date through the night session by following @SpeedChillsView for LIVE updates.

  • The 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona Grid

    The 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona gets closer everyday, with the event taking place on the 28/29th of January. 49 entrants have already been confirmed for the Daytona 24, with more expected to join the grid before the event. Last year, 54 cars participated and classified for the 54th running of the prestigious event. It was Scott Sharp, Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek, and Pipo Derani who took the overall win in a Tequila Patrón ESM Ligier JS P2. They return to try and defend their title for the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona.

    Below is the confirmed grid, so far, to start off Speed Chill's Roar before the 24.

    Daytona Prototype Internationals

    The end of 2016 saw the end of an era for the Daytona Prototype, the class has been merged with LMP2 in the hope of expanding the grid and attracting factory-backed entries across North America. Petit Le Mans 2016 saw the final race in the category as we knew it, where the Daytona Prototype cars raced alongside the LMP2 specification of prototypes since 2014. The new legislation means that the Daytona Prototype of 2017 is a re-engined LMP2 chassis with custom body work. 2017 sees seven next generation cars on the grid run by four different teams with 3 different manufacturers, Nissan, Mazda and General Motors.

    The next generation Nissan DPI will be run using the new Ligier chassis, the JS-P217. The car turned its wheels for the first time in a private test at Sebring late 2016. The car will be run by Extreme Speed Motorsport who return to IMSA after their 2016 success at Daytona and will contest the full season after several years in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Scott Sharp will race alongside Ryan Dalziel in the #2 car with Pipo Derani stepping in as the third driver for Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta as part of the North American Endurance Cup. The #22 car will have Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown as the full season pairing along side Bruno Senna for the North American Endurance Rounds and Porsche factory driver Brendon Hartley at Daytona.

    Mazda brings the new RT24-P to the 2017 championship in partnership with Riley Multimatic. Speedsource is running two cars in 2017 with Jonathan Bomarito, Tom Long, Tristan Nunez, Spencer Pigot and Joel Miller on board for the full season. The car has a four cylinder 2.0L turbo charged engine developing nearly 600 horse power.

    General Motors have three cars lined up for the championship running the Chevrolet 6.2 Litre V8, two cars will run under the Action Express banner with a third car entered by Wayne Taylor Racing, all three are running the Dallara chassis. The Action Express team have retained their 2016 line up, the #5 car will be run by Filipe Albuquerque, Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa for Daytona with the 2016 championship winning #31 car of Eric Curran and Dane Cameron joined by Toyota factory star Mike Conway and the 2016 Sunoco Whelen Challenge winner Seb Morris, who in 2016 drove alongside Rick Parfitt Junior for Team Parker Bentley in the British GT Championship.

    Wayne Taylor Racing once again, sign on for the full season with their 2016 line up of Ricky Taylor and Jordan Taylor. Max Angelleli joins the pair for the endurance races along side Nascar super star, Jeff Gordon.


    There are a number of teams who have confirmed to be running the next generation of LMP2 cars in IMSA Competion alongside the factory backed Daytona LMP2 cars.

    Visit Florida Racing will be running a Riley Multimatic Gibson with Marc Goossens and Renge van der Zande on board for the full season. Team Manager Troy Flis is also targeting a run at Le Mans in 2017.

    After announcing their switch to LMP2 for the World Endurance Championship, Rebellion Racing also announced they would be mounting a challenge on the North American Endurance Cup with Nick Heidfeld, Neel Jani, Sebastien Buemi and Stephane Sarrazin at the wheel of the next generation Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2.

    JDC Miller will be running a full season campaign in the Oreca 07 but the driver line up is as yet un-announced.

    PR1 Mathiasen will be running the next generation Ligier JSP217 Gibson with Tom Kimber-Smith and Jose Gutierrez the full season contenders. Mike Guasch will join the duo for the four NAEC rounds.

    Dragonspeed will also compete at Daytona in their upgraded Oreca 05 with the ELMS trio of Nicolas Lapierre, Ben Hanley, and Henrik Hedman. The trio will be joined by Loic Duval.

    GT Le Mans

    Corvette Racing return to the IMSA championship with a two car line up and an unchanged driver line up. Tommy Milner/Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia are on board for the full season, looking to defend the championship. Audi stars Mike Rockefeller and Marcel Fassler also return for Daytona and Sebring.

    Porsche North America run by CORE Autosport will debut the new 911 RSR with Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre, Patrick Pilet and Dirk Werner piloting the new mid engined 911 for the season. Richard Lietz and Fred Makowiecki join the team for Daytona.

    BMW have gone under a substantial reshuffle with Martin Tomczyk and Alexander Sims joining the squad alongside John Edwards and Bill Auberlen. Nicky Catsburg and Kuno Wittmer will join BMW for the North American Endurance Cup rounds with Augusto Farfus and Bruno Spengler also onboard for Daytona.

    Ford returns to IMSA with the 2017 GT without any major changes. Joey Hand/Dirk Mueller and Richard Westbrook/Ryan Briscoe will take on the full season with the FIA WEC cars also joining the squad for Daytona. The first time all four cars have run together since Le Mans 2016.

    GT Daytona

    GT Daytona, the IMSA equivalent of GT3, will see Scuderia Corsa, the class champions of 2016 return with the Ferrari 488 GT3 for 2017 with Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen at the wheel. Matteo Cressoni will join the duo for the NAEC races. Michael Shank will contest the season with the new Acura (Honda) NSX GT3 with Jeff Segal, Ozz Negri, Katherine Legge and Andy Lally on for the whole season, Mark Wilkins and Tom Dyer for the NAEC races and Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay in for Daytona.

    3GT Racing will bring out the Lexus RC F GT3 with two cars featuring FIA WEC driver Gustavo Menezes for the endurance rounds. Riley Motorsport makes the jump from Dodge to Mercedes with the new AMG GT3, they field two cars in a season long campaign with Thomas Jaeger and Shane van Gisbergen on board for Daytona. Sun Energy1 Racing, a new team to the IMSA paddock are also running the AMG GT with a full season entry, the driver line up is not yet complete at time of writing.

    Core Autosport, Park Place, and TRG are all set to run the Porsche 911 GT3R program for season long campaigns in GT-D with a number of Porsche factory drivers spread throughout the lineup and a number of drivers still to be confirmed.

    Lamborghini returns to the grid with one car entered by Paul Miller Racing and one under the banner of Change Racing, both for full season campaigns. The two season entry Lamborghinis are also set to be joined by Dream Racing for the endurance races as part of the NAEC and Grasser Racing Team, the highly successful European team making its debut in the United States at Daytona. Grasser will be bringing with them their highly successful lineup of Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart, Rolf Ineichen and Ezequiel Perez Companc with them to Daytona. Future plans are yet to be confirmed. Ebimotors will field an additional Lamborghini at Daytona and Sebring with Fabio Babini and Emanuele Busnelli confirmed so far.Sole Daytona entries include Aston Martin Racing with a Vantage GT3 run by Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Laura and Pedro Lammy with Niicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen both possibilities for the 24. Konrad Motorsport will return to Daytona with a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 with potential for further appearances later in the year. Manthey Racing will field a customer entered Porsche 911 GT3 R; Land Motorsport Audi fresh from claiming the ADAC GT Championship will make a one off appearance at Daytona and AF Corse Ferrari will enter one 488 GT3 with an unannounced lineup.

  • The Rain Stops for Hour 18

    After the previous four hours where barely anything happened, the last four-hour of racing have been packed with action. The fight for the lead in all the classes has tightened up completely as the rain has left the circuit, allowing for green racing to get back underway. #10 Wayne Taylor Racing still has the advantage as they lead the overall grid, but the gap between them and #5 Action Express Racing is getting very close. The #38 Performance Tech Motorsports have the Prototype Challenge class in the bag unless something goes wrong with their car in the last four hours. They have dominated the field throughout the 24-hour endurance race and thoroughly deserve to win their class today. It is still a fight between the #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and the #62 Risi Competizione for the GT Le Mans win, but the top six in the GT Le Mans class is covered by just over five seconds. The GT Daytona lead keeps being handed between the #33 Riley Motorsport and the #86 Michael Shank Racing.

    One hour and forty minutes passed until the last Full Course Yellow. The safety car period was so long that they had to swap the safety car over because the first car was running low on fuel. But once the rain had lightened off enough to get the race back underway everybody appeared to have a point to prove. Before the Full Course Yellow was lifted, VISIT FLORIDA Racing managed to get their car into the lead position. Sadly, the rest of the Prototype grid appear to be around 2 seconds slower than the Cadillacs, so as soon as the track started to dry out the #10 and #5 began to leave the #90 behind.

    There were more issues for the #31 Action Express Racing Cadillac. After Seb Morris had had such a good first stint the team’s race went downhill as they tried to deal with start-up issues. Within the last four hours, the car has been back in the pits a few times with power issues. It is a shame because Morris proved he had the speed and the talent to contend high up with the #31.

    Due to so many people going off/straight on at the Bus Stop chicane, IMSA changed the penalty rule, claiming that whether or not you gained an advantage if a driver cut Bus Stop chicane they would be handed a penalty. The #90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing was the first to suffer this punishment, being handed a drive-through penalty after going straight through the escape road.

    The top of the field is very close in GT Le Mans, but at the beginning of the four hours, it was the two Porsches who were holding a strong 1-2. Their pace in the wet/damp conditions was clearly superior to the rest of their class fields as they managed to hold onto the lead of the class throughout most of the evening’s running. The battle is now between Risi Competizione and Ford Chip Ganassi as it was yesterday, but both Porsches are still in contention to take the class win. Only a few second separate them from the leaders and the lead keeps trading hands.

    Ending the four-hour block, another Full Course Yellow hit the track. Just racing around the track, the front bodywork of the #26 BAR1 Motorsport flew off the car, landing in two pieces on the track. The Full Course Yellow was brought out to clear the debris off the track. There was a second Full Course Yellow when the #15 3GT Racing car that had crashed quite a few times throughout the race ended up in the tyre barrier.

    The cars have now raced over 500 laps, and thus far only six have been lost from the race. With just four hours of racing left, anything could happen. Make sure to stay tuned to @SpeedChillsView to get LIVE updates as the final few hours unfold.

  • Wayne Taylor Racing Top the Final Practice Session

    The Cadillac DPi appears to be the car to watch in the Prototype class as it has made a clean sweep of topping all practice and qualifying sessions in the Prototype class. It finished the practice session on top for #10 Wayne Taylor Racing with a fastest time of 1:36.970. Prototype Challenge saw BAR1 Motorsport back on top with the #20 claiming the fastest class time. Ford still appeared to be unstoppable this morning as, once again; they took the fastest time in the GTLM class with a 1:43.490. GT Daytona was taken by #48 Paul-Miller Motorsports as Andrea Calderelli took the fastest time narrowly from Jeroen Bleekemolen in the Riley Mercedes-AMG GT3.

    There were two delays to the session this morning. The first was due to the #62 Risi Competizione as it dropped oil coming out of the infield section. A quick-dry truck was sent out on course to cover the oil spill, leading to a ten-minute delay. The second red flag of the session was pulled out by the #18 DAC Motorsport Lamborghini. Emmanuel Anassis was coming out of the infield sector and onto NASCAR 1 when the Lamborghini ended up facing the wrong way with one of its wheels separated from the car. Despite the large amount of smoke coming from the Lamborghini, Anassis got away from the car absolutely fine. There was about a 20-minute delay as the Car was recovered from the track by a flatbed. It is unknown whether the car was spun around by another car or if the error was the drivers. With the damage on the Lamborghini, it is assumed that it was hit by another car.

    After being given special clearance to stay at the track beyond curfew last night the #81 DragonSpeed team managed to get the ORECA repaired in time for practice this morning. After their big crash yesterday morning that saw them sitting out of qualifying, the team were determined to gain as much track time and data as possible. They managed to finish the session about a second off the pace of the pace-setting Cadillac DPi with a 1:37.922.

    Joey Hand returned to the same form he had in qualifying and took the fastest GT Le Mans time of the session. Half a tenth up on his closest competitor – the #912 Porsche – his fastest lap was a 1:43.490. The Porsche #912 split the top-two Fords as Dirk Werner in the #67 Ganassi Racing Ford GT completed the top three in the GT Le Mans class.

    It was close at the top of the GT Daytona category as Calderelli and Bleekemolen battled for the top of the class position. Just 0.056 seconds separated the two at chequered flag where Calderelli took the fastest time of 1:47.455. Two Huracans ended in the top three of the GT Daytona class, as the Change Racing Lamborghini was third fastest.

    With all of the practice session now finished for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the teams will now be preparing for the main event. The 24-endurance race begins at 14:30 EST tomorrow. @SpeedChillsView will keep you up-to-date from lights to flag so you will not miss any of the action the 55th Rolex 24 has to offer.

  • You don't need Alonso to love Daytona

    Was it just me, or did the motorsport world perceptibly shift off its axis in late October? The Indy 500 had been amazing enough – but Fernando Alonso, two-time Formula 1 world champion and the man considered the greatest grand prix driver of his generation, was now dropping another sensational news bomb.

    He told us he's all set to race in the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona in an LMP2 prototype.

    Come again?

    This is a race that 15-20 years ago had been all but reduced to the status of a glorified 'clubbie', featuring a hardened band of specialist teams, with seasoned pros mixing it with well-heeled amateurs. It was a curio, a throwback to previous eras – and little more.

    To those who only follow F1 today, it still won't offer much of a blip on their radar. But to anyone with a wider (and more developed) racing perspective, the Daytona 24 Hours is now back to its best, the season opener for a terrifically healthy and entertaining American sportscar championship featuring a selection of some of the best long-distance racing drivers on the planet.

    It's still an oddity thanks to its quirky and utterly charming character. But it's also a race that once again matters, just as it did when Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s were duking it out around its high banking in the early 1970s.

    Fernando Alonso - Copyright Formula 1

    But why on earth is Alonso doing it?

    The Spaniard's new ambition to chase alternative motor racing goals was born, of course, from depressing frustration at McLaren-Honda's failure to deliver him a competitive F1 car. For so long, he's been desperate to add a third world title to the pair he won for Renault way back in 2005-06. But as the years have slipped by in monotonous disappointment, Alonso has opened his eyes to the rich racing world around him.

    This man is super-bright and, against the common perception of F1 heroes, he genuinely loves motorsport – with the ability to see far beyond the privileged, blinkered world of the grand prix paddocks.

    I'd got an inkling there was more to him during his Ferrari years when he told my old friend Nigel Roebuck that he enthusiastically read our magazine, Motor Sport – and not just the bits about modern F1. But still, could I have predicted one of the most ambitious and ruthless F1 drivers in history would soon be vying to win classic races considered 'obscure' among the elite he mixes with in his day job? No way.

    But it's happening nevertheless, even though the Rolex doesn't form part of the unofficial 'Triple Crown' Alonso has set his heart on chasing.

    Only Graham Hill managed to clinch the magic trio – the F1 world championship, the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours. Alonso has reasoned, quite logically, with Michael Schumacher's record seven F1 titles now out of his reach, his quest for legendary status lies in an ambition to show all-round ability: to win in a variety of machinery in a variety of racing disciplines, just like versatile legends such as Mario Andretti, Vic Elford and Stirling Moss.

    He was a genuine contender to add the Indy 500 to his collection last May, but as I was lucky enough to witness first-hand, was robbed by yet another blown Honda engine. He'll return to Indy one day to try again – because he'll have to if he wants that triple crown.

    Meanwhile, there's Le Mans, a race he has experienced as an enthusiastic visitor. We're all hooked to see if he'll be the magic ingredient Toyota craves to end its jinx at the great race next June – if he signs up as we all hope he will. His maiden test in Bahrain following the FIA World Endurance Championship season closer this autumn certainly whetted his appetite for LMP1 machinery, so fingers crossed.

    But Alonso in LMP2? Really?


    For me, this shows the man is serious about these extra-curricular activities. The United Autosports Ligier JSP217 is a great little car, but in performance terms this is a prototype designed for amateurs to handle as much as seasoned pros. It's hardly going to test him.

    But that's not the point. He's taking on Daytona as part of his preparation to build experience for Le Mans. He needs endurance miles and the Rolex is a prime opportunity to gain a load.

    Also, I suspect, he knows it'll be fun. And that's also the point of this diversion to Florida.

    United Autosports boss Zak Brown does, of course, have the more significant day job of steering the McLaren F1 team through their current trouble, and it's the American who's smashed the glass ceiling for Alonso's new-found ambitions. Brown is no stranger to Daytona and will have fed the Spaniard tall stories about just how great Florida can be at the end of January.

    He's right to, because it is.

    Back in 2011, Zak invited me out to a race I'd attended before, but this time to specifically write about his latest entry. He'd convinced F1 old boys and good mates Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell to race alongside him in a Daytona Prototype. The pair jumped at the chance of reliving past glories, for both had raced at the Florida speedbowl in the Group C/GTP era – in Brundle's case successfully so, as he won for Jaguar in 1988.

    I interviewed the pair before the race in United Autosport's motorhome, the ‘Brundell brothers' enjoying the bonhomie and banter. On Daytona, Martin stated categorically that "physically, it was the hardest race I ever did. The Jaguars were heavy, and I think it was particularly humid when we raced here with three drivers."

    Alonso will have been told such tales. He won't be expecting an easy time, even if the Ligier is no Jaguar XJR-12. But 24 hours on Daytona's mix of oval banking and infield road course should never be underestimated – even by a maestro.

    Especially as he'll be facing a competitive field full of sports car specialists, and a heady mix of Indycar and NASCAR heroes. So many turn out at Daytona to shake the winter cobwebs, to have some fun of their own – and also to try to win a Rolex… This race matters to so many for so many reasons.

    The Daytona Banking

    And that's why, as much as Alonso is a great story for the race and a gilt-edged reason to pay a visit next January, he's not the only reason why a trip to Daytona should be on everyone's motorsport bucket list.

    Daytona doesn't need a global superstar pitching up to be one of the best experiences in racing, from either the perspective of the cockpit or the grandstands.

    First of all, the place is huge, especially now the main stand has been expanded beyond its already colossal size. And without the mammoth crowds attracted by the more nationally famous NASCAR 500-miler that takes place a couple of weeks later, it's also spectator-friendly. Such is the size of the site, even if thousands do turn up, it never really feels like it.

    The spectacle on the banking, the sense of history, the accessible nature of US motorsport, an escape from frozen Europe in January… the Rolex 24 might not be included among the Triple Crown, but it's still special – it's an ‘event' like no other.

    For Alonso, the penny has dropped that F1 isn't the be-all and end-all. He's ready for new adventures, and Daytona offers an experience he will never forget – much as it will be for any visitor.

    Racing's North Turn, Daytona Beach, Florida

    One final tip if you're tempted (and you should be!): take a drive about 20 minutes south down the coast to the North Turn restaurant. This is the site of Daytona's first beach races that began way back in 1936, long preceding NASCAR's foundation and the building of the famous superspeedway in '59.

    Daytona's motorsport heritage was born on the beach, with land speed records broken on its sands when professional stock car racing was but a glint in the eye of founding father Bill France and its first aces were still running moonshine... The North Turn, with its fantastic photos and memorabilia, is a quiet little racing mecca – and the perfect coda to any Daytona trip.

    And after all we've seen in the past year, I wouldn't even be surprised if you bumped into a curious Spaniard checking it out for a bite of lunch… Stranger things have happened, and on this evidence, will again in 2018 and beyond. The adventure is just beginning.

    Damien Smith, former Editor of Motor Sport Magazine

    Image Formula 1 (Fernando Alonsa portrait)