|WINNERS REWARDED FOR WELL EXECUTED PLANS—|
The 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona maintained tension right to the finish as a yellow flag 20 minutes from the end shrank the gap between the leading cars. In a race of attrition that saw several top teams fall by the wayside in the closing hours, the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP snatched overall victory by a mere 1.461 seconds. In the PC class, the ORECA FLM 9 of CORE autosport took the class victory, while in GTLM and GTD, it was #911 Porsche 911RSR of Porsche North America and #555 Level 5 Motorsport’s Ferrari F458 that topped the podium in their respective classes.
As their opponents licked their wounds following an intense 24 hours, the Action Express driver line up of Portuguese native Joao Barbosa, Brazilian Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastian Bourdais from France celebrated. A winner ten years ago, Fittipaldi hoped his third victory would not take so long. For Bourdais, born in Le Mans, this was his first 24-hour race win: “It’s one of those big races that you just want on your résumé. The guys were prepared. Everybody knew exactly what to do and how to do it, and the execution was perfect. It’s a heck of a feeling and I couldn’t be any happier.”
Team principal Bob Johnson, celebrating his second overall win at the Rolex 24 At Daytona was quick to praise the efforts of second-placed Wayne Taylor Racing: “If we didn’t have competitors like the #10 car it wouldn’t be as much fun.” For Johnson, though, overall victory and his second car finishing third was proof of a job well done: “It sounds arrogant to say I expected to win, but I knew the resources, talent and assets we had, how hard they had worked, how well our drivers had gelled. We had run every session of every test and for the most part were the fastest. That gave me every indication we had something going here.” Joao Barbosa, member of the 2010 overall winning team, was clear too that this win did not happen overnight: “It took a lot of preparation.”
In the PC class the battle was hard fought even if the gap to the next car was over one lap. Driver Colin Braun felt the win was also down to the team’s preparation in the off-season: “We worked really hard to come up with a plan that we wanted to stick with. We came prepared and executed our plan. We were able to stay out of the pits and just stopping for tyres, gas and changing drivers.”
Porsche celebrated a 76th class win at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, with success in GTLM class. The margin of victory was under one second and British driver Nick Tandy seemed in shock at the post race press conference: “We were all strangers more or less when we came to the Test, but now at the end of this weekend we’re the champions. It just goes to show what a good job everybody has done within the team.”
GTD winners Level 5 staked an early claim to their class title, hitting the front in the fifth hour of the race. The team looked relatively secure until dawn this morning when the challenge of #45 Flying Lizard became a real threat. For the next six hours the two cars traded places. Over the final two laps the pair raced side-by-side, neck and neck. For Townsend Bell in his first 24-hour race it was overwhelming: “I’ve never done a 24-hour race. I don’t think I’ve ever gone a day without at least three hours sleep. I didn’t realize how much really goes into it. It’s quite spectacular. What an unbelievable finish.”
The enormity of the winner’s achievement may take a while to sink in, but the validation came as always at the final prize giving with the award of the Champion’s Trophy and the traditional Rolex Cosmograph Daytona.
Provisional Top Three in Class
Clark and Nasir share their thoughts on Michael Schumacher’s accident, the upcoming Rolex 24 hours at Daytona and other Motorsports events happening in the month of January.
|Test Results: Roar Before the Rolex 24—|
Milder temperatures were on tap for the final test sessions at the Roar Before the Rolex 24, the three-day practice event leading into the upcoming Rolex 24 At Daytona, meaning teams have weathered a variety of conditions in which to evaluate the setup of their cars.
Ganassi Racing got a leg up on defending their Rolex 24 title win when Missouri’s Jamie McMurray posted the top speed of 129.481 mph on day two of testing in the #01 Ganassi Racing Ford Riley. McMurray, a NASCAR star, is joining Ganassi’s lead drivers and three-time Rolex 24 At Daytona champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas for the endurance race. The team will also add a fourth driver, Pennsylvania high school senior Sage Karam, the defending Indy Lights champion, for the late-January race.
The #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP was fastest in both test sessions on the final day of the Roar Before the Rolex 24. British driver Richard Westbrook’s best laps of 128.484 and 127.751 put the #90 car second overall in the 62-strong field over the eight sessions. Westbrook and Canadian driver Michael Valiante will be joined in the #90 by Germany’s Michael Rockenfeller for the Rolex 24.
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 is perhaps the most important testing that sports car drivers in America experience all year. The intensity of these three days show on the faces of crew members and drivers alike as some teams recognize the competiveness of their cars while others realize they need to go back to the drawing board at their shops before they return for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Floridian Charles Espenlaub was pleased with the performance of his #46 Fall-Line Motorsports Audi R8 LMS in the GTD class. “There are a lot of new drivers here from all over the world and they need to become familiar with their cars and this track,” said Espenlaub. “Some of us have been testing and tuning all winter but we need to make sure we have a good set up in order to be ready for the Rolex 24 At Daytona which is the most important race of the year. It’s an invaluable tool for us to be able to come here to test and try different things and have the drivers climb into their cars so they get a feel for what’s happening.”
One of the new young drivers getting a feel for Daytona International Speedway this weekend is 22-year-old Bradley Smith from England. Racing karts since age eight, Smith began racing a Radical SR3 in 2012 and his ensuing race successes earned him a ride for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the #31 Marsh Racing Corvette DP as winner of the 2014 Sunoco Daytona Challenge.
“It’s fantastic to be here in Daytona considering it is only my third year in car racing” said Smith who explained that not only are these cars different than those he is used to driving, the tracks in the U.K. do not have banking which is one of the signature features of Daytona International Speedway. “It has been good for me to get some experience here in order to get used to the car itself as well as the circuit … in these cars you need a little bit more patience when slowing down the car and then there is a big difference in the top speed these cars have. Then there is, of course, the driving at night which takes a few laps to get used to. The actual lighting around the circuit is pretty good, but it takes a while to judge the cars from behind. After a few laps though you settle down, get comfortable and concentrate on what’s in front. Being here for the Roar Before the 24 is fantastic because you get a chance to see how the car is handling and you also get to experience the traffic. Additionally the drivers get to know what to expect on track for the race. The atmosphere here is great and it is wonderful to see all the fans that are here and see how much they are enjoying themselves.”
The 52nd edition of the iconic Rolex 24 At Daytona starts at 1430 EST on Saturday, 25 January 2014. The winners will be presented with the coveted Rolex timepiece at the conclusion of racing on Sunday, 26 January 2014.
THE RACE BEGINS
With the 51st Rolex 24 at Daytona only two and a half hours old, at just before 18:00 EST the sun dipped below the horizon at the Daytona International Speedway. Drivers and crew have settled in for the night stretch of just over thirteen hours, before the sun rises on Sunday at 07:15. 54 cars started the 2013 race, and leading overall after three hours of racing was the Daytona Prototype #01 of Chip Ganassi Racing. The GT class leader was Stevenson Motorsports #57, while #16 Napleton Racing led in the GX class.
With 21 hours left in the race, there is clearly plenty of competition to come. The air temperature is expected to cool during the night by some 10 degrees Celsius (20 degrees Fahrenheit) and drivers have already felt a change in handling, as Mexican driver Memo Gidley of Bob Stallings Racing #99 DP explained after his first stint: “Inside the car you don’t feel a whole lot different when the temperature drops because DPs are pretty warm inside, but it makes a big difference to the amount of grip.”
The race started under a blue sky and the day has been much hotter than the preceding few. Gidley found his car was sliding around a fair amount during the early laps and he had had to work hard. Sunset brought some relief, “As the sun went down the track cooled off and it is almost like the rubber that’s on the surface gets a little bit more stable and the car hooks up, rolls around the corner better and puts the power down.”
When the sun comes up tomorrow, the drivers can look forward to the temperatures rising again as both the air and action heat up.
Ahead of the race start, the atmosphere within the circuit was animated as spectators, supporters, pit crew and drivers rubbed shoulders effortlessly in the final hours before the off. Grand Marshal, Hurley Haywood, offered words of wisdom at the Drivers Meeting: “Have fun, be safe and remember the most important thing you can do out there this weekend is be ladies and gentlemen.” Given his so far unparalleled record of 5 wins at the Rolex 24 at Daytona this must be advice worth following.
With 30 minutes to go, APR Motorsport’s René Rast from Germany confessed to feeling a little bit nervous, but no more than he was used to. His team’s aim was to protect the car through the first hours and be ready to attack on Sunday morning. Shane Lewis from Napleton Racing was clear: “It’s time to go racing. I love all the fanfare that surrounds the Rolex 24, but I can’t wait to get in the race car and get going.”
After 3 hours the leading cars had completed some 98 laps, approximately 348 miles. The difference between the classes was apparent. The fastest DP lap to that point was 1:41.565, and in the GX class it was 1:56.319.
F1WEEKLY PODCAST NUMBER 616 WITH CLARK AND NASIR’S 2012 F1 SEASON REVIEW PART TWO. ROLEX 24 HOURS AT DAYTONA PREPARES FOR THE ARRIVAL OF NASIR HAMEED AND HIS ENTOURAGE.
The 51st Rolex 24 at Daytona takes place this coming weekend, once again pitting top drivers and teams against one of the toughest challenges in endurance motor sport. The 24-hour race at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida is scheduled to start at 15:30 EST on Saturday, 26 January. When the green flag drops, 59 cars are expected to cross the start line.
Grid positions for the race will be determined on Thursday. Official race practice sessions take place in the morning and early afternoon, before qualifying begins at 15:40 for the Daytona Prototypes (DP) and at 16:10 for the GT and GX classes. A night practice session then gets underway at 18:00 just after sunset. The final practice opportunity is on Friday morning.
During the three days of testing at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 earlier this month, several markers were laid down. Defending champion in the DP class, Michael Shank Racing #60, set the fastest lap time of 1:42.918 (an average speed of 124.526 mph) on the first day of testing with one of the team’s 2012 winning drivers, Anthony ‘AJ’ Allmendinger, at the wheel. Then, on the third day, Michael Valiante , driving the team’s second car #6, set the fastest lap for the entire weekend with a time of 1:42.058 (125.576 mph).
The fastest overall times in the GT and GX classes were set on day two of testing. In the GT class, Patrick Long turned in a lap average of 118.045 mph in the Park Place Motorsports #73, while Shane Lewis in the Napleton Racing #16 was the fastest of the new GX class with a lap average of 110.324 mph.
DAY TWO TESTING: ROLEX 24 HOURS AT DAYTONA
As 59 teams utilize the Roar Before the Rolex 24 to get up to speed in preparation for the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 26, advances in technology and stepping up to the next level of competition are a common thread during the three-day test event at Daytona International Speedway.
For Jonathan Bomarito (Monterey, Calif.), who has been with Speedsource for three years, the transition from the GT class Mazda RX-8 to a new class and car with the Mazda6 GX is an exciting one. “Everything is great about this all-new Mazda6 GX, powered by the SKYACTIV-D clean diesel engine. We’re doing a lot of system tests here because this (clean burning fuel) is a first for GRAND-AM. There a lot of things to go through and we are starting the process here at the Roar Before the Rolex 24. The guys at Mazdaspeed/Speedsouce have done a great job. The chassis is similar to what we ran last year, but with a little longer wheel base and the car is a little bit heavier than last year. Actually, the chassis is a bit low on our list right now because everything is pretty good with it. We’re concentrating on system checks, running temperatures and horsepower.”
“I really like the concept of the new GX class (basically a street car that has been marginally engineered to race) in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. It’s growing now but when GRAND-AM announces that there will definitely be a GX class for 2014, after the merger with ALMS, I am sure there will be a lot more manufacturers coming on board. The concept is great and the racing will definitely be great too.”
Another team making a major move is Team Sahlen which competed for seven years in GT before making the decision to step up to the DP class for 2013.
“Do we start with a completely brand new car built from the ground up and keep running a Mazda, or do we make the move up to the Daytona Prototype class,” said Joe Sahlen (Elma, N.Y.) of the decision process which started a year ago when they learned the RX-8 was no longer an option. “Our team began with pretty humble beginnings, but in the last few years we have upgraded the entire team – in terms of engineering and with the equipment in the paddock – and we felt we were now ready to be a part of the premier GRAND-AM roster. We cannot ask for a better circumstance than what we have now at the Roar Before the 24 with not one but two DP race cars.”
Success at this level of competition relies on consistency in endurance racing, as well as minimizing mistakes. “There are a bunch of very fast cars here, but we’re all human and errors occur and things happen so we plan to be consistent and run a clean race,” said Sahlen, a driver and team principal, along with Joe Nonamaker, at Team Sahlen since 2005. “One of our cars, the #42, will be driven by pros and the #43 car will be driven by gentlemen drivers. We would like to finish in the top five with the #42 and we hope to run a strong clean race with the gentleman car and have a lot of fun in the process. We plan to run the two cars for the entire GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car season.”
“For me as a driver there was a bit of a learning curve and I had a few butterflies at first,” said Sahlen, explaining that when they tested at Mid-Ohio he felt pretty comfortable in the car by turn four. “The DP car has such great responsiveness it makes the car relatively easy to drive. We are really looking forward to completing our test here at the Roar Before the 24. The Roar is crucial to a team, especially if you are bringing in drivers… they have to get used to the car and, for that matter, many of them have to get used to the track since so many of them have never been here.”
With Dane Cameron (Suwanee, Ga.) driving the #42 car, Team Sahlen moved to the top of the leader board with a best lap time of 1:42.101 over five practice sessions, a good indicator that the new DP effort is paying off.
“This has been a huge project that Team Sahlen has undertaken,” said Cameron, a 23-year old California native who won the penultimate race of the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series driving the #43 Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8 on his home track of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “I can’t thank Joe Sahlen and the whole Nonnamaker family enough for the opportunity to be a part of this magnificent GRAND-AM team and I’m really proud of what we have accomplished up to this point. To grow from a couple of GT cars over the years to two brand new fulltime Daytona Prototypes is such a huge step in motor racing. All the hours that the crew have been putting in and the significant financial investment of the team just to get the cars on the pavement here is unbelievable.”
“The DP cars are so different from the GT cars I have raced. The power it has… the down force it has … along with incredible brakes take a bit of getting used to and we are now getting pretty comfortable with it all. It’s great to be at the Roar because we get to do so many laps we can work with the crew to make the necessary adjustments to improve the car before we get to the Rolex 24 At Daytona. This is only our eighth or ninth day with the car so we have some catching up to do. The race is going to be very challenging but I am hopeful we will be a consistent threat to the rest of the DP field throughout the season.”
|THE ROAR BEFORE THE ROLEX 24|
|Four days into the New Year, new teams and new cars are taking their first laps at Daytona International Speedway as the landmark 2013 sports car racing season gets underway with this weekend’s three day test event: the Roar Before the Rolex 24. The dreary weather did not dampen the excitement among drivers and race organizers to go racing as they prepare for the historic merger of GRAND-AM and ALMS, as well as the debut of the new GX class at the 51st running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona later this month.
The introduction of a new class presents numerous challenges for interested race teams, starting with the wait for the rules package to be published. With the rules in hand, the mad rush begins to build the car in order to be ready for early testing before the Rolex 24 At Daytona opens the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series on January 26. For the six GX teams who are testing this weekend, there was barely enough time to complete their cars and get them to Daytona for testing.
That was the case for Napleton Racing’s #16 Porsche Cayman which arrived at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 having taken only a few shakedown laps with Shane Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.) behind the wheel. Teammates David Donohue (Malvern, Penn.), Jim Norman, (Tampa, Fla.) and Nelson Canache (Norcross, Ga.) will have their first opportunity to drive the car this weekend.
“Shane and I have raced together before and I have worked with Ron, our crew chief, before at Brumos,” said Donohue, who previously raced in the DP class. “There are a lot of familiar faces on the team and I wanted to find a team where we can exercise our craft, have some success and grow together as a team.”
Lewis couldn’t wait to get the car on the track. “What do you want for Christmas – I want to be driving a race car at Daytona,” he said referring to the holiday season which interrupted the build progress for many teams. Lewis explained the difference between the GX and the GT classes: “The GX class is based on production cars, and, although there are some significant race prepped elements, we are restricted to a stock H-pattern shifter similar to that of the road car – as opposed to the sequential shifters of the GT Cars. Unlike some of the race cars today we are going to have to drive our car the old fashioned way.”
A total of 59 cars – 17 DP, 36 GT and six GX – are expected to participate in testing this weekend. A.J. Allmendinger (Denver, Colo.) drove the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley to a fastest lap of 1:42.918 (124.526 mph) to take bragging rights for the day.
“The weather was not the best today and I was the first driver on our team to go out in the damp conditions,” said Allmendinger. “But even in those conditions the car was really solid. I was just trying to get comfortable in the car since it had been a year since I drove this DP car. I feel the car is even better this year than it was last year when our team won the  Rolex 24 At Daytona.”
In the GT class, 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona class champion Andy Lally (Northport, N.Y.), at the wheel of the Magnus Racing #44 Porsche GT3 Cup, posted the fastest lap of 1:49.322 (117.232 mph), while David Donahue led the new GX field with a time of 1:57.466 (109.104 mph) in the Napleton Racing #16 Porsche Cayman