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Rear View Mirror 1-9-18

John Schommer
Tuesday, January 9, 2018

 

Welcome to 2018 race fans and Rear View Mirror readers. As RVM enters its sixth year bringing you a look back at the weekend in racing, we kick off 2018 with a look at how the Roar Before the 24 at Daytona went down. Our goal is to give you insight into the teams and cars that make up the field along with some commentary on how the cars performed in the three-day event that precedes the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona that will take place Saturday January 27th at 2 p.m. Eastern, through January 28th 2 p.m. Eastern time.

 

The Race

 

This year will be the 56th running of the twice-around the clock endurance race that effectively kicks off the 2018 racing season. Since 1962 the race has been run in three, six, and 24-hour versions, and has been sponsored by Pepsi (24 Hour Pepsi Challenge), Sunbank, and since 1992, Rolex. The race was shortened to six hours in 1972 due to the fuel crisis, and cancelled all-together in 1974.

 

The biggest brands in racing have made their mark here and rivalries that to this day are still being fought look to Daytona as a proving ground. Ford gave Ferrari something to think about when the Ford GT40 Mk II won in 1966. In 1967 Ferrari came back to finish 1-2-3 with the Ferrari P4, and the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 was given the unofficial name Ferrari Daytona to commemorate the event.

 

The battle between Ford and Ferrari has of course been reborn with the introduction of the new Ford GT which faces off against the latest Ferrari, the 488 GTE. The battle has been won by both sides and the ferocity of competition increases with each race.

 

Watch Racer.com cover day one of the Roar Before the 24

 

 

The Classes

 

Of course, that Ford/Ferrari battle used to take place in the prototype class. Now the cars face off in the GTLM class. To get a better understanding of how the classes are structured here is a breakdown of the classes. These classes have been set in place in one form or another but since the coming together of the Grand-Am and American Le Mans Series’ this is how they stand.

 

You can check out the full entry list here on the IMSA.com site.

 

Prototype (P)

 

The Prototype field can be broken into two categories, the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) and the Le Mans P2 cars (LM P2).

 

This year we see the deepest field of Prototypes to date with 20 cars (10 DPi, and 10 LM P2) competing in chassis’ from Dallara, Onroak Automotive (Ligier), ORECA or Riley/Multimatic. These are closed cockpit racecars with defined aerodynamics and speeds of up to 200 mph. Engines are IMSA-homologated and this year we will see Gibson and Cadillac V8s, meet Acura and Nissan twin-turbo V6s, as well as four-cylinder turbos from Mazda. All engines produce approximately 600 hp.

 

It can be hard to gauge how fast teams are capable of through the qualifying and competition that takes place over the three days of the Roar since holding back, or “sandbagging” has become a familiar practice to avoid the balance of power process. If the Cadillac’s were holding back, it didn’t matter as the field of four Cadillac DPi V-Rs swept the competition.

 

Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R was the fastest of them all with a best time of 1 minute, 35.806 seconds (133.764 mph) around the 3.56 mile Daytona course.

 

This YouTuber attended the Roar Before the 24 and made a great qualifying video. Check it out.

 

 

GT Le Mans (GTLM)

 

The GTLM field is made up of 10 cars this year, and here is where the big brand rivalries face off. Factory racing teams bring optimized chassis’ and engine configurations of their grand touring models. While horsepower is limited to 525, nearly every component of the car has been altered for racing. These are tube-frame racecars based on production models and can reach speeds of up to 180 mph. There are nine cars in the GTLM field.

 

Even though Ryan Briscoe showed up late to the Roar Before the 24 due to weather conditions in his home state of Connecticut, he put in one of the fastest times in the #67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. That was until teammate Sebastian Bordais, who has moved full-time in to IMSA racing from IndyCar, took the #67 Ford GT two-tenths faster with a one minute, 43.798 second lap around the course.

 

GT Daytona (GTD)

 

Within the GTD class you will find vehicles that are closer to production cars but still enhanced for racing. While horsepower is only 25 less than the GTLM class, speeds are significantly lower due to less aerodynamic modification. GTD also consists of FIA-GT3 homologated cars and is the only class featuring Pro-Am drivers. There are 21 cars in the GTD class making it the largest group within the field.

 

The Lamborghini Huracán GT3s  have shown great speed every year at the Roar Before the 24, but they have yet to win. This year was no different in qualifying where Mirko Bortolotti, posted the fastest time of 1:47.374 (119.352 mph) in the # 11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Huracán GT3. This was after his teammate Rolf Ineichen set the fastest lap on Saturday.

 

Andy Lally, who moved from Michael Shank Racing (Acura NSX) to Magnus Racing and their #44 Audi R8 this year was the second fastest with a 1:47.436 lap time. Patrick Long in the #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R was just two-tenths slower.

 

Of the 18 cars that participated in qualifying, all were separated by less than a second. Look for some amazing racing in GTD. It will all come down to reliability and consistency in the end.

 

There’s some great on track footage from Buddybryan3 of YouTube here to watch.

 

 

The Drivers

 

The Rolex 24 always brings a field of drivers that can be seen competing in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Challenge but also a range of drivers from other racing disciplines that add color to the top level teams.

 

This year one of the most notable and talked about drivers to take to the banks of Daytona is two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso. Alonso has never raced at Daytona or driven a prototype. Alonso put in only three laps in his car, the #23 United Autosports Ligier LM P2. According to comments on IMSA.com from Alonso, he was getting used to the temperatures, the closed cockpit view, as well as the high banking of Daytona. It will be interesting to see how his well-known skills behind the wheel translate in an endurance race in the first multi-class race of his storied career.

 

This clip from United Autosports features Fernando Alonso and Bruno Senna.

 

 

Johniwanna Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona Live Event

 

As I have in the last couple years I will be hosting a 24-hour live event during the 2018 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona race. You can catch me hanging out and commenting on the race through the Johniwanna Facebook page. I will be doing a few giveaways during the show and basically hanging out trying to watch the entire race.

I hope to see you there. It’s been a fun event in the past for those who were able to endure not only my face on your screen for this long but to just remain awake for the length of the race.