Rebellion Remains on Top, Mazda Surges at 2017 Roar Before the Rolex 24

By Chris Jasurek, Epoch Times
January 7, 2017 7:07 pm Last Updated: January 7, 2017 9:02 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Rebellion Racing remains the fastest of the 55 cars entered at the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship 2017 Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

Rebellion Racing’s Neel Jani has led every one of the three dry sessions run on Friday and Saturday (Saturday morning’s session was run in the rain, and Rebellion opted not to risk their car.)

In Saturday’s afternoon session Jani lapped the 3.56-mile Daytona track in 1:39.017 at 129.4 mph, marginally quicker than his best efforts of prior sessions, despite the Swiss team’s LMP2 Oreca-Gibson being only fourth in top speed at 191.5 2 mph, behind the WTR Cadillac The #5 Mazda, and the quickest car and driver, 52 Andres Gutierrez in the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier-Gibson which hit 194.3 Friday afternoon.

Rebellion Racing’s domination went deeper: Rebellion driver Stephane Sarrazin scored third-fastest lap of the session, 1:39.315 at 129.0 mph.

Wayne Taylor Racing’s #10 Cadillac DPi VR was second in both Friday sessions and quickest in the rain Saturday morning, but barely made the top ten Saturday afternoon. The WTR entry was replaced by the #55 Mazda RT24-Z driven by Tristan Nunez who turned a lap of 1:39.157 at 129.2 mph. The 55 Mazda was also second fastest at 192.4 mph, fastest of the day but a still tick behind Jani’s time from Friday afternoon.

This was surprising as both Mazdas had been having mechanical and electrical troubles since the start of the three-day Roar test. Apparently the crews found some solutions; Joel Miller in the #70 Mazda managed fourth-fastest lap of the session.

The #81 Dragonspeed Oreca-Gibson filled out the top three with a lap of 1:39.315 at 129.0 mph. Three-times series champs Mustang Sampling with their #5 Cadillac was the quickest of the DPis, fifth with a lap of 1:39.791 at 128.4 mph.

Scott Dixon in the #67 Ford GT, led the four-car Ford-Ganassi team to a sweep of the GTLM class in session four of the 2017 Roar. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
Scott Dixon in the #67 Ford GT, led the four-car Ford-Ganassi team to a sweep of the GTLM class in session four of the 2017 Roar. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

Ford Sweeps GT Le Mans

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing came to the Roar loaded for bear, bringing a quartet of turbo-V6-powered Ford GTs, and it paid off in session four, where the team captured the top three spots in the GTLM class, and four of the top five.

Four-time IndyCar champ Scott Dixon led the Ford brigade with a lap of 1:44.558 at 122.5 mph in the #67. Two-tenths behind him came Stefan Mucke in the #68. Dirk Mueller in the #66 Ford GT was a further half-second back. Slowest, if it can be called such, was the lap of 1:45.485 at 121.4 mph turned in by Harry Tincknell in the #69.

The lone interloper was the Patrick Pilet in the #911 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR, who circled the track in 1:45.470 at 121.4 mph.

Ebimotors Tops GT Daytona

GT Daytona was the thickest filed at the Roar, with 27 entries, and also one of the most hotly contested.

New entry Ebimotors found success in session four when driver Emanuele Busnelli topped a roster which featured seven different manufacturers in the top ten spots. Busnelli pushed the team’s #46 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 around the track in 1:48.484 at 118.1 mph, ahead of Jeff Segal in the #86 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 and Reinhold Renger in the #59 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Nick Heidfeld takes a turn behind the wheel of the #13 Rebellion Oreca-Gibson, piercing a cloud of tire smoke during night practice at the 2017 Roar Before the Rolex 24. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
Nick Heidfeld takes a turn behind the wheel of the #13 Rebellion Oreca-Gibson, piercing a cloud of tire smoke during night practice at the 2017 Roar Before the Rolex 24. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

Night Practice

Neel Jani continued his unbeaten streak in the night session, wheeling the #13 Rebellion Oreca to yet another top time, this time beating out N[colas Lapierre in the #81 Dragonspeed Oreca by half a second. Tristan Nunez was again very quick in the #55 Mazda, finishing third, fifteen-hundredths behind Lapierre

Ford pulled another one-two-three sweep in GTLM, with Andy Priaulx in the #69, Olivier Pla in the #68, and Richard Westbrook in the #67 beating out the Corvettes of Tom Milner (#4) and Mike Rockenfeller (#3.)

Christopher Mies in the #29 Montaplast Audi R8 LMS GT3 was quickest in GTD, ahead of Jack Hawksworth in the #15 3GT Racing Lexus RCF GT3.

Andy Priaulx in the #69 Ford GT leads another 1–2–3 sweep in GTLM in Roar night practice. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
Andy Priaulx in the #69 Ford GT leads another 1–2–3 sweep in GTLM in Roar night practice. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

Roar Enters Final Day

There are only two sessions left. Racing begins at 9 a.m. Sunday morning with the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, followed by the WeatherTech cars from 10:20 until noon. CTSCC takes the track again after lunch, then the final WeatherTech session runs from 2:45–3:45 p.m.

Roar tickets can be purchased at the gate or online at the Daytona International Speedway website.

The 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona will run from 3 P.M. Saturday Jan, 28 through 3 P.M. Sunday the 29th. Tickets can be purchased online.