Announced today in the FIA/ACO press conference, 60 cars are set to line up on the grid for the Le Mans 24 Hour in June.

LMP1 is down to just six cars for this years race, the lowest the class has seen in its 14 year history. Toyota have confirmed a third TS050 for Spa and Le Mans; they will be joined by two updated Porsche 919s and the ByKolles CLM P1/01. Porsche have a reshuffled driver line up for the season with Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Andre Lotterer joining the line up, alongside Neel Jani, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard. Toyota have an as yet unannounced line up; however, Stephane Sarrazin will lead the third cars line up with Jose Maria Lopez stepping into the squad.

The biggest class in the race will once again be LMP2 with a record 25 cars set to line up on the grid. The grid will feature 13 cars from the European Le Mans Series, 9 cars from the FIA WEC, alongside Eurasia Motorsport from the Asian Le Mans Series and two one off entries. Ben Keating will debut the Riley MK30 LMP2 at Le Mans. The brand new Oreca 07 chassis makes up the majority of the field, 15 cars if including the modified Alpines. They will be joined by six Ligiers, three Dallaras and the single entrant Riley. Formula One star Rubens Barrichello makes his debut with Racing Team Nederland in the Dallara P217.

The GTE Pro field continues to grow, 2017 sees Porsche return to the full season FIA WEC campaigning the new mid-engined Porsche 911 RSR. The usual suspects also make an appearance at Le Mans, Aston Martin Racing, AF Corse Ferrari, Corvette, Ford and Risi Competitzione. Ford will field four GT’s at Le Mans, the two American IMSA GTLM entries accompanying the FIA WEC GTE-Pro entries.

GTE Am sees 16 cars lining up on the grid with cars coming in from the FIA, ELMS, AsLMS and IMSA; four Porsche 911, seven Ferrari 488’s one Ferrari 458, three Aston Martins and the Larbre Competition Corvette. The full season Aston Martin entry will be joined by TF Sport and Beechdean from the European Le Mans Series. Clearwater Racing make their full season FIA WEC debut this year and will field an additional 488 Ferrari at Le Mans alongside two Spirit of Race entries, two Scuderia Corsa entries and one car from DH Racing. JMW Motorsport will once again field a single Ferrari 458. Gulf, Proton Competition and Dempsey Proton will once again field a Porsche 911 each.

The 2017 edition sees just two confirmed reserve entries. RLR M Sport have listed a Ligier JSP217 with a GTE Porsche listed in reserve run by Mentos Racing.

The entry list so far can be found on the official website of the Le Mans 24 hours. Click here

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.

With four hours to go, Cadillac continue to dominate.

The 21st hour began with the continuation of the battle between the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac and the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac, meanwhile, in GTLM, the six leading cars were all within a matter of seconds. The beginning of the hour saw the #55 Mazda DPi pull in to the pit lane with an oil fire at the rear of the car. Spencer Pigot escaped the car unharmed but the car remained in the pits, dropping out of the top five. Another yellow flag for a PC incident brought out by the #8 Starworks car Motorsports car spinning into the inside of turn one. This brought the pack closer together once again. The gap between the top three in P closed down to five seconds as the race restarted. The battle in GTLM was beginning to hot up between the #62 Ferrari and the #69 Ford GT. The #912 Porsche dropped out of contention due to a drive through penalty and fell two laps down. The #33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes cycled back in to the lead of GTD under pressure from the Michael Shank Acura cars. Sam Bird took the lead in the #63 Ferrari towards the end of the hour. A third caution of the hour was called after the #81 DragonSpeed car hit the barrier, smashing its rear wing.

With two hours left, Cadillac still held a comfortable lead, the VISIT FLORIDA Racing #90 was the best of the rest, running third. The two Cadillac’s were fighting hard between themselves, swapping positions. Filipe Albuquerque took the lead from Christian Fittipaldi and pulled out a 20 second advantage. Despite the clear pace advantage of the Cadillacs, VISIT FLORIDA Racing were still on the lead lap. Just one lap back, the #2 Tequila Patron ESM sat fourth with the #13 Rebellion Racing running fifth in class, eight laps down. Ben Hanley began the hour having just lost control of the DragonSpeed Oreca into the Bus Stop. The car limped back to the pits for repairs, body work littering the track. The #38 Performance Tech Motorsports car dominated the PC class, 24 laps clear of the second place #26 car.  The lead six cars continued to battle in GTLM, the #66 Ford leading the way from the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari second ahead of the #68 and #69 Fords. The #3 Corvette and #911 Porsche completed the six car train that was running almost nose to tail.

Heartbreak hit in GTD, Sam Bird pulled off the circuit with smoke streaming from the back of the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari at the end of the hour. The #63 Corsa pulled over with the rear wheels locked on the inside of turn six. It would appear the engine had blown and seized. This handed the lead to the #29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi.

The #90 VISIT FLORIDA car inherited the lead as the next pitstop cycle begun, the #10 Cadillac fell in to third with a slow stop. Felipe Albuquerque took the advantage in the #5 and set about building his advantage as the trio sliced through the traffic. Starworks Motorsport officially retired their cars from the race.

Meanwhile, in GTLM, Corvette took the lead through the pit stops, holding on to the lead before eventually losing out to the #66 Ford and the #62 Ferrari towards the end of the hour. GTD was still a five way fight as the race reached the end of the 23rd hour. The #33 Riley began the hour on top, under pressure from the #29 and #28 cars, both of whom passed at the end of the hour. The #28 Alegra Motorsports car was on a charge as the race entered the final hour, passing three cars in as many laps. Michael Christensen put his car into second behind Connor De Phillippi. The hour ended under caution as the bonnet was ripped off the #93 Michael Shank Racing car.

At the end of a fantastic, Rolex 24 At Daytona, it was the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac that took the win after a controversial move to pass the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac. The aggressive move down the inside into turn one with just five minutes remaining assured victory for the #10 which made contact and spun the #5 off the circuit. Albuquerque got the car restarted and set off after the #10. The move was investigated by the stewards and deemed legal. As a result, Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor, Max Angelelli and Jeff Gordon took the win by a margin of just 0.671 seconds. Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi took second place with the #90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley coming home an unexpected third. Marc Goossens, Renger van der Zande and Rene Rest bringing the car home one lap down. The trio put in a fantastic performance but were just unable to match the pace of the Cadillacs.

The #38 Performance Tech Motorsports car came home first, twenty two laps ahead of the #26 car. The #20 BAR1 Motorsports car completed the podium, the other two cars in class, both run by Starworks were retired.

The final half hour of the race, went down to the wire in GTLM with three different cars leading the class. But eventually, it was the #66 Ford GT with Dirk Mueller at the wheel coming out on top. Mueller fought his was passed the #62 Ferrari of James Calado through the first couple of corners with just 30 minutes to run, the pair traded paint as they fought their way through the infield. The close fought battle allowed the #911 to sneak through a gap and into second place, demoting the Ferrari into third. Ferrari fought back though, Ginacarlo Fisichella crossed the line just a matter of tenths off the Porsche. After 24 hours, the top seven in GTLM, were split by just 7.5 seconds. The # Corvette took fourth ahead of the #69 Ford, #912 Porsche and #68 Ford.

Going into the final hour in GTD, it was a five way battle for the win; ultimately, it was the #28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche which took the win by just 0.293 seconds over the #29 Audi. The #33 Riley Motorsports Team AMG Mercedes crossed the line 5.5 seconds off the lead with the #57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi and the #86 Michael Shank Racing Acura rounding out the top five, all of which, were separated by just 10 seconds.

Jeff Gordon became the fourth driver in history to win both the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 after the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac took first place.

"This is very surreal to me, this whole experience and moment, to have this on my resume," said Gordon. "It's a very elite group that's won the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 together. That’s something I'm very, very proud of. But I think more than anything is this experience for me of – not to take anything away from 2007 [where he finished third] with Max and Jan [Magnussen] and Wayne [Taylor] – what amazing race car drivers both Ricky and Jordan are and how difficult this race is.

You know, this experience to me was about building this bond and this friendship that I didn't expect to happen because of the way they welcomed me in, and we had a lot of fun along the way, they answered all my questions because I had a lot of them, and they helped me adapt, and that’s what helped us as a group, I think, to go out there and win.

And then I was able to learn just how talented they are. I mean, I was so impressed while watching all night. I was glued to the TV every second, every lap. I couldn’t sleep because I wanted to watch these guys do what they did in the rain, in the cold, in the most treacherous conditions, and they did it at a level, that I'll be honest, I'm not capable of doing, and I was so impressed. Then you go to the last stint of a 24 hour race and you see it come down to that, and it was a thrill of a lifetime, and I’m just so honoured to be sitting here and be a part of this experience."

Gordon’s team mate, Max Angelleli will take retirement now that the race is done.

"I'm very happy. Happy for what I did and what I’ve achieved with the boys and Jeff today, to finish my career with a win, a big win like this one in the Rolex 24, it's great. You know, I'm thankful to the Taylors, the family." said Angelleli.

The biggest talking point of the final moments, has to be the coming together between Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque.

"The way I saw it, we came through GT traffic and I was closer than I had been" said Taylor. "He’d been struggling in turn one. Their car didn’t look very good there, and we were really strong on the brakes. I had thought about doing this for years and years, and this has always been something – people always open up after that little kink in turn one – they open their hands a little bit, and it’s just so easy to release the brake there and pop in there.

If you get enough alongside, you can make it work, and I think he saw me coming, he saw me committing, and he closed the door. If he knew I was committing, why would you close the door and make us crash?"

Understandably, Albuquerque saw things rather differently.

"It was a good fight until I got hit, to be honest,” said Albuquerque. “There is not much to say. I had some GTs ahead of me so I could not brake so late.

I closed the door and then I got spun. The officials took the decision, it is what it is, and we finished second. In Tour de France, when one guy falls, the other guys wait for him. This is a big race, and we dive in and brake late. It happens. We could see Wayne Taylor, the dad, with his hands on his head.

If he’s a true racer who did a mistake, just back off. Wait, don’t leave. And he left! A true racer, in my opinion, in the end, deep inside, I’d feel a little bit ashamed of the win."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

VISIT FLORIDA Racing is in the final preparations for the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona. With the start of the endurance race so close, here is a rundown of everything you need to know about the Riley/Multimatic Gibson V8 VISIT FLORIDA car. VISIT FLORIDA is the only team running the Riley/Multimatic Gibson V8, meaning that VISIT FLORIDA is the only team competing in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship that can also take their car, with no alterations, to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

As mentioned above, the chassis from the combined design of North American companies Riley Technologies and Multimatic is the only IMSA Prototype chassis that is also eligible to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. VISIT FLORIDA have run the Cadillac Daytona Prototype car up until this year for that very reason: the Daytona-based team wishes to take their car across to Europe to compete in the prestigious race in June.

Multimatic were responsible for the carbon fiber tub, bodywork, and aerodynamics of the Riley/Multimatic, whilst Riley Technologies designed most of the mechanical components of the WEC P2 Mk 30 chassis.

VISIT FLORIDA will be the base of the primary development for the Riley/Multimatic as they are the only team racing this chassis in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and to have signed up for full season entry in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The developments made by the VISIT FLORIDA team will translate to all the LMP2 teams running the Riley/Multimatic in WEC. Mazda, who’s chassis came from the WEC P2 Mk 30 as its DPi counterpart, will be able to help with non-DPi development on the chassis but it will be VISIT FLORIDA who helps make any necessary bodywork and aerodynamic changes.

There were some delays in the development of the Riley/Multimatic as gearbox cooling and front-right suspension issues brought halts to undergoing testing programs. This has lead to Mazda and VISIT FLORIDA suffering delays in their own programs and setting them behind in the Prototype field. The VISIT FLORIDA team was still making adjustments to the internal bodywork of the car only a few hours before getting ready to start the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The chassis clearly needs the developmental work that VISIT FLORIDA have been completing.

Of the three WEC P2 models that have been entered into the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Riley/Multimatic stands out for its highly conventional shape. Riley is well known for keeping their car designs as simple and ‘user-friendly’ as possible for their customers. Because of this philosophy, the Riley/Multimatic WEC P2 Mk 30 has a lot of features that appear to be ‘the standard’.

The Riley/Multimatic has yet to show any class-leading performance in any of the pre-race tests that it has been competing in. Being a brand new car, the teams running the Riley/Multimatic are finding themselves on a steep learning curve. VISIT FLORIDA team owner, Troy Flis, has been racing Prototypes in this field of cars for a lot of years. He has claimed that this year has been one of the most challenging to prepare for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Ahead of the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona, Speed Chills had the opportunity to talk to the team and drivers just a few hours before the 24-hour endurance gets underway. VISIT FLORIDA’s initial plan was to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona outright, but with the difficulties they have faced with the Riley/Multimatic in the lead up to the race the team is more focused on getting through the 24-hours and hopefully placing their VISIT FLORIDA Racing #90 on the podium. It will take a lot of luck for the VISIT FLORIDA to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona, something the team is very open about admitting. Here is what the team and drivers had to say before the Rolex 24 at Daytona began.

Troy Flis, Team Owner: “We’re going to do the best we can do; my guys are going to do the best they can do. We’ve got a great line up of drivers and that I’m really happy about, I know they’re going to do a great job for today and tomorrow. They’ll keep us out of trouble and make sure to make good decisions; we’re gonna make good decisions in the paddock and in the pits. We’ll work through it. This is a pretty challenging one; I’ve been doing this for a long time and this one has probably been the toughest. All in all, we’re gonna go out there and we want to be on the podium. We’re a Championship team so we’re looking to be in a Championship contention. We are here to win – you don’t get the opportunity to win this race often. I’ve done [this race] a lot – now I want to win it. We’re going to do everything we can to go out there and compete as hard as we can compete.”

Marc Goossens, Driver: “It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of hard work been put in from the team to get ready for this race and tomorrow’s race. We’ve got brand new cars, it’s new rules and its new for everyone so we’ll have to wait and see what it’s going to be like out there during 24 hours. We’re not just here for this race but here for the whole championship so scoring points is very important for us. The only thing we can do as a driver now is to reward the team for all the hard work they put in… There is a whole group of people out there trying to make the car as good as possible for us. Those guys were machining steering columns for me, as I’m the tallest and I was struggling with my seating position inside the car: I’m talking about something that happened about 20 hours ago. We’re looking forward to finishing with this car 28 hours ahead of us. These guys have been working flat out morning to night, very few hours of sleep and they won’t get any the next night either. From me, it’s worth giving those guys a round of applause. Troy is a real team leader, he’s got a good team of people together. I’ve been doing this for 33 years and I couldn’t be more proud of the team I have now; really professional, working flat out – a small, nice little family all with the same target: winning championships.”

Renger van der Zande, Driver: “I’m always flying in from Holland, Amsterdam to all the races that we go to and it’s pretty cool for me to stand here as a Dutch guy, racing in America, with an American sponsor. Going into the 24 hour race is very cool. It’s been a tough time; we’ve been delayed a little bit with the car due to the Riley development. They had to do a lot on the car. It’s not easy to build a car like that, of course. The crew have been flat out. It’s really good that we’re standing here. It’s not going to be easy, it’s never easy, but it’s one of the best races to go into. If you have a clean day, a clean 24 hours, you might be right up there. Just a little mistake from anyone: the mechanics, the drivers, anything, if someone hits you on track – it’s so easy – and it’s done. To be successful here in the Daytona 24 hour is, it takes a lot. Takes a lot of luck, takes a lot of effort. Very happy to have those two teammates. What can I ask more for? Happy to go, ready to go.”

Rene Rast, Driver: “Good to be here. It’s like a dream come true for me. I have raced here many times but only in the smaller categories. This year is the first time in the highest class, in the prototype class. It’s always been a dream for me to win this race overall and now this year I have the chance and I’m very very happy. Pretty happy to be here, looking forward to the race. We just need a bit of luck, just need to stay out of trouble, and then we have a chance to really be up there on the podium tomorrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

NASCAR founder William “Bill” France Sr. constructed the Daytona International Speedway in 1959. Initially, the track was built to take over the NASCAR racing that happened at the Daytona Beach Road Course. The high banked corners gave a much better view of the cars and allowed them to hit faster speeds making for more intense and interesting racing. Lights were added to the track in 1998 and it is now the third largest single lit outdoor racetrack in the world. The track has been renovated three times, with repaving being done in 1978 and 2010 and the infield being renovated in 2004.

If you are joining us this weekend for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, here are some ‘hot spots’ to watch the race from.

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Start/Finish Line is a great place to see the race from. Excellent to see the field dart across the start line and the checkered flag drop. The Rolex 24 at Daytona is known for being a highly competitive, hard-fought race so the finish line is always a good place to catch any photo finishes.

For spectators, another good location to watch the race from is atop the FANZONE FanDeck. Here, you will overlook all of the garages and get a peak behind the scenes of running a race team during a 24-hour race. The FanDeck also gives viewers a great view of frontstretch track action. A great place to stand for an insider birds-eye view of the garage action during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The first hairpin turn at the 3.56-mile Daytona circuit is the next must-visit place when watching the race action unfold. International Horseshoe has been a famous factor of the circuit since it was first built. With a grandstand set on the infield, this is a great place to watch the wheel-to-wheel action around the first corner of the track.

Continuing round the track, Carousel Turn provided the next stop to watch the 24-hour race unfold. Once again, a grandstand is placed in the infield so a seat should be available for you to witness the racing from here. It proves as a wonderful spot to see the cars enter a tight hairpin before taking a sharp left-hander to get them back onto the high-banked racetrack.

Not a location on the racetrack, but the Ferris Wheel will provide a spectacular view as you ascend high into the sky. 150 feet in diameter based on the East Coast, this Ferris Wheel gives a 360-degree view of the entire racetrack. Not only this, but spectators will also be able to see the Atlantic Ocean from the high viewing spot.

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If you fancy paying for a pass to the heart of the action at Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Pit Road Patio may be the place for you to visit. This viewpoint is offered as a two-day admission package and allows spectators to overlook the pit lane and Daytona’s frontstreach. The package also includes garage access, food and beverages for Saturday only, giveaways and infield parking. This deal is extra to the Speed Chills race package and prices for access to Pit Road Patio are unknown.

Located in the centre of the track, spectators can find Lake Lloyd. If the weather is nice this is a wonderful place to sit back and relax as you watch the cars burst over the horizon. Grab some food from concessions and take a seat around the tranquil lake to take in a unique motorsport experience with the combination of the calm lake and the high-paced Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona has a lot of locations for fans to make sure that spectators can enjoy the race whilst also enjoying the experience of the racetrack and the 24-hour endurance event. Another good fan zone that deserves a visit is the Sprint FANZONE. This takes spectators to around 10/15 feet behind the pits. It puts you right on top of the action; feeling the roar of the engines as they dash back off towards the track, see the rubber kick up bounce off the track as the racers flash passed, and lose yourself in the energy of the teams going all out to push their cars to the max and complete the 24-hour marathon.

The Kink is part of the infield at Daytona International Speedway connecting the two horseshoe turns. The drivers race out of International Horseshoe and through a slight left kink before a second west horseshoe turn takes the cars further infield. It is a good spot to watch cars make bold passes, especially if the cars are in different classes and pushing through traffic. More infield grandstands are available at this location so it is a good place to stop for a seat and soak in the fast-paced racing.

For the best seats in the house, you have to head down to the Stadium Seating. The grand stadium is unmissable as you approach the circuit, in brilliant bright colours. The 40,000-seat grandstand has recently been updated, with wider and more comfortable chairs now occupying the vicinity. The whole grandstand is the most up-to-date area in the whole of Daytona International Speedway so you have to make sure you give it a visit over the 24-hours of racing.

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To keep up to date with everything happening at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, make sure to tune into Radio Le Mans (link: http://www.radiolemans.co). This is a live radio station that will give you minute-by-minute updates on all the track action. Radio should also be available to buy trackside, which will also stream this station. Speed Chills will also be live tweeting from our official twitter account: @SpeedChillsView and be posting race updates to www.speedchills.com every four hours. For a complete spotters guide of all entrants of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, follow this link: http://www.spotterguides.com/portfolio/17_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.

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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 Mazda sees 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 Yokohama was 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 Canada runs 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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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.

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