This weekend, the cream of the racing universe collected in Daytona Beach, Florida, to kick off the 2018 racing deteriorate at the Rolex 24. It was a grid the likes of which we hadn’t seen in a prolonged time. Veteran megastars from the worlds of Formula 1 and IndyCar, rising immature hotshots making their names in GP2 and Formula E, and loyal talents from continuation racing came together in a margin of 20 prototypes and 30 GT cars to fight for leverage over 24 hours on the banking and infield at Daytona International Speedway.
When the mottled dwindle waved on Sunday afternoon, the winning car—the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R of Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque, and Christian Fittipaldi had covered a record-breaking distance: 808 laps and 2,876.48 miles (4,629.2km). Such a mad gait is surprising for the Rolex 24; churned grids and the continuation format mostly multiply incidents and lots of yellow-flag using behind a reserve car. But 2018 wasn’t like that. There was play a-plenty, and even some complicated rainfall, but only a handful of cautions done this year a 24-hour scurry for the finish and a sign that, while other racing series competence have their problems, the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship is really one to keep an eye on this year.
Good drivers, you say?
In the not-too-distant past, continuation racing was something racing drivers did once the gray hairs started showing up, a place to widen out careers before retirement after flat-out racing had taken its toll. Those days are gone. So we saw F1 names from double universe champion Fernando Alonso to prohibited immature phenoms like Felipe Nasr and Lance Stroll. From IndyCar, there were stars like Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastian Bourdais, AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Graham Rahal, with at slightest 7 Indy 500 wins and 11 championships between them.
Plus we had some of the very best continuation racers: veterans of bureau Le Mans antecedent programs like former Audi drivers Oliver Jarvis, Rene Rast, Loic Duval, and Felipe Albuquerque (ex-Audi); Porsche alums Romain Dumas (also ex-Audi), Earl Bamber, and Nick Tandy; Toyota’s Mike Conway and Nicholas Lapierre; and stars-in-the-making like Renger outpost der Zande, Jordan and Ricky Taylor, and Alex Brundle.
If those folks weren’t signs adequate of a low talent pool, there were also a brood of immature drivers whose names we’ll be conference a lot some-more of: kids like Felix Rosenqvist, Robert Frijns, Lando Norris, and Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen, all of whom have been sloping for good things in single-seaters.
Fast cars, you say?
The top difficulty at the Rolex 24 is for prototypes. These aren’t the half-billion dollar World Endurance Championship rocketships I’ve opined about in the past, but that’s a good thing. After an extraordinary 2016 season, the hybrid P1 difficulty at Le Mans imploded following the depart of Audi and then Porsche, leaving Toyota as the solitary bureau bid left station in WEC. The race at Daytona is run by IMSA, and it picked the cheaper, somewhat slower LMP2 prototypes as the basement for its fastest cars. In the WEC, this is a cost-capped difficulty for pro-am teams; there is a choice of 4 opposite chassis, but everybody has to run the same Gibson V8 engine.
IMSA, however, allows for all-pro prototypes, called DPi cars, using the LMP2 cars as a bottom on which manufacturers can urge a little. Last year we took a demeanour at Cadillac’s car, the DPi-V.R, which flattering much dominated the 2017 season. But this year Cadillac has some genuine competition—and from two of the biggest names in racing. Acura (which had a lot of success with antecedent racing in the American Le Mans Series) assimilated forces with Penske, an outfit that for 50 years has been redefining professionalism and courtesy to fact in racing, entertainment almost countless wins in the process. We first saw the ARX-05 at last year’s Monterey Car week, but this weekend noted the car’s benediction by fire.
Then there’s Mazda; after prior long-time partner Speedsource valid incompetent to get to grips with RT-24P, a change was in order. It pulled out of IMSA’s 2017 deteriorate median by the year and incited the cars over to its new partner, Team Joest. This German operation knows what it’s doing—under its own name, and also together with Audi, it won Le Mans 15 times outright, at times operative so good and with such speed that the manners were changed to give everybody else a fighting chance.
The bureau DPi cars at Daytona were assimilated by a whole garland of LMP2 machines, many of which were also allowed to urge a little in the off-season. Notable visitors from the WEC to Daytona enclosed the Jackie Chan DCR JOTA group (yes, that Jackie Chan), which almost kick the faster P1 variety at Le Mans last year for undisguised victory, and a two-car bid from United Autosport. One of the owners of that group is called Zak Brown, and one of his other day jobs is using the McLaren F1 team. This explains the participation of Fernando Alonso in the race, for he’s getting wearied of using mid-pack in F1 and has an eye on winning Le Mans—hence racing at Daytona as an intro to continuation racing (as good as racing a automobile with a roof).
The interests of space and time obviate me from delving deeply into the GTLM grid, where the Ford GT, Corvette C7.R, Porsche 911 RSR, Ferrari 488 GTE, and now BMW M8 GTLM duke it out. But there have been a few changes to these cars over the winter, so if you follow those links you can review copiousness of the prior coverage of those highway car-derived racers. (The same is loyal for the pro-am GTD class.)
Listing picture by Brian Cleary/Getty Images