Update: 2019 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona

Well that was eventful!

The first four hours were so intense I needed to take a break for a bit. Completely unlike last year’s relatively quiet race, this year incidents happened thick and fast. Whether it was close, tight racing or incidents of minor contact delaying cars or sending them into spins. Thankfully nothing major in the early stages and the race was able to stay green flag for much of the time. It settled into a rhythm after that.

The evening and overnight racing was fantastic. The top DPi cars were passing and repassing. Alonso (Cadillac) passing Castroneves (Acura) about 8 hours in was a particular highlight. The GT classes were having their usual fights. Even the sparse LMP2 was eventful.

At one stage quite deep into the race was a train of 7 DPi cars running 4 seconds apart, all for position, with Alonso taking over 7th. After a yellow he restarted 5th and in the next half hour raced his way to the class lead against the likes of Helio Castroneves (Acura), Rene Rast (Mazda) and Alexander Rossi (Acura).

Nick Tandy (Porsche) was similarly impressive in GTLM. He overtook Oliver Gavin (Corvette) and James Calado (Ferrari) in quick succession.

GTD is always hard to follow because there are so many cars and so many position changes, either by on track passes or by pit strategy. The purple 33 Mercedes was up front quite a lot, so was the green Grasser Lamborghini.

Sadly the quick Mazda DPis expired, as I said in my preview I feared they might. I had hoped to be wrong. The pole-sitting 77 car of Oliver Jarvis had an engine problem originally reported has a turbo failure, not sure if that’s the final diagnosis. This was about 2 laps after the sister 55 car went to the pits with electrical gremlins which cost 15 minutes or more. Then while I was sleeping the 55 had some other problem which caused it to retire.

I had a sleep break from around 4am UK time, about 16 hours to go. I’d been trying to go earlier but so much was happening and I’d eaten a lot of Haribo, that sugar rush kept me up! I wound up sleeping an hour longer than planned, but on rejoining at 9:30am UK the rain had started falling at the track. Still dark over in Florida of course where it was 4:30am.

And rain would be the story from here. When the rain started it mixed things up but didn’t cause many problems that I saw, everyone got across to the wet tyres and they were all cautious in the conditions, We continued to see great racing in every class.

In the wet, Fernando Alonso was 2 or 3 seconds per lap faster than anybody else in class! Absolutely remarkable performance.

Jordan Taylor got into the no.10 and picked up where Alonso left off earlier. He again was several seconds per lap faster than the competition. This proved to me firstly that Jordan continues to be an under-rated driver and secondly that it wasn’t an accident. It looked like drivers and team had deliberately dialled it in well for the wet. Kobayashi overnight put up a real stout defence against Juan Pablo Montoya of all people! Even had Juan on the apron in avoidance. Somehow I missed most of Renger van der Zande’s driving but he’s perfectly at home in this company. There’s no doubt the driving crew of the no.10 had the edge in this race.

Not to say the other teams weren’t on it, because they were, but the no.10 met everything head on. The Mazdas were quicker when they ran, the Penske Acuras were up there all race, but the Taylor car seemed able to drive away in damp conditions, even from the other Cadillacs.

Once the rain started it never really let up. That lead to more Safety Car periods and red flags.

Tommy Milner suffered a terrifying aquaplaning spin into the tyre wall at turn 1. He was cleared OK but the response crews weren’t with him for at least 5 minutes while the race director let the pit sequence play itself out. I get the sporting imperative and usually agree with it, but Milner’s hit was pretty hard and I’d have liked to have seen someone there considerably more quickly.

The rain intensified so we stayed yellow for an hour, which turned into a red flag which in turn lasted 1 hour 45 minutes.

We got a restart which lasted half a lap, at the back of the field cars went spinning into the tri-oval and turn 1. At this point Twitter erupted. Half the people wanted it stopped, half the people considered it a test.

For as long as it was wet-but-driveable, I was in the latter camp. Racing in the rain is an under-rated skill in modern racing where the emphasis is to mash the gas at all times. Endurance racing is just that, a test of endurance, backing off when necessary to get the car home. But the line is thin when rain intensifies. It quickly flips into dangerous territory.

The moment it became clear drivers were aquaplaning into spins at low speed, after allowing plenty of room for braking and a gap to the car ahead, it was unsafe to continue and the race should be stopped. Arguably they left it a little too long but they made the right call in the end.

Still, for a time it looked raceable and it looked like some guys did a ‘Spa ’98’, kept their right foot in as they entered a wall of spray. I think in an endurance race perhaps it is prudent, if you are at the back at the restart, to lift off the right foot? Maybe that’s just me.

The ensuing Safety Car period lasted 1 hour 45 minutes or so because during the yellow the rain had intensified again, the track was getting deep puddles on the racing line and the grass was saturated. It was obviously not in a condition to race. And I thought that would be it.

Yet at nearly 4pm UK time we were green again, but again only for a lap or so. Cars were aquaplaning across turn 1 if they got even slightly off line. Personally again they could’ve backed off, but the rain was harder now and the track was waterlogged, so the margin was much more difficult to judge than it was earlier.

40 minutes later at another restart Toni Vilander piles into the back of a Porsche he couldn’t see. Again, would you drive into a wall of spray? Did he have a choice? Maybe he didn’t, maybe someone would’ve driven into the back of him if he had slowed earlier. After all, the Porsche had backed off because another car was slowing ahead.

And it was sketchy. Drivers in all classes were spinning out when they hit puddles that were deeper than the lap before, because they couldn’t see them through the spray. And that was going too far, trying to restart in those conditions, the track was getting worse all the time.

I do appreciate the series and the track crews kept trying, they never gave up, but it was too heavy.

So with barely 3 green flag laps in some 5 hours, I did feel like I was robbed of a great run to the flag. Not the fault of the series or the drivers just a consequence of the weather. It happens.

And what of my picks to win?

DPi:
Winner:  No.10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Cadillac – Fernando Alonso, Kamui Kobayashi, Jordan Taylor, Renger van der Zande.
My Pick:  No.7 Acura Team Penske – Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, Alexander Rossi.
Finished 3rd.

Incredible race from the start and right through the night. After some 8 hours the top 7 cars were still just 5 seconds apart, okay after a yellow, but still impressive after long green flag running not to have gaps of laps. Shame to see the quick Mazdas go. The Nissan caught up a bit and was fast with Duval and Dumas aboard, but I still think Bennett should stand down from driving.
Rubens Barrichello was a star for JDC-Miller. The team still new to the Cadillac and generally a little off the pace, Rubens in the wet was a master just as he always was.

LMP2:
Winner:  No.18 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 Gibson – Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Saavedra, Ryan Cullen, Roberto Gonzalez.
My Pick:  Won!

Class was close in the first half of the race but imploded in the rain. No.18 closed down an 4 lap deficit when the sister DragonSpeed car crashed, to then hold a 4 lap lead over Performance Tech. Then 18 was crashed with a lap to go in seriously heavy rain and limped to the pits at the last red flag.

GTLM:
Winner:  No.25 Rahal LL BMW M8 GTE – Colton Herta, Ausgusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi, Philipp Eng.
My Pick:  No.67 Ganassi Ford GT – Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon.
Finished 4th after falling to the back early on, recovered all the lost laps to lead until they pitted under yellow, 2 laps before the final red flag. Eventful.

A fortuitous win for BMW, but a heartening one after the death of Schnitzer’s Charly Lamm on Thursday. Excellent overnight performances from Nick Tandy (Porsche) and James Calado (Risi Ferrari) left me assuming one of those would win.

And the fantastic Alex Zanardi. What a legend. Their car was delayed by some 20 laps but they never gave up.

GTD:
Winner:  No.11 GRT Grasser Lamborghini Huracan – Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart, Rik Breukers, Rolf Ineichen.
My Pick:  No.48 Paul Miller Lamborghini Huracan – Bryan Sellers, Corey Lewis, Ryan Hardwick, Andrea Calderelli.
Finished 17th, 70 laps down to the class leader, after being involved in a startline accident in heavy spray along with at least three other cars. Also sent to the back at the start of the race for not getting enough night laps for one driver.

Another slightly fortunate win. The 33 Riley Mercedes of Bleekemolen etc. was in control much of the race and was leading until a pitstop late on. They were caught out when IMSA announced the race was going green, so they pitted for strategy, then half a lap later the series threw the first red flag. 7th wasn’t representative.

That’s not to say GRT Grasser are undeserving – they were Riley’s main rival all race long. They battled back from early delays. It was a very good job from them and they earned it. It’s very possible GRT could’ve beaten Riley on pace if the race had stayed dry.

Good performances in the field included the AIM Vasser Lexus (3rd), the Audis slow on the straights in the dry but with extra downforce quickly regained ground in the wet, the Shank Acura cars including the all-female drivers who were one of many cars to fall back due to accident damage suffered in heavy rain but before that were solidly inside the top 10 in a class of 23 cars.

EDIT:  4 days after the race the 2nd-placed Land Motorsport Audi was demoted to the back with a drive time infringement of just 15 minutes, which seems draconian to me. This promotes one of the Lexusususus to 2nd.

Next

Like last year the rest of the IMSA season will be well worth watching. It is surprising to me how many general motorsports fans don’t watch it, especially outside the US when it has free streaming. Do give it a chance.

Coming up next is another iconic event, the 12 Hours of Sebring on Saturday March 16th.

Interestingly, for the first time the FIA WEC will run a 1000 mile or 8 hour race on the Friday night. It’ll be fascinating to find out how logistically this will work – and who will “do the double”!

Preview: 2019 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona

Excited for this race? I am!

The 2018 race was the fastest in history, a new distance record by some considerable margin, helped in no small part by having very few safety car periods. Not even very many local yellows.

2019 will be even faster. The entire field has switched to Michelins. Prototypes and GTD have seen laptimes speed up, traction and braking have improved, drive-ability too. Drivers report being able to turn and brake at the same time, on the Continentals they had to do one then the other. GTLM were always on Michelin but now don’t have to interact with a rival brand, so they too are faster than before.

And most importantly the DPi class has been unleashed. Shackled as they were with a Balance of Performance tying them to the speed of the LMP2 cars. This has now been removed. I expect the distance record to fall once again even if we see a little more yellow this year.

The Cadillacs, Acuras, Mazdas and Nissans can now push at full gas.

GTLM is a bunfight, it has been for a decade plus, we always know this.

GTD is probably even more so. 26 cars. Probably 5 can win the race in a straight fight, make it 10 when you factor in tactical nous and race knowledge, make it 15 vying for a podium. Even “lesser” quality teams can only be described as such in relative terms because the depth of quality has increased throughout the entry list.

Watch

USA:  NBCSN and the NBC App.

Elsewhere:  www.imsa.tv   live web stream with IMSA Radio commentary

IMSA App – check your app store

IMSA Radio audio channel available to everybody, globally, free with no blocks.

Andy Blackmore’s Spotter Guides – spot the cars and liveries

Live timing:
Official
AlKamel
71wytham
livescoring.us

Follow me on Twitter:  @toomuchracing

Race hashtags:  #rolex24, #imsa, #imsa50 for the 50th anniversary.

The Field

This is the 50th year of IMSA competition so many teams are running throwback liveries.

This year there are 4 classes.

DPi:  Daytona Prototype international

The top class features first class teams and drivers running engines from different manufacturers in modified LMP2 chassis.

Nissan: The cars bought by CORE Autosport, a top, quick team (who also run the GTLM Porsches). But they’re only running one of them and are still learning it. Once Jon Bennett’s stints are over expect Braun, Dumas and Duval to be competitive, especially if they can make up time under any yellows. Running a 1980s GTP throwback livery which looks great on this car.

Cadillac:  The once-dominant Cadillacs seem a smidge off the pace. Not a lot, they’ll be on the podium for sure, but it could be enough to cost a win. Or are they playing the safe game aiming to just keep running? There is a lot new among other teams while both Action Express cars and the Taylor car have familiarity.

The no.10 Taylor car has Kamui Kobayashi and that man Fernando Alonso. That could be a distraction, but if not, could be a contender.

I expect the no.5 and no.31 of AXR to lead the Caddy charge. News early Friday that Mike Conway didn’t get his visa through in time to race the no.5 is a complication but thankfully they already had 3 other drivers listed so it shouldn’t pose a problem.

Cadillac are supporting two new customer teams which may be distracting:  JDC-Miller moved up from LMP2 with two cars and very decent line-up including Rubens Barrichello, Stephen Simpson, Simon Trummer and Tristan Vautier.
The other is Juncos Racing, who moved up to IndyCar from Indy Lights just a year ago. Good team but I have feeling they may be biting off a little much at once.

Mazda:  They’ve come far since Joest took over. They set the pace throughout testing and set a new all-time lap record in qualifying. They have the one-lap pace and with Jarvis, Nunez, Bernhard and Rast in one car and Bomarito, Pla and Tincknell in the other it’ll always be fast when it runs. But these cars have had all sorts of problems over the years, what might befall them this time?

Acura:  The Penske Acuras. Starting 2nd and 3rd and running well in last year’s race as well as most of last season, this is my pick for the race win. I just can’t decide which car! Montoya and Cameron are joined by Pagenaud, this car would be my pick if Montoya can help himself and he seems a bit calmer these days. I’m just not sure.
Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor, along with standout Alexander Rossi, could be the pick for the race.

Pick:  7 Acura Team Penske – Castroneves / R.Taylor / Rossi.

LMP2:  Le Mans Prototype 2

Identical cars to those raced in LMP2 at Le Mans, in the World Endurance Championship and in the European Le Mans Series. Pro/Am class. Only 4 cars are entered and they are all the ORECA 07 Gibson.

IMSA stalwarts no.38 Performance Tech and no.52 PR1-Mathiason are full-season entrants. Both have solid line-ups. The 38 has Kyle Masson. The 52 has Matt McMurry, Gabriel Aubry and Enzo Guibbert, at least for Daytona.

But my pick has to be DragonSpeed. Long-time LMP2 entrant bring both their WEC car, no.18 in red with Mexican tricolor touches, Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Saavedra, Roberto Gonzalez. And their ELMS car, no.81 now in black but still with the Evel Knievel stars, with Ben Hanley, Nico Lapierre, James Allen, but much depends on Henrik Hedman.

Pick:  18 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 Gibson – Maldonado / Saavedra / Gonzalez / Cullen.

GTLM: GT Le Mans

Identical specs to the GTE cars that race at Le Mans and in the WEC and ELMS.

How do you pick from this bunch? Just 9 cars yet every team is world class, every driver is top drawer, no seat-filler here.

BMW:  The year-old M8 GTE isn’t quite up to speed yet. They keep blaming BoP in IMSA and in WEC but I’m not sure, I think it’s hard to balance it against what seem to be inherently faster cars.

BMW have the story of the race:  Alex Zanardi racing with hand controls alone. He used to his his prosthetic to brake but this is fully hand-controlled. Remarkably his driver-changes seem faster than anyone else’s! Keep watching the 24 BMW.

Ferrari:  The no.62 Risi car should be right up there and features a WEC driving crew of Ferrari factory-affiliated drivers.

Corvette:  The two C7.Rs are remarkably the oldest in the field despite looking brand new. The replacement C8.R is apparently mid-engined. Heresy! So enjoy the front-engined V8 glory while you can. It is still a quick car, of course, and should be right in the mix throughout. The team likes a steady approach yet just the other year they let the 3 and 4 race to a near photo-finish for the class win. Racers. Fan favourites for a reason.

Porsche:  The loudest cars! Amazing sound. And fast after a couple of years development. They start on pole and I have at least one car on the podium if not two. Running a Brumos-style throwback livery.

Ford:  I can’t overlook the GT. I think something will need to happen for them to not win. But I do think the race will be closer this year. Running Castrol and Motorcraft throwback liveries which are vastly better than the blue and red of before. Love that Castrol car so I’m picking it, but also because it has Scott Dixon in it.

Pick:  no.67 Ford Chip Ganassi Ford GT – Briscoe / Westbrook / Dixon

GTD:  GT Daytona

GT3 cars identical to those at the Spa 24 Hours and countless other races globally. Pro/Am class. At 26 cars this is the biggest class by far, so I can’t mention every car and still make this a one-piece all-class preview.

Don’t be fooled into ignoring the class at the back. This is going to be mega.

BMW:  The lone Turner Motorsport car may struggle even with Bill Auberlen and Jens Klingmann. Like the M8, the M6 GT3 doesn’t seem to ever have the legs at Daytona.

Audi:  I think all the Audi teams are running a new Evo-spec on the R8 GT3 but there must be a reason the best only qualified 15th. The benchmark of the four-rings is the no.29 Montaplast by Land car of Morad/Mies/D.Vanthoor/Feller.

Lexus:  AIM Vasser Sullivan bought the RC-Fs and painted them luminous yellow, gone are the metallic blues and reds. Not sure how fast they’ll be but you won’t miss them.

Ferrari:  Hard to place the three 488s in the field. I’d say the Scuderia Corsa no.63 Weathertech car ought to have the edge, particularly when Toni Vilander is aboard. The no.51 Spirit of Race (AF Corse) entry has the experienced Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda combo who are often competitive but has been known to hit trouble, I think the level of competition may be too high for them this year though.
And the Brazilian-coloured Via Italia car scored pole, I’m not sure anyone would’ve predicted it, could they be the dark horse of the race?

Porsche:  Again not sure where to put the 911s. I like the no.73 Park Place with Pat Long and Matt Campbell, could be the fastest Porsche.
The no.540 Black Swan car ought to be right in contention as well and you’ve got to respect a team that’ll also be at Bathurst 12 Hour next week.
Some good names in the no.99 too.
And there’s a car racing in plaid/tartan. Bonus points for you.

Mercedes:  The no.33 Team Riley AMG runs a great throwback purple Wynn’s livery. Top team, top drivers (Bleekemolen/Keating/Stolz), car qualified 2nd. Could be a good shout.
The no.71 P1 car has Maxi Buhk but I’m not sure the full rotation will keep up with the 33 or the other top cars, mainly because of my lack of knowledge.

Acura:  The two MSR cars look split between the fan favourite and the quicker car.

The no.86 is a race contender. Farnbacher/Hindman/Marks/Allmendinger is as good as you’ll get in this class and the team has developed this car well.

The no.71 Caterpillar car is the all-female driving crew with no makeweights. Legge/Figuerido/de Silvestro/Nielsen is another top line-up, Nielsen a multiple GTD class title winner and Legge a title contender last year, but the times haven’t necessarily been on par with the 86. Bia Figuerido a.k.a Ana Beatriz has the least experience in GT racing and could be the weak link. Simona de Silvestro is another adapting though has the benefit of Supercars experience. Everyone’s willing this effort along. Possible top 5.

Lamborghini:  The fastest car last year and with a new Evo spec it should retain that honour, however there is talk the Evo has better handling at the expense of more drag which will hurt on the banking and long straights here. Five Huracans in this race.

The now-blue no.48 Paul Miller team won the championship last year.  The bright green no.11 GRT Grasser, a team racing all over the world with these cars, is always quick. I expect these two to battle for the win all race long.
You can never count out no.44 Magnus but they’re learning this car and that may cost the final 2%-3% you need.
Ebimotors race in ELMS with a Porsche. Fun fact: they’ve brought a driver called Taylor Proto, shouldn’t he be in the no.10 DPi?

I think the win will be down to:
48 Miller Lambo
11 GRT Grasser Lambo
86 MSR Acura
29 Montaplast Land Audi
33 Mercedes
maybe 63 Ferrari

Add another 5 or 6 with a shot at a podium result. This is going to be one fraught race. You want to pay attention to GTD even when the broadcast doesn’t.

Pick:  48 Paul Miller Lamborghini – Bryan Sellers / Ryan Hardwick / Corey Lewis / Andrea Caldarelli. But I’ll probably change my mind about six times before the race starts.

How To Watch A 24 Hour Race (From Home)

It is easy to write a preview for the next big race, but actual journalists already do that.

I thought instead I would write a guide for how to watch a 24 hour endurance race, such as Le Mans or Daytona or Spa, if you are watching from home. You can adapt this strategy for 12 or 10 hour races like Sebring or Petit Le Mans.

Background

Search for the website of the championship or event to find an Entry List, see if you can spot any drivers and teams you’ve heard about. This is your ‘in’, your way in to understanding the race.

Check www.spotterguides.com to see if Andy Blackmore has drawn up the liveries for this race so you can spot the cars – and cross them off in marker pen when they retire.

Have a look at some sports car news sites such as Racer.com, DailySportscar.com and Sportscar365.com, so you can see what’s been going on.

Timing

Live timing helps a lot. TV graphics are okay, but they never show what you want when you want it.

Live timing shows last lap time for each car and the gaps to the cars – so you can see who is gaining on the cars ahead and who is losing time. It shows the number of pit stops made, so you can work out strategy.  It also shows the number of laps done by each car – in this type of racing the gaps can run to multiple laps. If a car falls behind you need to be able to see if it gets a lap back.

When you learn how to read it you almost don’t even need the TV pictures, you can understand and enjoy it from the data feed alone – or data feed and radio coverage.

Commentary

It is important to find a commentary team providing detail to the level needed, without making it dry. The gold standard is RadioLeMans.com and IMSA Radio. Check to see whether these guys & girls are covering the race you’re watching. They do Le Mans, WEC, IMSA and more.

Countless people watch whatever TV or streaming is provided, put it on mute, and listen to RLM instead.

The Eurosport commentary at Le Mans can be good too, depending what shift it is.

Set up

You could just flick on the TV if you like, dipping in and out, which is great if you just want to chill out watching some cool cars racing. And this is a great way to get a taste for this style of racing and just start absorbing who is who without pressure. But you won’t necessarily understand what’s going on with strategy.

A lot of people have at least two screens – which is fairly standard for most motorsport now anyway: many of us tweet during a race for example, and follow live timing. [I usually do both from one PC]

Many more dedicated endurance fans have three or four or more screens. These are showing dedicated onboard videos from their favourite cars. Some might have one tablet/laptop for timing, another for social media, another for omboard, another with a different onboard.

Many fans then have tablets or laptops dedicated to running streams of onboard cameras, which are frequently provided free of charge or as part of a paid streaming service. This is an absolute luxury, though you do see some great car control and some incidents the main broadcast could never catch.

I found this to be overwhelming so I streamlined to this:
Main TV coverage with Radio Le Mans talking (or IMSA Radio);
PC with timing & social media;
Maybe a smaller device with one onboard;

Social media is important, too. I don’t mean just sitting there tweeting from your own account. Look up the championship account, look up your favourite team and driver accounts. Find other fans. Information comes through very quickly, faster than the broadcasts.

Your Focus

Some say sports car racing is boring. At first it looks like cars going round and round, hour after hour. And on the face of it, it is!

Then you think about it. At Le Mans you have 60 cars, 3 per car makes 180 drivers. At Daytona some cars have 5 drivers. At Nurburgring there are 150 cars on a 14 mile track. Add in those team bosses and engineers who have become well-known. Different combinations of teams, chassis, engines and tyres. Different classes of car in each race. Each class with a different rule set,  which may differ between championships.

Every one of those people has a story to tell, every team has a history. It is totally overwhelming. It takes years to learn who they are. It is not possible to follow all of it in real time. [Unless you are Paul Truswell.] The nature of this racing means information doesn’t come to light for half an hour or an hour. Or lots of things happen at once.

To manage this, break it into chunks. Just pick your favourites in each class. And pick the likely winners in each class. Or those whose stories you like. Focus on following those on the screens and on the live timing. Everything else will flow from there. You’ll pick up everything else you need to know as you go along.

Often you get close racing, often there are long periods where are you waiting for it to play out. A strategy call might be made at 6pm, you may not see the payoff until 11pm, when all of a sudden that 6pm decision to triple-stint every driver puts a car into the lead. Be patient, but also pay attention.

Your Fuel Strategy

Eat small, eat regularly.

A great tip is to eat small, eat often. Do stick to your meal times but make it a moderate or small meal. Don’t have a great big meal, it’ll just make you sleepy. It can be fun to gorge on a Chinese takeaway or a big pizza just as you would on a film night, but if you plan to follow the race all night long – or have just a small sleep to resume in the early hours- this is the worst thing to do. Over-eating means you sleep for hours.

Get a supply of snacks. Nuts, fruit, chocolate. Mix it up. First it keeps your energy up, second it gets you up and walking around to the kitchen and back, and third it gives you a break from the screen and the concentration.

And fruit is the best. No, seriously. A banana every few hours, or some grapes by your side, or even strawberries and raspberries with ice cream. You can try all the energy drinks and coffee and chocolate in the world – and I recommend having some – but nothing works better for me than the natural properties of fruit for a pick-me-up. Again don’t rely on it, it’s racing, have a bag of M&Ms too!

Okay this is a tough one. Especially if you are like me and drink several cups of tea or coffee every day in the 9-to-5 at the office. Don’t have too much caffeine. Whether it is tea or energy drinks, just have one every few hours. All of these things work best when you don’t build a resistance to them by having them all the time. If your body is used to a lower level, when you do have one, you get a bigger kick.

Instead, have plenty of bottled water nearby. It really does help. Use the caffeine drinks to give you a kick when you start to flag. But not with less than an hour to go, after all, you want to be able to sleep after the race.

Conclusion

  • Eat small.
  • Get your tools – live timing, video streams, commentary, social media.
  • Pick your faves and follow them, disregard others.

I hope these tips help your experience with endurance racing and that you become a long-time fan!

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!