Speed Chills - Rolex 24 At Daytona

  • Action Express Racing Stay Fastest for Qualifying

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

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

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

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

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

  • Action Express Racing Stays on top for Practice Two

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

    image: motorsport.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Action Express Racing take the Fastest Time of Practice One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • An introduction to VISIT FLORIDA Racing

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

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


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

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

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

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

    Racing History

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

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

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

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

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

    Drivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Images Brian Cleary/VISIT FLORIDA Racing

  • Cadillac Dominate the first Four Hours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Goodbye Daytona Prototype, Hello Daytona Prototype International

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


    Image: www.imsa.com

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

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

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

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


    Image: Mazda Racing

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

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


    Image: Ligier Racing

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

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

  • Heavy Downpour Halts Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • How To Watch IMSA

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

    image: imsa.com

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

    IMSA Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Calendar

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

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

    DATE

    EVENT

    LOCATION

    DURATION

    November 15/16 2016

    TEST

    Daytona International Speedway

    Test

    December 13/14 2016

    TEST

    Daytona International Speedway

    Test

    January 6-8 2017

    Roar Before Rolex 24

    Daytona International Speedway

    Test

    January 26-29 2017

    Rolex 24 at Daytona

    Daytona International Speedway

    24 Hours

    February 23/24 2017

    TEST

    Sebring International Raceway

    Test

    March 15-18 2017

    Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring

    Sebring International Raceway

    12 Hours

    April 7-8 2017

    BUBBA Burger SportsCar Grand Prix

    Long Beach Street Circuit

    1h40m

    May 5-7 2017

    Circuit of the Americas

    Circuit of the Americas

    2h40m

    June 2-3 2017

    Chevrolet Belle Isle Detroit Grand Prix

    Raceway at Belle Isle Park

    1h40m

    June 30 – July 2 2017

    Sahlen’s 6 Hours of The Glen

    Watkins Glen International

    6 Hours

    July 7-9 2017

    Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix

    Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

    2h40m

    July 21/21 2017

    IMSA WeatherTech Northeast Grand Prix

    Lime Rock Park

    2h40m

    August 4-6 2017

    Continental Tire Road Race Showcase

    Road America

    2h40m

    August 25-27 2017

    Michelin GT Challenge

    Virginia International Raceway

    2h40m

    September 22-24 2017

    Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix

    Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

    2h40m

    October 5-7 2017

    Petit Le Mans

    Road Atlanta

    10 Hours

     

    Race Format

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

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

    The Championship

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

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

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

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

    Points

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

    image: wikipedia.com

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

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

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

    Pit Stops

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

    Car Classes

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

    Prototype

    image: imsa.com

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

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

    Prototype Challenge

    image: imsa.com

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

    GT Le Mans

    image: imsa.com

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

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

    GT Daytona

    image: imsa.com

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

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

    Number System

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

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

  • Interview with a Champion - Neel Jani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What are your thoughts on Audi withdrawing from the WEC?

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

    How did you feel winning Le Mans 2016?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • Neel Jani on top at the Roar Before the 24 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Session 1 Results

    Session 2 Results

    Photograph John Dagys - Sports Car 365

  • No Rest in Hour 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Partnership with VISIT FLORIDA Racing

    Speed Chills is pleased to announce that the latest addition to its travel portfolio, comprised of a trip to the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January 2017, as the organization joins forces with the VISIT FLORIDA Racing team which competes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

    PRESS RELEASE 27th October 2016
    Visit the Rolex 24 At Daytona with Speed Chills and VISIT FLORIDA Racing

    Motorsport fans will now have the chance to get unique access to this World famous event through a complete travel package to the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January 2017, the opening race of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. With flights, car hire, hotel, tickets and parking included, by adding the additional endorsement of the VISIT FLORIDA Racing team adds a unique touch to the trip.

    The ‘Rolex 24 At Daytona’ travel package is a bold addition to the Speed Chills current portfolio and sees it move into the arena of North American motorsport, whilst continuing the Speed Chills tradition of enabling motorsport fans to get exclusive access into the world of racing.

    Speed Chills first provided a trip to the Rolex 24 At Daytona back in January 2016 and UK fans experienced a unique fly-drive package comprising of flights, rental car, hotel, ticket bundle and access to some of the ‘behind the scenes’ of the World famous Daytona International Speedway. This year, by working with the VISIT FLORIDA Racing team, Speed Chills can now bring fans even closer to the action - an exciting proposition for both our guests and to the team by bringing a clearer awareness of the North American championship to UK fans, whilst also driving tourism into Florida.

    About VISIT FLORIDA Racing: Founded in 1987, VISIT FLORIDA Racing has evolved from competing in club-racing events to being a mainstay in America’s most prestigious endurance racing series. With multiple overall victories to its credit and strong championship campaigns, the team is based in Daytona Beach, Florida - just down the road from the home of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. In January 2016, VISIT FLORIDA Racing’s driving trio of Ryan Dalziel, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay celebrated a podium finish of third! Plans for 2017 are yet to be announced, but will you join us in January 2017 to help cheer them on?

    Statement from Neil Matthews of Speed Chills: “We are delighted to be partnering with VISIT FLORIDA Racing for the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona. We know from experience that offering our guests the opportunity to form a bond with a leading team adds a ‘money can’t buy’ aspect to their trip.”

    Statement from Troy Flis, VISIT FLORIDA Racing Team Owner: “This is a cool new program with Speed Chills and we are looking forward to giving their guests a behind the scenes experience at the Rolex 24 this January. Kicking off the IMSA championship with our biggest race, right in our backyard, is something that we always look forward to. VISIT FLORIDA does an awesome job of getting the word out about all the things to do in Florida all year long so we are excited to showcase one of our favorite things to do in Florida—racing at the Daytona International Speedway so this should a really fun experience for these guys!"

    If you love motorsport and would like to find out more about this unique trip, then please visit our website for more information – complete travel packages available at www.speedchills.com/imsa/rolex-24-at-daytona.

    About Speed Chills: Speed Chills is a UK based specialist tour operator who have established a large customer base as official agents of the 24 hours of Le Mans and the Le Mans Classic. At both of these events we are the UK’s largest providers of Private Camping facilities operated by ourselves within the Circuit des 24 Heures. As a UK based company, we largely serve the requirements of UK residents and as we are ABTA members who also provide our bonding for consumer protection and hold an ATOL.

  • 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.

  • Rebellion top on Day 2 of the Roar

    Cadillac took an early lead in the time sheets, going quickest in a damp and greasy FP3 session on Saturday Morning. Wet weather meant the top teams were running nearly 15 seconds a lap slower than Friday, Ricky Taylor posting a 1:51.854 in the #10 Cadillac DPI.

    Only four of the 12 Prototypes made their way out on to the track with two PC cars and 6 GTLM cars, it was clear that teams were being cautious, not wanting to cause any lasting damage before the main event in just three weeks time. Trent Hindman lead in the PC class setting a 1:57.107 in the #26 BAR1 whilst Billy Johnson topped the charts in GTLM in the #68 Ford GT posting a 1:54.376, just a few tenths of the slowest prototype car, the JDC Miller car which posted a time of 1:54.014. #59 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3R lead the way in a 20 car strong GTD field, posting a 1:56.898.

    The fourth session of the Roar Before the 24 saw dry skies return along with a significant drop in temperatures. Neel Jani once again went quickest in the #13 Rebellion Racing Oreca 07 with a 1:39.017 with Tristan Nunez in the #55 Mazda RT24 DPI just 0.14 seconds back after completing 53 laps. The sister #70 car was just four tenths behind, a very strong performance from the team after they were hit by a number of issues on Friday. After a number of electronic and setup issues on Friday, the VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley MK30 took sixth place, the team making some big improvements on the day before. VISIT FLORIDA Racing have been working closely with Mazda Motorsport on the Riley Chassis, with both teams suffering from similar issues with the electronics and suspension system. With the issues both teams are facing impacting the safety of the car, they have put their rivalry aside and agreed to share any information and data they have and work together to solve the problems. Team Manager at VISIT FLORIDA Racing, Troy Flis, located a machine shop nearby that could manufacture some new components for both teams and get them out on track on Saturday. The VISIT FLORIDA Racing engineers are making progress with the cars electronics and set up; everyone is in the same boat though, running a brand new car with very little time to develop and set up before the first race of the season.

    After a heavy crash on Friday, the Performance Tech team had managed to repair the car and get it back out on track to top the PC field, Pato O’Ward set the fastest lap time with a 1:44.191.

    Ford are looking dominant in GT Le Mans, the team took a 1-2-3 finish on the time sheets with Scott Dixon leading the way in the #67 with a 1:44.558 followed by the #68 (-0.250s) and the #66 (-0.803s).

    The close racing we can expect in GTD was demonstrated once again in this session with the #46 EBIMOTORS Lamborghini Huracan topping the time sheets by just 0.14 seconds. Fabio Bambini posted a 1:48.484 with the #86 Michael Shank Acura NSX in second place and the #59 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 in third (-0.245).

    Rebellion Racing once again topped the time sheets in the first night session at Daytona International Raceway, Jani put the Rebellion at the front of the field with a 1:38.994. The identical DragonSpeed Oreca 07 was half a second behind (-0.517) as the Oreca chassis continued to outshine the rest of the field. The #55 Mazda RT24-P was third (-0.668s) with VISIT FLORIDA Racing in fourth place (-0.959) ahead of the #31 Cadillac DPI (-1.079) and the #2 ESM Nissan (-1.411).

    The newly rebuilt Performance Tech PC #38 car topped the PC class again posting a 1:43.119, nearly 1.4 seconds ahead of the identical Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09.

    Ford once again dominated in GTLM, this time Andy Priaulx lead the 1-2-3 finish with the #69 car posting a 1:44.785 ahead of the #68 (-0.056s) and the #67 (-0.122s). The Corvettes were close behind them however, Oliver Gavin posting a time just 0.044 off the pace of the #67 car.

    GTD was lead by the #29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 with Christopher Mies setting the quickest time of the night session, a 1:47.723. The night session was hit by two red flags as Joao Barbosa lost drive in the #5 Action Express Cadillac. The second stop was caused by contact between the #911 Porsche of Patrick Pilet and the #98 Aston Martin GT3 which broke the front left suspension on the Porsche and forced the car to retire for the night. Marco Sorensen will join the #98 Aston Martin alongside Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy, making his Rolex 24 debut.

  • Round up from Daytona

    DragonSpeed dominated the final days testing at Daytona International Speedway, topping the time sheets in FP6 and FP7.

    Ex GP2 Driver Ben Hanley put the #81 Oreca 07 Gibson on top of the time sheets by just 0.02 seconds from the #55 Mazda RT24 DPI, both times were set during the first session of the day on Sunday morning. Hanley will share the car with Nicolas Lapierre, Loic Duval and Henrik Hedman for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

    Despite early dominance, the #13 Rebellion Oreca Gibson finished third overall after leading the test early on. Sebastien Buemi took the teams quickest time on Sunday Afternoon posting a time of 1:38.408. The #52 PR1/Mathiasen Ligier took fourth place ahead of the #5 Action Express Cadillac DPI after the trio of cars showed an improved pace in the final session of the weekend. Joao Barbosa was within four tenths of the leading DragonSpeed car. The final time sheet of the day showed that all 12 prototypes, both LMP2 and DPI, were split by just 1.3 seconds, a result that is full of promise of things to come at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 3 weeks time. There was good improvements from the team at VISIT FLORIDA Racing, the car was classified seventh at the end of the day, however, Marc Goossens, Renger van der Zande and Rene Rast were just 0.57 off the pace of the #81 DragonSpeed car.

    Performance Tech once again led the way in the PC Category, they were the first of just five cars on the grid.

    Ford topped the time sheets in GTLM once again finishing 1-2 overall. The #67 car with Ryan Briscoe at the wheel posted a time of 1:44.38 during the morning session, beating Scott Dixon’s quickest lap of Saturday by nearly two tenths in the same car. Brazilian Indy car driver put the #69 Ford GT second quickest in his first outing in the new Ford GT.

    The #59 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R lead the way in GT Daytona in their first appearance at the event in nearly 20 years. Sven Mueller put the car at the head of the field with a 1:46.810 on Sunday Morning ahead of the #33 Riley Motorsports Team Mercedes AMG GT3.

    The morning session was red flagged with a big fire for the #4 Corvette. Marcel Fassler escaped unharmed but the car was heavily damaged. The fire was caused by a fuel leak when a fuel injector line split. The fire burned through the bodywork of the front of the car, damaging key components under the front bonnet panel. The team are confident in getting the car repaired and back out for the Rolex 24 At Daytona, after all, it is nearly a year since the team experienced a fire in 2016 before going on to finish and incredible race with a dramatic 1-2 finish.

    Photograph motorsport.com

  • Round up from the Roar Before the 24

    It was an incredibly busy weekend at the Roar Before the 24 2 weeks ago with some big stories across the whole of the weekend. It was Ben Hanley who took the fastest overall lap time of the weekend after early dominance from Swiss driver Neel Jani in the brand new Rebellion Racing Oreca 07. Hanley topped the time sheets on Sunday in the Dragon speed Oreca in the cars first competition outing.

    With such big regulations changes over the 2016/2017 winter break in the prototype class, there were bound to be some big headlines with the new Daytona Prototype International cars arguably the biggest talking point. 2017 see’s three manufacturer backed DPI cars run by Mazda, Nissan and Cadillac in the highly competitive Prototype Class, they will also be joined by the next generation of  Le Mans/WEC spec LMP2 cars, the Oreca 07, the Ligier JSP2-17 and the Gibson powered Riley Mk30.

    Oreca led the way over the course of the weekend, the 07 out performing the competition in 5 out of 7 practice sessions. All the teams have clearly been doing a lot of development work over the winter break. Rebellion in particular have had to rebuild the car from a brand new chassis after Stephane Sarrazin wrote the car off in a private test at Sebring. The star performance of the weekend came from Ben Hanley, the British driver posting an overall quickest time of 1:38.343 on Sunday Morning. Hanley was a silver rated driver throughout 2016 but his early performance at The Roar clearly justifying his promotion to an FIA Gold rating.

    Ben Hanley is effectively an unknown driver in the United States. He has been racing with Dragon Speed in the 2016 ELMS season and was paramount to their great performances  which included four podiums and a lights to flag victory at the four hours of Spa Francorchamps back in September 2016. Luis Felipe Derani was relatively unknown on the American Motorsport Scene at the beginning of 2016. He was still relatively new to sports cars and prototypes at this point having spent just 1 and half seasons in LMP2 after making the switch from Formula Renault and Formula 3 in Europe. On his first WEC race, Pipo put his LMP2 car on pole at Silverstone, he went on to take six podium finishes in just eight races with G-Drive. Derani made his debut at the Rolex 24 in 2016, setting fastest lap and helping Tequilla Patron Extreme Speed Motorsport to victory. If Hanley can emulate the South American driver in any way, and his early performance indicates that he will, Hanley has a great future ahead of him in which ever route he decides to pursue. One thing is for certain, Ben Hanley is one to look out for at the upcoming Rolex 24 At Daytona, it will be  great to see how the young Brit performs on his first US outing.

    Neel Jani also made his Daytona debut at the Roar Before but it wasn't his first time racing in the US, Jani raced with Rebellion in America back in 2013 under the American Le Mans Series banner. Jani performed great in the opening first few days of the test, the sole driver in the #13 Rebellion as his team mates were on Formula E duty in Las Vegas. It is an incredibly tough call to make between Rebellion and Dragon Speed. Both teams are running the Oreca 07; Rebellion arguably have the better line up with Jani, Sarrazin, Heidfeld and Buemi but Dragon Speed have experience running at the Rolex 24. However, last time out they were driving a Ferrari F430 GT car. They do however have experience running in the American Le Mans Series Prototype Challenge category so that will give them a good grounding. It is clear that team manager Elton Julien has a lot of ambition and confidence in his team. He has relocated the team to France to allow them to focus on their ELMS campaign and to set the overall fastest time at The Roar after only just two laps of shakedown around Paul Ricard is an incredible feat. DragonSpeed are certainly going to be one of the teams to watch this coming weekend.

    The speed of the cars and the lap times achieved never quite reached the same level as the December Daytona test which was a big talking point around the paddock. A number of Balance of Performance changes have limited the top speed and acceleration of the cars, however there is, as always, an element of sand bagging with no one wanting to reveal their true potential this early in the season. Most notably, the Cadillacs have been slowed since the December Test through Aerodynamic changes, other cars came out a little quicker. IMSA released a number of BOP changes recently, altering aerodynamics, and set ups for a number of cars, however it is hard to establish exactly what affects this will have just yet. Whatever the reason for the differing performances, the debut of the Daytona Prototype International cars generated mixed results. Cadillac were fastest at the December Test however, with the exception of Jeff Gordon signing for the team, their weekend went mostly under the radar. Gordon’s return to sports cars after his last appearance in 2007 and the media and fans have been all over it. Gordon isn't treating his appearance at the Rolex 24 lightly however, he wants the win and has been working hard with the team to get the car developed and set up as best as possible. The second biggest news to come out of the Cadillac portion of the paddock is the announcement after the Rolex 24, Max Angelleli will retire from professional competition. He will be hunting down one final win, a win that has proved elusive to Cadillac over the years. If Cadillac pull it off, this could be one of the stories of the weekend.

    Cadillac were notably slower than some of the other prototypes however, drivers commenting on how quickly there were closing in on the three Cadillacs. A big change from the early pace shown in December. The Roar was the first appearance of the new Nissan DPI, as such the ESM team were using the weekend as a bit of a shake down and development weekend with one of the cars having a full engine change over night. Mazda also had a number of issues early on in the weekend with a number of electrical and set up issues. Mazda ended up working together with VISIT FLORIDA Racing to get the three cars up and running again. Troy Flis even went out late one night to find a local machine shop to manufacture some key components to help get the cars back on track. As a result, Mazda found some pace on the final day of the test, setting a time of 1:38.363 and hitting a speed of 197mph through the speed traps. Initial impressions show that Mazda could possibly be the best of the new DPI cars, but it is still early days. Everyone will have a better idea of true pace and performance by the end of this coming week before the race begins on Saturday.

    Whilst VISIT FLORIDA Racing did not quite have the pace of the Oreca 07’s and struggled early on with technical issues and electrical gremlins, the Gibson Riley LMP2 was only half a second or so off the leaders by the end of the weekend. Troy Flis admits that the team need a bit of work before the main event to bring the team completely up to speed, the team need some long mileage runs to understand the cars performance better over long stints. With the experienced line up of Renger van der Zande, Rene Rast and Marc Goossens, the team could be in with a great chance of winning the Rolex 24. Each of the three drivers has a lot of experience behind them in both GT cars and Prototypes so will be a forced to be reckoned with if the team can get all the mechanical and electrical issues ironed out. That being said, VISIT FLORIDA Racing are by no means on their own when it comes to issues, as already stated; Mazda had suspension and electrical issues, Nissan had to do a full engine rebuild and Cadillac have some pace to find. Even the front running Oreca’s had electronic issues and steering issues relating to the Cosworth steering system.

    PR1/Mathiasen and JDC Miller also suffered from electrical gremlins as they tried to shake out the kinks across the course of the weekend. The Prototype class is a new level of competition for them, both teams having made the step up from the outgoing Prototype Challenge category. It will certainly be interesting to see how the teams handle the step up, racing the next generation Ligier JSP2-17 and Oreca 07 respectively. The teams may not challenge for the overall win at this early stage based on speed however, if reliability comes in to the equation and they can race cleanly and keep the car on track, they may be in with a chance, particularly this year with everyone running brand new machinery. 2017 was a good year for the two teams to make the step up in to Prototype with the new set of regulations coming in to effect but with only five cars left in the final year of the Prototype Challenge it was a good call to make. Whilst there are five Prototype Challenge cars entered for the Rolex 24, there are only two full season confirmed entries so far.

    James French topped the five car field over the three days of running. Despite only being five cars, there could still be some great competition between the 5 identical Oreca FLM09 cars, notably between Starworks and BAR1, both teams are fielding two cars for the Rolex 24 with one car from Performance Tech. However previous years have often shown that the PC class goes down to a race of attrition, who is the last team standing after 24 hours? The teams will be focusing on getting the car through to the final stint rather than going for outright pace. Notable drivers in the category include Buddy Rice (Indy500 2004 Rolex 24 2009) who is making his return to the Rolex 24. Patricio O'Ward joins the grid after finishing second in the Pro Mazda Championship in 2016.

    The GT categories also feature a star studded line up of some of the best GT drivers on the planet.  Ford were pulling out all the stops, once again running both their IMSA and WEC cars in a four car line up with three of the cars running in the top four. Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon topped the time sheets with the #67 car, the #69 car was third. BMW were also running strongly with Alexander Sims, Bruno Spengler, Nicky Catsburg and Martin Tomczyk split between the two cars. Ferrari also have a strong line up, the Rizi Competition entry running Giancarlo Fisichela, Toni Vilander and James Calado. Porsche are also running a world class line up with Dirk Werner, Patrick Pilet, Frederic Makowiecki, Kevin Estre Richard Lietz and ex Audi factory drive Laurens Vanthoor. Corvette were of course the race winners in 2016 after a dramatic race to the flag. The big story of the Roar Before in GTLM however, was the fire in the #4 Corvette caused by a fuel leak. Marcel Fassler escaped the car unharmed and set about looking for a fire extinguisher before the safety truck arrived to put the fire out. Corvette GT cars are renowned for being practically bullet proof. In 10 years of racing, there has only been one full write off. Its going to be an incredibly close race in GTLM. Ford clearly have the strength in numbers and with 6 victories under their belts in 2016 across the four cars they have the performance as well. Arguably however, BMW, with the line up they have, could be in contention for victory. After all, BMW already have one 24 hour victory to their name in 2016 at the Total 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps. Alexander Sims was one of their standout drivers of that event so expect strong performances all round from the German two car line up. Corvette have dominated the American GT scene in recent years, winning last years race in some style with a last minute sprint to the flag. They are arguably most peoples favourites to take the win.

    GT Daytona is going to be a fantastic battle this year. 27 cars, withe some of the best GT drivers in the world spread across a variety of cars, some European stalwarts mixed with some brand new cars from both Acura and Lexus with the NSX and RC-F. Manthey Racing posted the best time of the weekend but we had four manufacturers making up the top four, all of them separated by just tenths. Its going to be one of the most competitive GTD line ups in years with nine manufacturers represented; Acura, Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lexus, Mercedes, Porsche; all with factory support. The Rolex 24 will by the competitive debut of the Acura NSX, the 24 hour debut of the Lexus RCF and the American debut of the Mercedes AMG GT3 which has performed incredibly well across Europe so far. The strength of the driver line ups across the field is almost second to none, it is effectively a professional line up with a couple of Silver drivers thrown in for good measure. This in itself is both a good and bad thing. It is great for the competition of course, however it also draws similar controversy to the WEC LMP2 debate that has been going on for a couple of years with regards to driver grading's. The GTD category is supposed to be a Pro-Am race, however in most cases, it is almost impossible to class any of the drivers as an Am. That being said, its a 24 hour race that really is impossible to call in GTD.

    Image Epoch Times

  • Round Up of the Rolex 24 at Daytona 2017

    Last weekend marked the 55th edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona and kick-started the 2017 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The race was filled with drama from the first hour and heavy rainfall putting the grid under a 2-hour long full course yellow in the early hours of the morning. With the full course yellows making 21 appearances over the 24 hours of racing it was evidently an action-packed race. 14 of the 55 entrants in the race failed to take the chequered flag, with the last retiree dropping out of the race with just half an hour left on the clock.

    From the beginning of the race weekend, it was clear that the Cadillac DPis were the dominant car on the field, taking fastest lap in all of the practice sessions and qualifying. The case did not change during the race. Although the VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley/Multimatic did hold the lead of the race for around 30 laps during the 24 hours, it was primarily a fight between the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac and the Action Express Cadillacs for the overall win.

    There were a few challenges from other chassis in the Prototype class for the overall win but none of these came to light. The #22 Tequila Petron Nissan Onroak DPi looked to be in with a chance of challenging for the overall win during the night period of the race. However, heavy rainfall was making it very difficult for the drivers to get the tyres up to optimum racing temperature for a few laps after they had been in the pits. This caused great issues for the #22 as, with Brendon Hartley at the wheel, the New Zealand driver lost control of the car coming onto the banked corner and made contact with a GT car, damaging the steering on the Nissan. This incident took the #22 completely out of contention for the race, ending 17th overall and seventh in class.

    It was not just issues for the #22 during the race. The second Action Express car – number #31 – had a start-up issue from the beginning of the race. This was losing the car time during pit stops as the team had to take it behind the wall to bump start it in the garage. Seb Morris got into the car for the first time, having won his seat in the Sunoco Challenge, and put on an amazing display. He managed to get the #31 up to first overall and get a pit stop advantage on second place in his first stint.

    But that was where the good fortune of the #31 disappeared. All of Morris’ hard work was undone as the car failed to start up again in the pitlane. Rather than a simple start-up behind the wall, the car disappeared for around half an hour for more extensive repairs. It fell down the order and out of contention for the win. There were issues on the #5 Action Express Cadillac, but nothing as extensive as those issue to behold the #31. After 24 hours of racing, the final half an hour saw intense wheel-to-wheel racing for the overall lead of the race, with under a second splitting the leading pair.

    Using the pitstops, #5 Action Express had managed to get ahead and be leading going into the last few laps. The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing car was forced into a ‘do or die’ move as the end of the race got closer. As he tried to go up the inside into the first corner, leading to the infield section, the #10 made contact with the #5, spinning the Action Express car off into the off-field. Both cars managed to get through the accident unscathed, but it was a shock when the #10 was not handed an “advantage by contact” penalty. #10 Wayne Taylor Racing went on to take the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona overall win, with the #5 crew having to settle for second. Filipe Albuquerque, who was piloting the #5 at the end of the race, was furious about the result, claiming that in-race incidents happen but the Wayne Taylor Racing car should have waited for him to keep their race going wheel-to-wheel to the chequered flag and make the win of the race fair.

    The Prototype Challenge class saw the #38 Performance Tech Motorsport car as the only one not to succumb to a big issue during the 24 hours. They won the Prototype Challenge class with the two Starworks Motorsport cars retiring in the last few hours. The #8 and #88 Starworks cars had suffered a lot of damage, with them both being involved in heavy impacts that saw them in the garages for repairs for a long time. The #88 was hit by the #31 in a similar accident that fell upon Hartley in the #22 Tequila Petron car, whilst an off-track moment from the #8 Starworks Prototype Challenge car saw it spear into the side of the #73 GT Porsche, crashing it into the tyre barrier and taking the Porsche out of the race. The Porsche had been leading the GT Daytona class at the time. The #8 Starworks car was handed a ten-minute stop/go penalty for the incident after it had been in the pits for about four hours for repairs.

    Incidents during the race saw the two BAR1 Motorsports finishing 22 laps behind the leader of the class. The #20 and #26 cars appeared to have lost some performance from qualifying, losing their advantage over the #38 Performance Tech Motorsport car. The #38 managed to take the win in class from pole in class and barely had any challenge for the lead during the race.

    After locking out the top three in qualifying, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing had a much harder time during the race. Although they still held an advantage over the GT Le Mans field there was a much stronger challenge from behind through the 24 hours. In the end, four GT Le Mans cars were in contention for the win, with the cars all running wheel-to-wheel during the final handful of laps. What made the end of the race even more exciting was four different manufacturers in the top four at the end of the race, showing that Ford’s advantage from qualifying had been overcome during the 24-hour race.

    The #62 Risi Competizione looked to be the biggest threat for class-leader #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing as they sat second on track behind the American team. The #62 had been the biggest competition to the Fords throughout the race and managed to keep coming back to second, sometimes first, after the pitstop cycles. However, the Porsche #911 was sitting third at the end of the race and looking for any opportunity to progress further up the field. The Corvette #3 was sitting fourth, also looking for a chance to get higher up the field but it didn’t quite have the pace of the leading three.

    Taking the opportunity when the #62 tried to make a move up the inside of #66 and went wide the #911 Porsche managed to steal second from the Ferrari 488 GTE and begin chasing down the Ford for first in class. The #62 had no chance to fight back as it fell into range of the #3 Corvette behind it, leaving it vulnerable to losing a podium altogether. As much as they tried the pace of the Porsche and Corvette were no match to those ahead in the Ford and the Ferrari, seeing the #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing take the overall class win and the #911 Porsche and the #62 Ferrari finishing off the class podium.

    Of all the classes to be competing, the GT Daytona class had the closest racing of them all. During the 24-hour race there was consistently a different leader, with the top eight cars in class usually all being from different manufacturers. The class was too close to call before the race had started, and even with just 30-minutes left who was going to win was unpredictable.

    The unpredictable nature of the class was underlined when just half an hour of the race remained the leading #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 suddenly stopped on track. Sam Bird had been fighting back through the field, showing the superior pace of the Ferrari, and had just re-taken the lead when his car, with no warning, stopped out on track dropping him completely out of contention. There was not enough time left in the race to try and repair the car so last year’s GT Daytona Champion-winning car failed to finish the race.

    The #73 Porsche had been showing great pace during the first section of the race, leading the class and having Matthew McMurry perform impressively during his stints. It was unfortunate that the car was taken out of the race by the #8 Starworks Prototype Challenge car as it had been showing fantastic pace and could have been a contender for the class win had it have made it to the end of the race.

    The class was won in the end by the #28 Alegra Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, with the #29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 LMS second and the #33 Riley Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 rounding off the podium positions. It was a perfect reflection of the closely pegged GT3 cars in this class that the podium housed three different manufacturers. Six different manufactures were present in the top ten at the chequered flag, just as there had been on average through the 24-hours of racing.

  • Sam Bird returns to Daytona

    Scuderia Corsa have confirmed today that Sam Bird will join Alessandro Balzan, Christina Nielsen, and Matteo Cressonifor their Rolex 24 at Daytona driver line up. This will be the Ferrari Factory Driver’s first Daytona appearance since 2014.

    The four drivers will pilot Scuderia Corsa’s GTD class Ferrari 488 GTE in the 24-hour race at the end of the month.

    The last time Bird participated in the Rolex 24 at Daytona he was aboard a Prototype Challenge-class Oreca run by Starworks Motorsport. The car finished fifth in class and 24th overall. Bird will make a one-off appearance in IMSA before his full season commitments start in WEC GTE Pro for AF Corse.

    Balzan and Nielsen will defend their 2016 WeatherTech SportsCar GT Daytona championship as well as racing the full season for Scuderia Corsa. Cressoni will join the pair for the remaining North American Endurance Cup events at Sebring, Watkins Glen, and Petit Le Mans. Team owner Giacomo Mattioli is confident that this year’s line up will be able to continue the success the team achieved last year.

    Photograph scuderiacorsa.com

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