A Close End to the 2012 Rolex Daytona 24

What a brilliant result at the Rolex 24 at Daytona!

A popular win in Justin Wilson in his first professional race since his injury last season in IndyCar. I don’t follow Grand-Am racing but I heard on the coverage that Michael Shank Racing are popular winners in the paddock. Wilson and his teammates including NASCAR’s AJ Allmendinger and Grand-Am regulars Ozz Negri and John Pew put in solid drives all race long. Flawless.

They weren’t alone, the 2nd-placed car featuring sportscar legends Allan McNish and Lucas Luhr guesting alongside Ryan Dalziel, Alex Popow and Enzo Potolicchio racing for Starworks was equally as solid. It was a credit to everyone that they finished just five seconds behind the winners, a representative margin for such a close battle all race long. These two cars passed and repassed for hours and hours, outracing all of their competition.

The racing between McNish and Allmendinger was fantastic, save for a little bit too much wheel-banging. It was just as fraught as watching Allan vs the Peugeots at Le Mans. You can tell this mattered to him.

The fancied runners at the top Ganassi team fell by the wayside. Partly this was due to being slower on the fast banking, and partly through reliability. It was a real shame when the 01 car had a gearbox problem robbing us of a three-way fight for the lead in the final hour. Despite the problem they still made it home 6th, vital for the championship. You had to feel for the quick SunTrust team retiring after barely an hour. However I didn’t at all mind the favourites dropping back – it allowed the underdogs through!

Whilst I kept an eye on it I didn’t follow GT class as closely as I do at Le Mans or Sebring. It featured a lot of the same drivers and the racing was just as close, yet it didn’t grab me for some reason. I can’t explain why because it should’ve done. Perhaps it was the knowledge the cars were little faster than ALMS GTC or Porsche Supercup which are usually embarrassed by GT2/GTE cars. I was impressed by both Magnus and Brumos teams, especially Magnus because Brumos had led for so many hours. (TRG finished between them but I already knew their class.)

Resurgence

On the whole though I was impressed with the race and the organisation from Grand-Am. It’s a much-criticised series and I think they’ve done a lot to address those criticisms, with better-looking prototype cars and new cars coming into GT (even if the Audis made a complete mess of it).

It was great to see so many drivers and teams guesting in the race who normally race elsewhere. After a while of being demoted almost to national status, the Daytona 24 Hours is certainly regaining its rightful place on the world stage. Just witness the much-improved race coverage both within the US on SPEED and elsewhere from Radio Show Ltd (Radio Le Mans), MotorsTV, Eurosport and others. It was great to have the RLM crew live on site, it made the race so much easier to follow.

Will I follow any more Grand-Am races this season? Probably not, but I’m certainly more open to the idea than I was before so don’t be surprised if I do. It would help if they offered online streaming the way the ALMS does, because although both series have a European TV deal now, I don’t have MotorsTV.

Finally a thanks and a shout to the two places I spent the race aside from Twitter or my bed, and the race wouldn’t be the same without them:
Sidepodcast for the live commenting;
Grab Bag Sports for the 4th annual Blogathon & Mario Kart tourney;

Following the hors d’oeuvres of Dakar and Dubai, Daytona is a brilliant way to kick off the major international racing season.

The next live race is a month from now. A month!! That week you’ll have the pick of the Bathurst 12 Hours and the Daytona 500 and all its support races. In the meantime, you can enjoy Rally Sweden.

I’m off to rest my eyes.

How to Watch the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona

Time to get this season started with the first major circuit-racing event of the season. We’ve had off-road events such as Dakar and the Monte-Carlo Rally. All fine and good, but my main interest is in fast cars on racetracks. We’ve had the Dubai 24 but that’s not an easy event to try and follow and to be honest I gave up after a while.

Daytona is different. Because this race takes place in January there are a lot of famous names involved who might not usually race in the Grand-Am Rolex Series:

Allan McNish, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Paul Tracy, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, Giancarlo Fisichella, Ryan Briscoe .. the list goes on and on.

Add that to the quick teams and drivers who do race these cars regularly, like Scott Pruett, Darren Law and Max Angelelli and you’ve got a real competition on your hands.

Not to mention these guys: Brian Johnson of AC/DC is competing, as is the actor Patrick Dempsey. Neither are quick on a professional level but they can handle themselves very well at amateur/gentelman-driver level. Is that enough at this race? Probaby not, but let’s see. Johnson is actually racing in a car which only contains over-50s, but some of them are (or were) pros.

So how do you watch?

UK / Europe:

MotorsTV live on Sky/Virgin throughout, with Radio Show Ltd commentary (that’s Radio Le Mans).

Intermittant coverage on Eurosport or Eurosport 2, also on Sky/Virgin. It is programmed for E2 but if you know Eurosport you’ll know they like shuffling things around channels and not sticking to timetables – the perils of covering live sport. The great thing about them is the Eurosport Player which is absolutely flawless, and is also available as an iPad app at £2.99 for a month of viewing. I’ll watch using these services for as much as I can.

USA / Canada?:

SpeedTV for most of the race, and SpeedTV.com for the times when they don’t. It’s possible the SpeedTV.com feed will be available outside the US.

Worldwide:

Audio coverage from Radio Show Ltd (the people behind Radio Le Mans) live throughout on their website.

Useful Links

The race starts at 8.30pm GMT / 3.30pm local time Florida.

Series Website: Grand-Am.com
Entry List: HERE
Live timing: HERE
Spotter guide: HERE
My Twitter feed: HERE (I hope to pass on relevant info from tweeting teams, drivers etc)

In addition to Twitter I *insist* you join me at one or other or both of the following places:

Sidepodcast

A group of us will be hanging out chatting about the race at Sidepodcast’s awesome live-commenting service – do join us! Keep it clean and friendly and you’ll encounter knowledgeable fans, and not-so knowledgeable fans who are enthusiastic and willing to learn.

Grab Bag Sports Blogathon

For something like the 5th year now the GBS Blogathon will run alongside the Rolex 24. A group of motorsport bloggers*, largely from the IndyCar community but also elsewhere, come together at the Grab Bag Sports blog to write posts over the course of the race. They don’t have to be about the 24. They don’t even have to be about racing. Any sport is on the table if it happens between race start and end, for example several may dip out of the race to watch the Australian Open final. It’ll be fun!
* and Mike who is a co-blogger at GBS but doesn’t know anything about racing except that he likes the name of a team: Flying Lizard!

Enjoy!

Dakar 2012 – Stage 14

Stage 14

Pisco > Lima

Route

January 15th: The last stage of the 2012 Dakar! A bit of a liaison section before the 29km ride to the finish line, and then a podium ceremony (for all competitors) in Lima itself.

Magazine:

Etienne Lavigne, the man in charge.

Stage 14 Summary:

Videos by ASO.

Standings

Today – Bikes

1. Ullavalseter (KTM)
2. Coma (KTM) +1m08s
3. Svitko (KTM) +1m43s
4. Farres Guell (KTM) +2m01s
5. Botturi  (KTM) +2m11s

Overall – Bikes

1. Despres (KTM)
2. Coma (KTM) +53m20s
3. Rodrigues (Yamaha) +1h11m17s
4. Viladoms (KTM) +1h40m56s
5. Svitko (KTM) +1h47m28s
6. Ullevalseter (KTM) +2h11m56s
7. Farres Guell (KTM) +2h14m22s
8. Botturi (KTM) +2h59m04s
9. Pain (Yamaha) +3h17m50s
10. Zanol (KTM) +3h25m56s

It turned into a domination by KTM, yet the Yamahas and Husqvarnas were setting good stage times all the way through – reliablility seemed to let them down.

Overall – Quads

1. A. Patronelli (Yamaha)
2. M. Patronelli (Yamaha) +1h20m17s
3. Maffei (Yamaha) +2h14m21s
4. Casale (Yamaha) +6h09m23s
5. La Fuente (Yamaha) +8h19m06s

Not quite so close in this category as the Patronelli brothers have had it their own way for several stages, after Maffei hit trouble. What Yamaha may have lacked in bikes they made up for in quads!

Today – Cars

1. Gordon (Hummer)
2. Leal Dos Santos (MINI) +21s
3. Holowczyc (MINI) +38s
4. De Villiers (Toyota) +1m28s
5. Sousa (Great Wall) +1m36s

Overall – Cars

1. Peterhansel (MINI)
2. Roma (MINI) +41m56s
3. De Villiers (Toyota) +1h13m25s
4. Novitsky (MINI) 2h11m54s
5. Gordon (Hummer) +2h16m53s
6. Alvarez (Toyota) +4h05m52s
7. Sousa (Great Wall) +4h30m24s
8. Leal Dos Santos (MINI) +5h03m18s
9. Ten Brinke (Mitsubishi) +5h11m18s
10. Holowczyc (MINI) +6h59m38s

A fantastic effort from Peterhansel, in charge for much of the way and takes his 10th Dakar win! 6 of those on bikes. Roma is also a former bike winner and this is his best result in the cars, it comes after some under-the-radar solid stages in the first week. De Villiers put in a great effort in a brand new car conforming to next year’s rules (whatever they are).

Big gaps in the end, it just goes to show how difficult this year’s rally was right the way to the final stages. Sometimes the last few stages of a Dakar are fairly easy after the challenges in the middle.. not this time!
It is also a reflection of the lack of manufacturers entering at the moment, gone are the days of the works VWs and Mitsubishis fighting with several cars each. Privateer efforts are the order of the moment.

Overall – Trucks

1. De Rooy (Iveco)
2. Stacey (Iveco) +51m19s
3. Ardavichus (Kamaz) +1h47m45s
4. Karginov (Kamaz) +5h01m10s
5. Mardeev (Kamaz) +5h01m50s

Gerard de Rooy wins 25 years after his father Jan won the Dakar! Ex-WRC star Miki Biasion finishes 6th. 4th position is won by just 40 seconds.

In Closing

I hope you’ve enjoyed these updates and that they gave just a small flavour of the event. These videos are okay but they don’t do it justice, do seek out some of the 30 minute stage highights shows on YouTube – they are there. Alternatively you can always keep up with the official Dakar YouTube channel where they have uploaded everything I’ve posted here plus lots of extras including ‘Best of Bike‘ and ‘Best of Car’.

With every passing year I become more convinced that the Dakar should stay in South America, it seems a tougher challenge even than West Africa! Then the fan support is like nothing else, so many of them come out to watch.

Dakar 2012 – Stage 13

Stage 13

Nasca >Pisco

Route

January 14th: The penultimate stage and the last day with any real competitive mileage. With only a celebratory 29km tomorrow the rally effectively finishes with today’s stage. The 245km special stage opens with dunes almost immediately, with more of them to follow later on.

Magazine (2min):

I think they’ve uploaded this out of sequence, this is a profile of yesterday’s stage 12.

Perhaps with good reason this stage was profiled, it turned out a lot people had got stuck in the dunes. Nani Roma lost some time but it was nothing compared to some. Check this video at the 22m17s mark (spoiler warning – the video pops up early for me, at the point it shows the stage 13 leaderboard, if you’ve not watched the s13 video yet either skip ahead or wait until later). Unbelievable to see many stuck in one place, everyone likes a challenge but perhaps this was a little too far!

Stage 13 Summary:

A final stage of pushing hard… with some mistakes.

Standings

Today – Bikes

Coma was doing well early on and was leading, before making a major navigational error ending up 2km off course. Sadly he was also struck with a gearbox problem. He lost 13 minutes on the stage, and another 45 minutes with a penalty for a second engine change.

1. Rodrigues (Yamaha)
2. Despres (KTM) +47s
3. Viladoms (KTM) +3m00s
4. Barreda Bort (Husqvarna) +5m13s
5. Goncalves (Husqvarna) +5m46s

Overall – Bikes

1. Despres (KTM)
2. Coma (KTM) +56m03s
3. Rodrigues (Yamaha) +1h11m27s
4. Viladoms (KTM) +1h41m12s
5. Svitko (KTM) +1h49m36s

So a disappointing end to the bike rally especially as I’m a bit of a fan of Coma, he has a great attitude, but what a great fight to remember with a deserving winner, all the way from the start until today!

Today – Cars

Following his run-ins with the officials and his rivals protesting his vehicle, Gordon set out to dominate the MINIs today and for a while he succeeded – until his car rolled on to its side. It took half an hour to right it, which has basically cost him 4th overall.

1. Peterhansel (MINI)
2. De Villiers (Toyota) +8m29s
3. Novitsky (MINI) +12m55s
4. Sousa (Great Wall) +13m39s
5. Alvarez (Toyota) +14m57s

Great Wall get a top five! Roma lost 23 minutes after a stop. Gordon came in 10th, 36 minutes down.

Overall – Cars

1. Peterhansel (MINI)
2. Roma (MINI) +42m57s
3. De Villiers (Toyota) +1h15m09s
4. Novitsky (MINI) 2h12m56s
5. Gordon (Hummer) +2h20m05s

Novitsky takes Gordon for 4th.

These tables should represent the final classifications, give or take a minute or two.

Dakar 2012 – Stage 12

Stage 12

Arequipa > Nasca

Route

January 13th: ‘Robby Gordon likes Nasca‘ – Carlton Kirby, Eurosport. The rally reconverges as one after a long road section, before a special through the sand dunes. The stage had to start further along the course than planned due to flooding.

Magazine (2min):

Something comparing the rally raid MINI against a roadgoing version.

Stage 12 Summary:

Comeback kid.

Standings

Today – Bikes

1. Coma (KTM)
2. Barreda Bort (Husqvarna) +2m43s
3. Viladoms (KTM) +3m10s
4. Despres (KTM) +3m57s
5. Goncalves (Husqvarna) +5m25s

Overall – Bikes

1. Coma (KTM)
2. Despres (KTM) +1m35s
3. Rodrigues (Yamaha) +1h13m49s
4. Viladoms (KTM) +1h40m34s
5. Svitko (KTM) +1h41m45s

Coma takes the lead! With just a couple of stages to go this bike rally could still go either way. Viladoms retakes his 4th place back from Svitko.

Today – Cars

1. Gordon (Hummer)
2. Novitsky (MINI) +15m18s
3. De Villiers (Toyota) +22m06s
4. Ten Brinke (Mistubishi) +23m15s
5. Roma (MINI) +23m38s

Several of the MINIs got stuck in the sand for a while today. Peterhansel came home 7th at +26m27s. It was an impressive performance from Gordon to both miss the worst of the sand and also put in a fast drive, Novitsky didn’t get stuck but finished quarter of an hour behind.

Overall – Cars

1. Peterhansel (MINI)
2. Roma (MINI) +20m00s
3. De Villiers (Toyota) +1h06m40s
4. Gordon (Hummer) +1h44m04s
5. Novitsky (MINI) 2h00m01s

This rally is still Peterhansel’s to lose, but if he does the impressive Roma is waiting to take over. De Villiers is doing well in a first-year programme car. Gordon not only got inside the 2-hour mark again but took another quarter of an hour. He’s out of time though, there are only two stages left – only one ‘real’ one.

Dakar 2012 – Stage 11

Stage 11

Arica > Arequipa

Route

January 12th: The rally’s first ever day in Peru. Today is split into two stages separated by a road section, the quirk here is that the second section diverges with the bikes and quads doing extra mileage to their own bivouac, with no assistance vehicles allowed! The riders will have to rely on each other. The bikers were actually due to do more of their own stage mileage but were sent the car route after some dry river beds become a bit less dry.
The cars and trucks follow a similar route for much of the way before heading into the town of Arequipa for the night, where they’ll have access to the usual facilities.

Magazine (3min):

Cyril Despres tells us how to ride in the Dakar.. I can’t imagine doing that for 400km on dirt and sand.

Stage 11 Summary:

Navigational errors for the bikes, and problems too for Robby Gordon despite leading early on.

Standings

Today – Bikes

1. Despres (KTM)
2. Farres Guell (KTM) +1m39s
3. Coma (KTM) +2m01s
4. Aubert (KTM) +3m30s
5. Barreda Bort (Husqvarna) +4m53s

Overall – Bikes

1. Despres (KTM)
2. Coma (KTM) +2m22s
3. Rodrigues (Yamaha) +1h08m40s
4. Svitko (KTM) +1h34m56s
5. Viladoms (KTM) +1h39m46s

Rodrigues and Viladoms took an engine change penalty of 15 minutes. Svitko is up to 4th but is the only one of the top 12 not to have incurred a penalty so far.

Today – Cars

1. Peterhansel (MINI)
2. Roma (MINI) +3m44s
3. Leal Dos Santos (MINI) +8m56s
4. De Villiers (Toyota) +9m28s
5. Novitsky (MINI) +10m15s

Robby Gordon lost 1h50m40s with technical problems which he stopped to try and fix.

Overall – Cars

1. Peterhansel (MINI)
2. Roma (MINI) +22m49s
3. De Villiers (Toyota) +1h11m01s
4. Gordon (Hummer) +2h10m31s
5. Novitsky (MINI) 2h11m10s

Gordon’s loss promotes de Villiers to 3rd, but Robby was lucky not to drop further than 4th thanks to some big time gaps in the top five, but it goes to show that even with these gaps it is important to keep your vehicle running and get to the end. In 6th is Alvarez at +3h53m51s, these stages are really biting now.