GrandAm: 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona

I watched a sizeable chunk of the Daytona 24 Hours live a couple of weeks ago. It was good fun, especially as the Blogathon was happening at the same time and I was also juggling Twitter and some live commenting.

Even though GrandAm is fairly alien to me I really enjoyed this race. I’ve been watching a few things over winter but recordings aren’t the same, and the Dakar Rally was great but it isn’t circuit racing. It really felt like a breath of fresh air. This race felt like the first hit of warmth and Vitamin D you get from the sun in early spring after a particularly long, dull, dreary, wet winter. You know in Daybreakers when the sun hits the guy’s face? A reawakening.

This was the first time I’d paid so much attention to the race, I’d tried to follow in past years but was thwarted by very low-quality streams (cars as blurs on the screen and a lot of buffering) which were eventually shut down anyway. This year I really want to make use of the Eurosport Player, watch the race legitimately – but no, Eurosport couldn’t even cover the start of the race and then missed almost all of Sunday. Give us a reason to watch, guys. The stream I found this year was quite good (relatively), and SPEED’s coverage was largely excellent. The commentary line-up was very good indeed.

Everybody expected the two Ganassi cars to dominate and despite falling a long way back due to various problems, they did just that, they dominated the others – and made use of GrandAm’s Safety Car rules in which a lap can be regained if played right – to eventually claim a 1-2 finish by the end of the event. It was a fantastic effort especially by Joey Hand. Juan Pablo Montoya’s efforts received mixed reactions, his speed and determination was lauded but his excuberent wheel-banging was rightly not.

The real reason my attention was held for so long was the performance of two crews new to the event. I’ve been a fan of the Flying Lizard team in ALMS/LM24 GT racing for many years so I was amazed to see them enter the top class of an event like this. Their professionalism wasn’t doubted but nobody seriously thought they’d get results in their first attempt outside of GTs, in very unfamiliar equipment against some worthy experienced opposition. Yet they secured the pole and went on to extend a definite lead in the early running. Trouble struck, yet once the car rejoined 19 laps down it was again the fastest in the field and often by some margin (including those dominant Ganassis). Very impressive stuff.

The other impressive team was United Autosports. They did have the help of GrandAm stalwarts Michael Shank Racing, but they still had to perform. It was fantastic to see Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell prove any doubters wrong and demonstrate their speed. F1 and CART experience apart they have both always been excellent endurance racers and so it was proven once more. I like United. I like their attitude and their approach and they have a big future.

GrandAm cars are faster than I gave them credit for, particularly the DPs, whether that’s because they were on the high banks of Daytona I don’t know. I can’t say I was into the GT race though, usually I am in multi-class races, they might want to look into that for the future.

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This post is part of a new series of race reviews. I’ve tried doing this before in a number of formats, all of which were quite long and ended up explaining what happened rather than giving my thoughts on the race. Unlike many bloggers I am not a reporter or a journalist and I never want to be. From now on I will be writing down my opinions in blog posts of ~500 words or less. Or maybe a little more, like this one.

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3 thoughts on “GrandAm: 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona

  1. The Rolex 24 is the only Grand Am race I ever watch, mostly because by January I’m really hungry to watch a race, and it’s a premier 24-hour race.

    Like you, the Grand Am series is a bit alien to me as well, and I would prefer it if ALMS could get their act together and put together a series with more prototypes. So I watched the Lizards closely, and they gave me something to root for. When they fell out of contention, my eyes fell off the race.

    Flying Lizard was impressive, especially in using a paint job that tricked me into thinking a Daytona Prototype was sexy. I’m not a fan of the guppies.

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  2. The whole ILMC/ALMS dynamic this year will change the ALMS and I don’t know that it’ll be positive – except for Sebring and Petit which ought to be the best editions yet!
    Ideally there wouldn’t be two top level North American sportscar series, with a preference towards ALMS for me with Daytona counting to ILMC and ALMS. Mind you, Audis and Peugeots around Daytona could be *scary* fast.
    But if there’s one thing this race taught me, its that I’m not as anti-GrandAm as I thought I was. I’m tempted to see if I can find coverage of the other races.
    If there’s enough of a difference between GA and ALMS they could both continue to survive.

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  3. I come from a traditional football and baseball background. I was never interduced to racing untill a couple of years ago. After going to back to back Rolex 24s. I will always find time off work to attend again and again. I have been to other racing events but have never had as much fun as going to Grand-Am races. The drivers are the nicest athletes you will meet. They go way out of there way to be there for the fans. The racing is more exiciting to me than NASCAR. Its more like real driving you wanna go fast but that minivan is going 30 mph less and their blocking the off ramp. You should go to any of the long endurance rances(especially the Rolex). You get so much emerged in the emotion and racing. Tv only shows so much, they never showed Franchiti being almost carried to his golf cart due a long time behind the wheel, cars running into the garage at 2am, or the amazing Fog that covered the race track at 4am as theycontinued to race. I hope Grand am and ALms both make it but I will be partial to Grand-am(Michael Shank did sign a mothers day card for my mom). See you at the 50th next year , I will be in geico lakes site 617 in the infeild , and lets go racing.

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