Pre-race activity for the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona is complete for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, following this morning’s fourth and final practice session. A run of media availabilities will follow from here throughout the rest of the day, as well as the four-hour Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge BMW Endurance Challenge, the series’ first four-hour race.
In WeatherTech Championship practice, the DragonSpeed team rebounded from its hard crash in Friday’s practice session to lead the final one-hour session. The team worked overnight until 3:30 a.m. ET to build up a new tub of the Oreca 07 chassis, were released at 4:40 a.m. for a quick nap and recharge stint, then back at the track a couple hours later in quite an effort by Elton Julian’s team and crew.
Nicolas Lapierre was on course to set the fastest time in the No. 81 car at 1:37.922, but at the end of the session that time was beat by nearly a second. Jordan Taylor took the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R to a lap of 1:36.970 right at the end of the session.
BAR1 Motorsports, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and Paul Miller Racing (Lamborghini) led the PC, GTLM and GTD classes.
Results for this session, as for all sessions at the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway, can be found at results.imsa.com.
The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge kicks off the racing at Daytona today with the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge.
So what should you expect from the race, which kicks off at 12:05 p.m. ET with coverage on IMSA.com and IMSA Radio audio? Here’s a few quick notes:
- This is the first four-hour race for the series, which usually runs two-hour, 45-minute races. Teams can run either two or three drivers. This is expected to change up the strategy from a usual two pit stop race.
- The series features a mix of sports car veterans and up-and-coming young guns.
- The two classes are GS and ST. The GS (Grand Sport) class features a mix of legacy Continental Tire Challenge GS-spec cars and GT4-spec homologated cars, such as the new Ford Mustang, Porsche Cayman GT4 MR and McLaren GT4. The ST (Street Tuner) cars feature cars you’d see on the street, like a Porsche Cayman, BMW 328i, Audi S3 or MINI JCW.
- The polesitting cars are the No. 59 Ford Mustang qualified by Dean Martin, with co-driver Cameron Maugeri in GS, and the No. 18 Porsche Cayman qualified by Connor Bloum, with co-driver Aurora Straus in ST.
- Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Tyler Clary makes his series debut today in a Bimmerworld BMW. Clary’s popped up at a couple Verizon IndyCar Series races in recent years.
- The Canadian Multimatic Motorsports team and Ford are more or less joined at the hip, and the defending overall race winners with Scott Maxwell and Billy Johnson. In the new Mustang, Maxwell shares the No. 15 car with Jade Buford.
- Names that might be familiar to an open-wheel audience – if you go back in time to either recent years in the Mazda Road to Indy or Atlantic days prior to that – include Nicolas Rondet, Kenny Wilden, Jesse Lazare, Chris Green, Matt Halliday, Damien Faulkner, Trent Hindman, Guy Cosmo and Michael Johnson, the latter of whom shares a special hand-control operated BMW 228i with Stephen Simpson in the ST class.
Lexus hosted a breakfast at its hospitality unit this morning, with manufacturer executives joining the 3GT Racing team’s eight Rolex 24 drivers of the new Lexus RC F GT3.
There’s a bevy of open-wheel experience housed here. Newly minted Motorsports Hall of Fame of America member Scott Pruett leads the lineup, while past full-time IndyCar drivers Sage Karam and Jack Hawksworth are also in the full-time lineup. Robert Alon is the last full-time driver. Endurance race extras include Ian James, Gustavo Menezes, Austin Cindric and Dominik Farnbacher, with Menezes and Cindric having previously raced in the Mazda Road to Indy.
Karam and Hawksworth enter their first race with the manufacturer understanding their role as part of a bigger picture. Hawksworth told TSO that while he has experience from a promotional side in working with past IndyCar sponsor ABC Supply Co., the newness of working with the three combined units of Lexus’ Japanese and North American arms (Toyota Racing Development), plus Paul Gentilozzi’s 3GT team, the cohesion is what will make the program work. Neither driver has got much running this week, as the endurance extra drivers have got more time.
Karam’s No. 14 Lexus starts 13th in the GTD class and Hawksworth’s No. 15 Lexus starts 20th in the 27-car class.
More will follow later today, with a number of announcements and media sessions to come… plus the four-hour Continental Tire Challenge race!