It’s Rolex 24 Race Day

Photo: Oliver Jarvis in the 77 Mazda leads the field to the green flag at 1:40 today.

The 2020 racing season gets underway this afternoon as the 58th Rolex 24 begins.  A Mazda is on the pole and the question is can Mazda keep running for 24 hours.  I look for a strong challenge from Penske Acura. The 6 car looks especially strong. Wayne Taylor Racing, in their first race without either of t Taylor brothers driving, could be a factor also.

The weather looks to be dry with moderate temperatures. After last year’s deluge., dry and mild is very welcome.

In GTLM, it  could be a battle between the Porsches. They traded the lead back and forth in qualifying. A Lamborghini will win the GTLM class.

I hope  to report every six hours.

The NBC network group has 16 hours of coverage. NBC shows the start and finish. Coverage is also on NBCSN and the NBC app. The app costs $19.95 for the entire IMSA season.

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.

Quick Thoughts on Sebring

A late yellow tightened up the class competition.

The rain that didn’t happen near the end of the race may have hurt some team strategies.

It was great having the WEC series at Sebring. The Friday race filled a scheduling void for the track.

It would have been nice if the WEC LMP1 class were more competitive.

Pipo Derani needs to try Indycar.

If I don’t see another rain drop at another race the rest of the season I’d be perfectly happy.

Look for my race wrap up on Wildfire Sports tomorrow

 

Mid Race Update

The 12 Hours of Sebring began with the first 40 minutes run behind the safety car in an attempt to get the track dry. Air jets also circulated as the cars drove laps as the clock started.

There were three dry hours which ended a few minutes ago with a brief shower. The last two hours have a wet forecast.

The race is under yellow for an accident involving Johnathan Bomarito in the 55 Mazda DPi. This is the third caution of the race.

Action Express Leads

The 31 Action Express currently leads with Pipo Derani driving. Penske Acura cars run  5th with Ricky Taylor in the 7 and 9th with Simon Pagenaud.

In GTLM, the Ganassi Ford number 67 with Scott Dixon leads and the 66 is second with Joey Hand.

Felipe Farga in the number 33 Mercedes lead GTD.

The LMP2 leader is Cameron Cassells.

Back with a quick summary after the race.

 

 

Toyota, Alonso Win; Wet 12 Hours of Sebring Next

Good morning from a very wet and rainy Sebring Raceway. The forecast calls for rain most of the day.

Late last night the first WEC 1000 miles of Sebring concluded in the rain. The yellow at the end didn’t change the outcome. The number 8 Toyota Gazoo, co driven by Fernando Alonso, won by a two lap margin over the team’s second car. The third place car was five laps down.

This is the second straight Weather Tech Championship race that will be affected by rain. We’ll see what happens. Hope to have a mid race update this afternoon.

The race will start on CNBC then switch to NBCSN at 3.