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.

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.