Sports Car Convergence: Great for Racing if It’s Affordable

In this winter of seismic changes in the racing world, another positive tremor occurred this morning. ACO and IMSA agreed to a “convergence,” agreeing on a common car for the 2022.  It’s about time this happened. Allowing cars from each series to compete in each other’s races can’t help but grow the sport. Here is the link for the story from IMSA with the details:

https://www.imsa.com/news/012020/aco-and-imsa-forge-future-endurance-racing

I hope this means we will see more diversity in body style. Having four chassis manufacturers can’t hurt. The 2022 Rolex 24 could see an increased field. Perhaps LeMans will allow more entries as well. We could see some amazing international competition.

My concern is costs. How long will team be able to afford the LMDh or Hypercar? They have a year to plan budget wise, but will there be enough ROI to make it worthwhile in the long term? Racing is expensive now. How much cost increase will the convergence bring? Costs are something to watch as 2022 nears.

Despite my concerns, the year after next should be very exciting. I’ve always wondered why the cars were not built to work in both WEC and IMSA. It never made sense. I wonder if an arrangement of this type is coming for GTD and GT3 as well.

Rolex Day 1 Notes

Changes abound at Daytona International Speedway. One of the nicest is the signs above the garages with the car number and drivers’ names. It’s very helpful for fans seeking autographs and the photos of the signs are easier than scrolling through the Spotter’s Guide.

Wifi is improved around the track, especially in the campgrounds. It’s nice to have on your phone, though I wish I could get a decent signal on the laptop.

Signage has improved tremendously, helping fans find locations easier.

Pedestrian paths are more organized with barriers. This is a great improvement in safety from the first year I came to Daytona, when it seemed people could walk anywhere they wished. The barriers have made getting to the Fan Zone from the International Horseshoe much easier, and actually less congested.

Daytona is still missing the needed additional video boards. I may have mentioned this before.

Food options are better and have more variety this year, including more vegetarian options. Prices are a bit high.

Ricky Taylor had a very hard hit in qualifying yesterday. The number 7 Acura spun in the bus stop and hit the tire barrier head on. Taylor was okay. The cra suffered serious front end damage and missed all but a few minutes of last night’s practice session.

Pole winners by class:

LMP1- Mazda 77 Oliver Jarvis

LMP2- 52 Oreca Ben Keating

GTLM-  911 Porsche   Nick Tandy

GTD – 9 Porsche  Zacharie Robichon

Back tomorrow morning with a pre race report.

Remember to follow my new home on Twitter, @Pitwindowtoo.

Rolex 24 Preview: Small Strong Field Ready to Star IMSA Season

A smaller than normal entry list at The Roar before the 24 has gotten smaller as the Rolex 24 approaches. Two LMP2 entries have withdrawn, bringing the field down to 38 cars. Still, the field is a strong group of cars and drivers. Six current Indycar drivers will participate, mainly in the DPi class.  Sebastien Bourdais also is in the DPi class. Bourdais will be in the Number 5 car all season.

The Indycar drivers and their cars-

Bourdais -5

Simon Pagenaud – 6 (teaming with Juan Pablo Montoya)

Alexander Rossi-7 (teaming with (Helio Castroneves)

Scott Dixon- 10

Ryan Hunter-Reay- 55

Ben Hanley- 81 (LMP2)

Colton Herta- 25 (GTLM)  Defending class winner

Changes

The Ford GTLM cars are gone. Usually the cars were in contention for a win. GTLM will probably be a fight between the Corvettes, the Lexus Vasser Sullivan Team, and the Ferrari.

Wayne Taylor Racing doesn’t have a Taylor driving anymore. Jordan is now driving for the number 3 Corvette. Ricky went to the Team Penske Acura two years ago. The team won the Rolex last year and will be competitive, especially with Scott Dixon as one of the extra endurance drivers.

The race start time has been moved up to 1:40 pm Eastern from its traditional 2:40 pm green flag. I don’t see the extra daylight hour on Saturday having much effect on the race. It’s great for the fans, though, to have an extra hour of warmth at the start.

What to Watch For

One advantage of the smaller fields and the smaller classes is this race should be easier to follow.

In DPi, I see the Mazdas winning the pole. In the race, they will be strong, but don’t overlook the Team Penske Acuras. Rossi and Montoya were very fast two weeks ago, and they may have a better race pace than the Mazdas.

I’m interested is watching how Bourdais and his team does in their debut outing. While the number 5 car looks the same as it did in 2019, the car is now a JDC-Miller car instead of Action Express.

In GTD the Lamborghinis should be strong again despite their disqualifications at the Roar. Watch for Katherine Legge’s all female team, the number 19 Lamborghini.

Meyer Shank Racing’s car 86 will also have a strong run.

I will provide updates on site beginning Thursday.

You can find the Spotter Guide here:

2020 Official IMSA Spotter Guide

The television schedule is a mashup involving NBC, NBCSN, TrackPass, and NBC Gold. The app can be purchased for $19.99. It covers the entire IMSA season.  The start and finish are on NBC Saturday and Siunday beginning at 1:30 pm Eastern.

 

 

 

Sunday at the Roar: High Speed and DQs

Sunday at Daytona International Speedway was a day of contrasts. Olivier Pla set an unofficial track record in the number 77 Mazda with a lap of 1:33.324. The  lap in the DPi qualifying session does not count as the official lap record. Official lap records can only be set during the Rolex 24 weekend.

Team Penske Acuras were second and third. Ricky Taylor finished 0.219 seconds behind Pla and Juan Pablo Montoya was 0.241 seconds behind the leader. Alexander Rossi led the practice round before qualifying in the number 7 that Taylor drove. The Penske Acuras look strong for the race.

James Calado led the GTLM qualifying session in the Risi Competizione independent Ferrari. His best lap of 1:42.685 edged Nick Tandy in the 911 Porsche by 0.001 seconds. Tommy Milner was third in the number 4 Corvette, 0.108 seconds behind. I was hoping for more from the Corvettes.

Lamborghinis Disqualified

Four Lamborghinis, including all three cars of Team Grasser, were disqualified for running unapproved gear ratios in qualifying.

The affected cars, the 11. 19.and 44 of Grasser Racing Team, and the 47 of Precision Motorsports, lost their qualifying spots which determine choice of pit and garage space for the Rolex 24. The 47, driven by Brandon Gdovic, was the fastest of the disqualified entries, finishing 4th.

The LMP2  number 38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry also was disqualified for having the incorrect driver.

Notes

I hope this weekend’s weather, rainy and cold, is not a preview of weather for race weekend. It’s time for a warm, sunny Rolex weekend.

The DPi field looks to be very competitive. While Mazda led most of the sessions, Acura and the Wayne Taylor Cadillac each topped a session Sunday.

Ben Keating will drive in two classes in the Rolex. I’m not sure how that works with driver time limits.

The Roar is marketing genius. IMSA gets a respectable crowd the first weekend in January for an extended test session. Indycar might consider turning Spring Training into something similar. In addition to the test rounds and “qualifying”, there are two races for ladder series. I have seen this event grow since I began attending.

Mazda Leads Day 1 at Roar

Today’s IMSA Weather Tech Championship Schedule:

10:30-11:35 Practice

11:50-12:05 GTLM Qualifying

12:15-12:30 DPi Qualifying

2:45-3:45 Practice

Just like last year, Mazda Team Joest led most practice sessions at the first day of the Roar before the 24. In last night’s final practice Oliver Jarvis in the number 77 Mazda DPi had the quick time of 1:34.753. Ryan Hunter-Reay was 0.445 seconds behind in the 55 team car.

Harrison Newey led  the LMP2 class in the number 81 Dragonspeed entry with a 1:37.372 lap.  GTLM was a Porsche sweep. :

Laurens Vanthoor led in the 912 with a 1:43.513 time, followed by the 911 Porsche driven by Fred Makowecki.

Lamborghini took the top three spots in GTLM, led by Franck Perera in the number 11 GRT Grasser Orange Huracan.

Kirkwood Wins Prototype Challenge

Road to Indy Driver Kyle Kirkwood won the Prototype Challenge race yesterday. The race was run in rainy conditions as a storm hit the track just before the race began. Krikwood, who drive in Indy Lights this year, has won nearly 50% of his races since 2018.

GTD, LMP2 Qualifying

In qualifying for pit and garage stall selections, Frankie Montecalvo led the GTD class. Montecalvo drives the number 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan LexusRC-F GT3.

Ben Keating had the fastest time in the LMP2 sessioin, driving the number 52ORECA Gibson for PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports.

Notes

It was odd seeing Jordan Taylor in a Corvette driving suit.

The Roar crowd seems to get bigger every year.

Saw Sebastien Bourdais with a wrench in hand working on his DPi car.

Today will be cool with temperatures in the 50s.

The smaller numbers of cars was quite noticeable in the qualifying sessions yesterday.

 

Quick Thoughts on The Rolex (RainX?) 24

The weather at Indycar’s Barber race last season seems like a minor sprinkle compared to today’s deluge at Daytona. Weather situations like this put sanctioning bodies in a bind. Where do participant safety considerations end and wanting to satisfy the fans begin? When possible, the must meet in the middle. I think IMSA maybe erred a bit too much in favor of the fans.

While I and the other fans want to see racing, we want it to be safe for the competitors. I felt the both red flag came later than when needed, and the race resumed before the competitors could race safely. I understand racing in the wet carries more responsibility, but these drivers are professionals of highly seasoned near pros.

I’m not sure what IMSA’s protocol for situations as today is, but I hope it is reviewed at the end of the season. Yes fans want a show, but they want a safe one.

A big thank you to all involved for trying hard to get the race finished. I give special thanks to the pit crews who had to perform their jobs under very difficult conditions. Also the track workers and flag marshals who were stuck at their posts during the delays deserve a lot of gratitude.

The early ending stopped what was going to be an interesting three way battle between the number 7 Penske Cadillac Acura, the number 31 Action Express, and the eventual winner number 10 Cadillac from Wayne Taylor Racing. Pit and driver change strategies were lining up for a great cat and mouse game in the last 90 minutes.

Fernando Alonso showed why he is still one of the best drivers in the world. His stints in the rain late were amazing. Alexander Rossi also did a great job as he nearly won the Rolex watch for the second year Penske team. An added bonus for Indycar fans is that both Alonso and Rossi will be in the Indianapolis 500. If you were still on the fence about Rossi’s skills or think Fernando has lost his championship form, re-watch this race.

It was great to watch Alex Zanardi race, especially in yesterday’s rain. Is there anything he can’t drive? The team’s early race steering issue may have cost him a decent finish.

The all female team from Henricher/Meyer Shank Racing battled strongly all race until a spin during the restart took them out of a chance at a top five. Still, it was nice to see Simona and Bia on the track again.

Indycar drivers Colton Herta drove for s winning car. Herta in the GTLM winning number 25 BMW for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Former series driver Sebastian Saavedra was driving the LMP2 winning car as the race was called. The victory came despite a heavy crash just before the second red flag.

Rossi reached the podium with the number 7 Penske Acura.

I am completely exhausted so will end here. Look for my full race recap on Wildfire Sports tomorrow. I’ll be back in this spot later this week with an Indycar news roundup.

Rolex 24 Mid Race Update

Good morning from Daytona International Speedway. The race is just past halfway. Jordan Taylor leads in the number 10 car for Wayne Taylor Racing . Juan Pablo Montoya is second in the number 7 Penske Acura. Alexander Ross in the number 6 Penske Acura is fourth.

The lead has changed hands on pit stops, but has mainly been a battle between the Taylor machine and the two Penske cars. The 31 from Action Express is also in the mix for the win.

The Penske team has been strong since the race began

Sebastian Savasdra leads LMP2 in the 18.

GTLM leader is Phillip Eng in the 25 Rahal BMW.

GTD is headed by the 63 Ferrari of Cooper McNeil.

The 57 car frt Meyer Shank Racing has stated around mid pack most if the race.

Alex Zanardi experienced a steering wheel issue and was unable to drive. The team repaired the car but is several laps down.

Back with quick thoughts tonight.

Quick Thoughts on A Day at the Roar

New liveries, All Star drivers, and of course sportscar drama all happened today at the Roar Before the 24.  Seeing Alex Zanardi and Fernando Alonso at the same track was thrilling. Hearing Alonso along with his Wayne Taylor Racing teammates talk was another highlight of the day.

The Ganassi GTLM Fords were white, a departure from their red, white, and blue scheme of the past few years.  While it made finding the cars difficult at first, the engines still have that distinctive sound. I like the clean look of the car in white.

img_4598

 

Team Penske, on the other chose to leave their cars in unpainted carbon fiber. Could a throwback livery be coming for the Rolex?  A  Mark Donohue Sunoco car would look nice.

img_4587
Black is the new black

Shank’s All Female Lineup Leads Qualifying

GT Daytona had their pit/garage qualifying this afternoon.  The 57 Meyer Shank Racing entry with Ana Beatriz driving, ended the session as the fastest driver. Car 71 had the fastest session time but was disqualified for using a Gold rated driver. Only Silver and Bronze rated drivers may participate in the GTD class.

It was great to have a chance to say hello to Simona this afternoon. Nice to get a chance too watch her race again.

img_4601

An Improvement – Almost

 

IMSA has changed the class color system this year. I like 75% of it. In previous years both the prototypes and the GTLM cars had numbers on a red field, while  the PC and GTD classes had green behind their numbers.  Last year with just three classes, both the prototypes and GTLM carried fields and GTD kept the green. I thought that was confusing for the casual viewer/fan. This each class has its own color.

DPi numbers are on a black background, LMP2 digits have blue, GTLM keeps the red, and GTD remains green. While it’s great that each class has a distinct color, I’m not a fan of the black. There are sweven colors in the spectrum. I think IMSA could have made a better choice for DPi.

Back tomorrow with some photos.

 

Sebring Preview- Penske, Ganassi Look to Recover from Difficult Rolex 24

The second part of the 36 Hours of Florida takes the green flag at 10:40 am Saturday morning. The 66th 12 Hours of Sebring is the second race in the IMSA Weather Tech Series. Like the Rolex 24, several current  Indycar drivers and a handful of former Indycar drivers will participate. Indyccar  team owners Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi, and Michael Shank also have full time teams. This is Penske’s first full year in this series.

The Penske and Ganassi cars had a rough start to the season with various mechanical issues and a crash pushing them out of contention. Helio Castroneves nearly won the pole at Daytona and his number 7 Acura prototype was in the hunt for the first half of the race. Ganassi’s Ford GTLM machines had a variety of issues that kept them from challenging for the podium.

I’m looking for both teams to be among the top challengers this year. In the prototype class, Penske will have a tough battle with the Cadillacs of Wayne Taylor Racing and the  Action Express cars which dominated at Daytona.

In GTLM Ganassi’s Fords will have to fend off the Corvettes in a fight between American manufacturers. The Porsches and Ferrari also could be in the mix. GTLM is the most competitive class due to its smaller field.

The GTD race is wide open as always. Ferrari usually does well at Sebring. I’m looking for one of the Shank cars to be on the podium here.

A list of Indycar drivers, both current and former, and what car they’re driving this weekend. Current full time Indycar drivers in bold:

Prototype-

#6- Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud

#7- Helio Castroneves, Graham Rahal

#10- Ryan Hunter-Reay

#31- Mike Conway

#38- Pato O’Ward (IndyLights)

#52- Sebastian Saavedra

#90- Tristan Vautier

GTLM-

#25- Connor De Phillippi

#66- Sebastien Bourdais

#67- Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe

GTD-

#64- Townsend Bell

#86- Katherine Legge

The race will be televised on FS1 and FS2. The finish is on FS2 from 6-11 pm.

Back with a wrap-up next week.