DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Fifty-two cars kicked off the 2013 Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series season at Day One of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Despite light rain and heavy fog, 17 Daytona Prototypes, 33 GTs and two cars from the new GX class roared around Daytona’s high-banked oval and through the infield turns, preparing for the season’s toughest test, the 51st Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 26–27.
The Roar Before the 24 is a three-day test which gives teams a chance to get used to new cars and new drivers before the season opener. It also gives fans a chance to see the new teams, cars and liveries, while also watching celebrity drivers form many disciplines who come to Daytona to test themselves in this prestigious endurance race.
The grid always contains a number of one-offs, teams which wait all year to enter this one grueling race, and several cars full of celebrity drivers from different disciplines. Also present are brand-new teams or teams moving up from lower classes. These dynamics make the Roar, like the Rolex, one of the richest spectator experiences of the Grand Am Rolex season.
Winter in Florida is always uncertain. Despite forecasts of clear skies and temperatures in the 70s, Friday, the first of the test days, dawned cool and rainy. Fog, low clouds, and light mist made for tough conditions in the morning and evening session—the precipitation let up in the afternoon to let teams run some quicker times.
2012 Rolex Winners Top the 2013 Timesheets
The #60 Riley Ford of Mike Shank Racing, winner of the 2012 Rolex, turned in the day’s best time with a lap of 1:42.918 at 78.059 mph, followed closely by the two Telmex-Ganassi Riley-BMWs, the #01 with a lap of 1:42.963 and the #02 at 1:42.987.
NASCAR star AJ Allmendinger was behind the wheel for the Shank Riley-Ford’s fastest lap. “The track was a little damp,” Allmendinger told the post-session press conference.
“The race line, for the most part, was dry, but if you put a wheel wrong, especially early in the session, and got onto the wet, you had a chance to wreck the race car. There’s no need for that in the first 30 or 40 minutes into a test. It’s just about patience.”
The second Shank car, the Starworks Riley-Ford, and the Spirit of Daytona Coyote-Corvette took the next three spots, none break the 1:42 barrier.
Surprisingly seventh was the #77 Doran Racing Dallara-Ford at 1:43.944. This Dallara, with older Gen-2 bodywork, driven by ALMS PC champs Jon Bennett and Colin Braun, Jim Lowe, and IndyCar’s Paul Tracy, beat many much sleeker cars.
In GT, 2012 class winner Magnus Racing set the pace with a time of 1:49.322 at 73.723 posted by driver Andy Lally.
While the usual pack of Porsches patrolled the track, Audi and Ferrari were also out in strength. No fewer than four Audi R8 Grand Ams and five Ferrari 458 Grand Ams were out turning laps along with the usual Porsches, BMWs, Corvettes and Camaros—and the Vehicle Technologies Dodge Viper.
Hopefully many of these entries will stick around for the full Rolex season—the variety of shapes and sounds really added to the event.
Only two of the new GX cars made it onto track: the Porsche Caymans of Napleton Racing and BGB Motorsports turned 81 laps between them. Former Rolex winner David Donahue drove the Napleton Cayman to the fastest lap in class.
Forty-eight cars from the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge also practiced Friday.
CTSCC, or Conti as it is commonly known, is one of the most competitive road-racing series on the continent. American muscle cars from Ford, Chevy, and Dodge race European sports cars from Porsche, Nissan, BMW, Aston Martin, and Nissan in the Grand Sport class, while in Sport Tuner Mazdas and Hondas, Kias and Volkswagens and even a Mercedes go at it.
Andrew Aquilante’s #35 Subaru Road Racing Team WRX-STI, with all-wheel-drive, was quickest of the GS class (2:06.773 at 71.806 mph)—not surprising given the damp track.
The #56 Race Epic/Murillo Racing BMW 3238i of Jeff Mosing set a mark of 2:14.775 at 72.527mph to lead the ST class.Testing continues Saturday and Sunday, with Saturday’s schedule extending until 8 p.m. so the teams can get some practice driving in the dark, while Sunday wraps up mid-afternoon. Tickets are available through Grand-Am.com.
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