Rolex 24 is America’s True All Star Race

The Rolex 24 at Daytona kicks off the major league racing season in the United States. Stars from Indycar and NASCAR join the stars of the sports car world to make it the one true All Star race in North America. The entry list features drivers with a combined 12 Indycar titles, and seven Indianapolis 500 wins; drivers with a combined eight NASCAR Series titles, and of course several IMSA champions. When the regulations change to allow the LMDh car in a couple years, the stars from the European endurance circuit may also participate.

49 cars are slated to start the race. A 50th entry, Black Swan Racing withdrew due to COVID-19 issues. For 2021, a new class LMP 3 has been added. This is mainly an amateur class of prototypes. The GTLM class, which has been a fun group to watch, is fading from the series. Corvette is the only full time team. The six entries this weekend is likely the largest field this class will see this season. I’m sad toi see this clas disappear.

GTLM consisted of technology driven sports cars that looked like cars someone could buy if money were no object. Fans could identify with them. There will be a larger group of GTD cars next year, based on the European GT3 model.

New Teams; Same Drivers

Team Penske Acura is no more. Instead, the Acuras are split into teams, Meyer Shank Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing. Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, who drove for Penske, have stuck with Acura, although as endurance drivers only. Castroneves will drive for Taylor and Montoya for Shank.

Chip Ganassi Racing has assumed the Cadillac entry that Wayne Taylor Racing had last year. he has brought Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson from his Indycar team to serve as the endurance only drivers.

A Revised Schedule

The race gets under way at 3:40 pm Saturday, the second new start time in as many years. Sunset is around 6 pm Saturday, so there will be just about two and a half hours of daylight before the 13 hours of night racing begins. NBC will cover the entire race across its various platforms.

The weather forecast is great for the race. Mild temperatures with a low of 53 degree Saturday night. By Rolex standards, that is balmy. Highs are 67 degrees Saturday and 75 degrees Sunday. The race has moved back one week this year, which may be a factor in the improved forecast.

Indycar Drivers

Indycar drivers are in every category except GTLM. Here is a list by category and car number.

LMP1

01 Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson

5 Sebastien Bourdais

10 Alexander Rossi, Helio Castroneves

48 Simon Pagenaud, Jimmie Johnson

60 Juan Pablo Montoya

LMP2

81 Rinus VeeKay, Ben Hanley

LMP3

74 Oliver Askew, Spencer Pigot

GTD

12 Zach Veach

42 J. R. Hildebrand

96 Colton Herta ? (Herta was on the original entry list, but was not on yesterday’s final entry list; he is still on the spotter’s guide)

Entry List

Find the entry list at the following link:

https://www.motorsport.com/imsa/news/rolex-24-hours-entry-list/4995537/

John Paul, Jr., 1960-2020, Won in Two Eras

John Paul, Jr. began winning at 19 years old when he made the SCCA Runoffs, then immediately took IMSA by storm. He won the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring in 1982 on his way to the IMSA GT championship. In 1983 Paul won the CART Michigan 500, passing Rick Mears on the final lap. I’m hard pressed to find someone else who won a race that way. He raced in two eras of Indycar, and also tried stock cars.

The Muncie, Indiana native had all the makings of a rising star. His career came to an abrupt halt in 1986 when he was convicted on a drug trafficking charge. Paul spent 2 and a half years in prison. When his racing career resumed, the bigger teams and sponsors shied away from him.

He drove in seven Indianapolis 500s, scattered over a period 16 years. Paul’s rookie year, 1985, ended with a lap 164 accident. His best finish was his final 500 when he was seventh in 1998.

Paul won the IRL race at Texas in 1998 driving for Team Pelfrey. He also had a brief foray into NASCAR in 1991.

Paul retired in 2002 after contracting Huntington’s disease.

Sebring- A Race With Many Lasts Could Produce a First

Team Penske could end their time in IMSA with a championship

The Mobil 12 Hours of Sebring, delayed from March, is on for Saturday. Normally the second race of the IMSA Weather Tech Championship, the oddities of 2020 have conspired to make it the last race of the season. Thirty-one cars in four classes will take the green just after 10 am Saturday morning.

This race might play out differently than the race would have at its normal spot in the schedule. In the spring, the race occurs just after the return of Daylight Savings Time. The race is run in just a bit more than two hours in darkness. This weekend, teams and drivers will contend with slightly less than half the race run after sunset, which is around 5:32 pm Saturday. Strange things happen at Sebring after dark, which will make the second half of the race interesting.

IMSA Farewells

Sebring will be the final race for the Team Penske Acuras in the DPi class and the Porsche 911s in the GTLM class. The Porsche team has been a popular mainstay in the IMSA series for a long time.

This weekend also sees some drivers leaving the series. Oliver Gavin is running his final race as a full time drive with the GTLM Corvette. Renger van der Zende and Ryan Briscoe take their final stints in Wayne Taylor Racing’s Cadillac. Taylor will switch to one of the Acura cars next year.

Helio’s First Title?

Helio Castroneves could win his first major series title. He and teammate Ricky Taylor lead the Wayne Taylor team of Briscoe and van der Zende by just two points heading into this weekend’s finale.

Castroneves, who finished second four times in his Indycar career, will have to fend off a familiar nemesis to secure his championship. Six time Indycar champion Scott Dixon is the third driver for Wayne Taylor Racing. Dixon edged Castroneves for the Indycar title in 2008 and 2013.

Castroneves signed with Meyer Shank Racing to run six races in Indycar in 2021, and he is likley to be the extra driver in the endurance races for Shank next season. Shank assumes control of the second Acura prototype in 2021.

Should Castroneves take the championship, at certain Indycar races the grid could feature an IMSA champion, a seven time NASCAR champion(jimmkie Johnson), a three time Australian Supercar Champion (Scott McLaughlin), a four time Indycar champion(Sebastien Bourdais), and Dixon, the newly crowned six time Indycar titlist.

Indycar Drivers in the Field

Several Indycar drivers, current and former, will be driving this weekend, most of them in the Prototype class. By car number-

5- Bourdais

6- Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud

7- Helio Castroneves, Alexander Rossi

10- Briscoe

55- Ryan Hunter- Reay

25- Colton Herta (GTLM BMW for Rahal)

Coverage begins on NBCSN at 10 am, switches to NBC from 3-6, then ends on NBCSN at 6.

Rolex Race Recap and Photo Gallery

A new driver lineup didn’t affect Wayne Taylor Racing as the team kept its Rolex 24 title Sunday. Both of Taylor’s sons have moved to other teams, leaving only Renger Van der Zende as the sole holdover. Taylor signed Ryan Briscoe from Chip Ganassi’s defunct Ford GT program. Scott Dixon and Kamui Kobayashi joined the squad for the 24 hour race. The Cadillac took the lead for good in the early morning hours and ran away from the field. It was the third victory in four years for WTR.

The number 10 car completed a record 833 laps in a race that had less than two hours of caution periods. At one point the green flag stayed out for more than seven hours.  The long green flag stretches took a lot of dram out of the race as trailing cars had little chance to close up to the leaders.

As usual, the best racing through the night was in the GTLM class. The two Porsches had a great battle with the BMW from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. The BMW eventually prevailed, solidifying its lead after sunrise. Drivers in the winning car were Johm Edwards, Augusto Farfus, Chaz Mostert, and Jesse Krohn. Rahal’s other car won the Rolex 24 in 2019.

In LMP2, Dragonspeed retained its Rolex title.  Drivers Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman, Colin Braun, and Harrison Newey. Dragonspeed is planning a six race Indycar program in addition to its sportscar plans. The team took the lead when the pole sitting Mathiasen Motorsports had an issue.

A Lamborghini was expected to win in GTD and the marque didn’t disappoint. Paul Miller Racing’s car went to Victory Circle. Drivers Madison Snow, Bryan Sellers,  Corey Lewis, and Andrew Caldarelli took home the watches.

Notes

Sebastien Bourdais finished third in his full time sports car debut. The Mustang Sampling team had reconfigured itself in the JDC-Mille stable after leaving Action Express.

Scott Dixon added to his legacy as one racing’s all time greats with his third Rolex24 overall win, tying him for second on the all time roster.

Perseverance award– The crew of the number 4 Corvette spent most of the night hours attempting to find an engine issue. The engine was in pieces in the early morning hours, and the car returned to the track after sunrise. The team spent six hours to complete the repair.

Keating Loves to Drive- Ben Keating drove the number 52 LMP2 car to the pole, then started the race. He also drove the Riley Motorsports Mercedes in GTD. Just doing the math to figure out how he could split his time between the cars and stay within driver time limits was impressive. Keating also drove in Friday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge race.

GEAR has Misfortune- The all female team of Katherine Legge, Christina Nielsen, Tatiana Calderon, and Rachel Frey had a difficult start to the season. The car slowed on the backstretch around 11:30 pm. It limped back to the pits. Early in the morning, the car caught fire with Nielsen behind the wheel. She was not injured, but their race was over.

The IMSA Weather Tech Championship Series next races at the 12 Hours of Sebring March 21. The WEC series will also be there for a 1,000 mile race on Friday.

Photo Gallery

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Rolex 24 Quick Thoughts

It was another Rolex 24 in which current and former Indycar drivers did well. Scot Dixon and Ryan Briscoe were on the overall winning team. Ben Hanley and Dragonspeed defended their 2019 LMP2 victory. Bobby Rahal’s BMW won the GTLM class for the second consecutive year.  Sebastien Bourdais finished third in his full time IMSA debut.

Attendance at the Rolex 24 seemed to be the best of the seven events I’ve attended.

The race didn’t have a lot of drama in any of the classes. A seven hour green flag stretch kept gaps between the cars steady. As usual, the GTLM group had the best race going on for a few hours.

The drive penalty that the 55 Mazda received for its collision with the 7 Acura was quite light. It’s a penalty which has no effect in a 24 hour race. The 7 never got back into contention.

The crew of the 4 Corvette has my respect. I saw the car in the garage around midnight just before they dismantled the entire engine. Six hours later, the Corvettte returned to the track.

I wondered how the new driver lineup would affect Wayne Taylor Racing. Looks as if there was nothing to worry about.  That team has a handle on this race.

Bourdais’ Mustang Sampling team appeared to be very strong in spite of the ownership and driver changes. They were at the rear of the class early in the race, but worked up to a podium finish.

Rahal now has Rolex 24 wins for both of his cars.

As much praise as I’ve heaped on Daytona International Speedway for the improvements in the facility this weekend, the post race traffic pattern needs a lot of work. I understand  there is not a lot of room for cars to move in the infield, but if someone were directing traffic there might be a smoother flow.

833 laps is an incredible race total. I’ve never seen an endurance race with less than two hours total time under caution.

With convergence looming in 2022, I’m wondering what the car count for next year’s Rolex will be.

Thanks for following along this weekend. I was impressed by those of you who were up watching all 24 hours and took time to read my in race posts.

I’ll be back in a day or two after I run the Serta 24.

Corvette, GEAR Have Issues at Halfway Point

The Rolex 24 just passed the mid point. There was one caution in the last six hours as the leaders continue to click off laps at a torrid pace.

The number 4 Corvette went to the garage with what appears to be an engine issue. Afew minutes later, the number 19 GTD of Grasser Racing slowed on the backstretch and li.ped back to the garage. The 19 is the all female team headed by Katherine Legge.

The current leaders as I write:

DPi.   Car 5 Cadillac Joao Barbosa

LMP2. Car 52. Nick Boule

GTLM. Car 24 BMW Chaz Mostert

GTD. Car 48 Lamborghini Bryan Sellers

Another new feature at Daytona this year is a large high definition television screen in the fan zone. Benches have been added to the area in front of the screen. The television is visible from the turn 3 grandstand.

Back after the race with a recap. So far it  has been a very predictable event.

UPDATE Mike Joachim of Pit Lane Parley sent this photo of the Corvette engine dismantled. Thanks Mike

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6 Hours In, WTR Cadillac Leads

The first four hours of the Rolex 24 were clean and without much change in the lead. An incident involving the 55 Mazda and the 7 Acura has put the Team Penske car out there f contention for a good finish. The Mazda received a stop and go penalty, meaningless in a 24 race.

Just before the 5 hour mark s pit incident brought out a full course yellow.

The current leaders:

DPi.  10 Wayne Taylor Racing

LMP 2.  52

GTLM  24 BMW

GTD. 44 Lamborghini

Pit stops are being made so the leader board may change by the time you read this.