DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—The first day of the new era of North American sports car racing dawned cold, cloudy and windy, and the weather didn’t improve much through the first half of the first day of the Tudor United Sports Car Championship Roar Before the 24, the traditional three-day test for teams planning on contesting the Rolex 24 at Daytona later on this month.
The strength of the field helped distract the frigid fans. The best of the two former North American sports car series—American Le Mans and Rolex Sports Car Series—came together to run head-to-head on Daytona’s banking and tight infield turns.
If variety is indeed life’s most important condiment, the session was extra-spicy: ten different chassis/engine combinations contested the prototype class (Oreca-03 Nissan, HPD ARX-03b, Morgan-Nissan, Mazda, Riley-Ford, Riley-BMW and a variety of Chevrolet-powered “Corvette DPs”: Coyote, Dallara, Riley, plus the DeltaWing DWC13.) Six makes contested both GT-Le Mans (formerly American Le Mans Series GTE) and GT-Daytona (formerly Rolex GT): Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Viper, Aston Martin, Audi, and Chevrolet Corvettes.
In total, 56 cars joined the morning test session: 15 prototypes, 7 PCs, 9 GTLM, and 25 GTDs.
In the morning session, five Chevy-powered “Corvette” Daytona Prototypes topped the timesheets. The #5 Action Express Coyote-Chevrolet was quickest around the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway at 1:38.630 at 129.940 mph, followed by the #90 Spirit of Daytona Coyote-Chevrolet, the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Dallara-Chevrolet, the #99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Riley-Chevrolet, and the brand-new #31 Marsh Racing Coyote-Chevrolet. The top five all lapped within 2.4 seconds of the #5 Action Express car.
The two Extreme Speed HPDs were the quickest of the P2s, running sixth and seventh, 2.42 and 2.44 seconds of the pace, with the #42 Oak Racing Morgan-Nissan eighth, 2.47 seconds back.
The top eleven cars were within 2.9 seconds of the class leader.
Multiple class champion Core Autosports was quickest in PC, followed by Bar1 and Performance Tech.
The brand-new Chevrolet Corvette C7.Rs were the fastest GTLMs, lapping at 1:45.005 and 1:45.792. The only other GTLM to break into the 1:45s was the Porsche North America 911 RSR, followed by the two SRT Vipers.
As always this class was incredibly tight, even though many teams were debuting new machinery. The top five were covered by eight-tenths of a second.
GTD was also hotly contested. Flying Lizard motorsports was quickest in its new car, the #45 Audi R8 LMS, trailed by only three-tenths by the #556 Level Five Ferrari, also a new car for the team. Two more Audis, the #22 Alex Job Racing R8 and the #48 Paul Miller Racing R8, were next quickest. (AJR ran an R8 at the 2013 Rolex 24, but the car was brand new to Paul Miller’s team.) Dempsey Racing’s #27 Porsche 911 GT America filled out the top five in GTD.
A lot depends on the Roar. IMSA, the sanctioning body which controls TUSCC, has to consider performance adjustments for the various cars; this is particularly important in the premier prototype class. With so many teams running new cars or old cars in new configurations, the series management will have a hard time determining which chassis really have performance edges and which are quicker because the teams have found the right set-ups. (The weather isn’t helping with that.)
So far TUSCC management has managed to get everybody pretty close. The three-day Roar Before the 24 should give series officials enough data to balance everything correctly so fans can see the most competitive racing at the Rolex 24 (Jan. 25–26, 2014.)
Tickets for the Roar Before the Rolex 24 are available at the Daytona international Speedway box office or through the track’s website, where 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona tickets are also on sale.
Tickets for the Roar Before the Rolex 24 (Jan. 3–5, 2014) and the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona (Jan. 25–26, 2014) are available online at the Daytona International Speedway website.