Watch: 2017 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona

The US is now firmly into a new era of sportscar racing.

Three complete seasons have now elapsed since the ‘merger’ between the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Series and at last the unified IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship has a new top class to call its own, rather than one with cars inherited from the old era.

Three weeks ago the 2017 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona saw the debut of the brand new LMP2 cars which we will also see in the World Endurance Championship (and European & Asian Le Mans Series). In addition and more interestingly, the new ‘Daytona Prototype international’ cars were seen and it is those that are most exciting. DPi takes the LMP2 as a base and adds in manufacturer support, including engines and bespoke bodywork.

Watch The Race

You can watch the 2017 edition of the race, complete with full IMSA Radio commentary, via the official IMSA YouTube channel below. All rights belong to their respective owners. These only appear embedded because that’s what WordPress does with YouTube links, no copyright infringement is intended.

Below the video are some of my thoughts.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Prototype

The Prototype class really was a combination of a traditional sportscar endurance race mixed with the excitement of recent Rolex 24 Hours! For most of the race the goal was just to get the car to the end. Few did. ‘New car blues’ hit a lot of teams, you never knew who would be next to fall. And yet, Daytona being Daytona, it still contrived to boil down to a fistfight right to the end!

The new DPi Cadillac cars held an advantage in both pace and reliability, but this was no surprise as they had tested far more than anyone else. But you never really knew how it would pan out, and when one of the seemingly indestructible cars, the Whelen Action Express entry, fell away late in the race, it felt as though any car could still win with the Riley P2 car and the Nissan DPi chasing just a lap or two behind. A multi-lap advantage is meaningless if the car breaks down.

As it turned out Cadillac took 1st and 2nd, but Nissan in particular and Mazda both look to have a lot of potential. Once everyone gets their stuff sorted out, it’ll be fantastic.

The WEC-spec LMP2s didn’t fare well. I thought they would do a lot better. Only one car had a near-flawless run, the largely unfancied Riley Multimatic entered by VisitFlorida (formerly Spirit of Daytona). It was only unfancied compared to the Liger and Oreca because the Riley carries higher downforce, it was ‘meant’ to be slower at Daytona and better at twisty tracks, yet proved itself remarkably well. The Ligier and ORECA examples really struggled but I am sure will be on-song by the time we hit the bulk of the season, both in the US and elsewhere.

Prototype Challenge is best left unmentioned, a single car running well while the others fell apart. One had mechanical problems to do with fuel feed. Others looked as though they just didn’t get on with the setups on the cars – whether these were enforced by the BoP or by the tyres or conditions I do not know, but they looked tough to drive. PC has never covered itself in glory at Daytona, or at many other places since roughly around the time they were made to change tyre supplier.. Coincidence?

GT

GTLM, the Le Mans GTE class, was again the highlight of the race as it so often is in the IMSA series. GT in IMSA is almost always better than the WEC equivalent both in strength and depth and again it was true here – a flat out war from start to finish! It also had a fistfight with a near-identical incident in turn 1 as in the P class.

It was no surprise to see Ford and Ferrari up front, but then the rain fell and brought Porsche into the picture, with Corvette playing their trick of the GT1 era of not necessarily being the fastest but always being there at the end.

It was clear from the ability of the GTLM cars in mixed conditions, pulling away from top Prototypes under acceleration before P’s repassed them with higher top end, that Michelins are still the best things to have in the wet.

That is not to underplay the huge GTD class (for GT3 cars) which twisted and turned all race long as different cars and drivers struggled with the cold, changeable conditions. Some teams managed this better than others. Continental laid down instructions which some followed successfully, others ignored them and then complained about it.

It was great to see Mercedes GT3s on the high banks and those new Acuras look stunning. The racing in GTD was really very good and with a big field. I hope it gets the attention it deserves this season.

Result

Class winners:

Prototype
#10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing – Cadillac DPi-V.R
Ricky Taylor / Jordan Taylor / Jeff Gordon / Max Angelelli

GTLM
#66 Ford Chip Ganassi – Ford GT
Joey Hand / Dirk Mueller / Sebastien Bourdais

GTD
#28 Alegra Motorsports – Porsche 911 GT3 R
Daniel Morad / Michael Christensen / Jesse Lazarre / Carlos de Quesada / Michael de Quesada

PC
#38 Performance Tech Motorsports – Oreca FLM09
James French / Patricio O’Ward / Kyle Masson / Nicholas Boulle

Next Race

The next IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship race is the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, on Saturday 18th March 2017.

The race is half as long but the bumps are bone-shaking and really test a car and driver, how will the new Prototypes hold up there?

Tooned – Episode 1: Wheel Nuts

This is a brilliant idea. If you are a team with a reputation as being staid, distant, corporate and boring, what do you do to change that external perception and let people know what thteam is really like? There’s little better than starting a cartoon!

These great little shorts are from a new division called McLaren Animation, a partnership with Framestore who I’d honestly never heard of before. They sound like one of those companies who do work you’d recognise but is branded by someone else for their promo so you never really know it is them.

Over the last couple of years we’ve learned of the dynamic between Jenson and Lewis in other videos over the last couple of years, it’s good to see the team get a bit of love too.

Here is the first episode which debuted during the British GP weekend two weeks ago:

[ McLaren Animation / Vodafone McLaren Mercedes (McLaren Racing) ]

This isn’t just a great idea, it is also well-executed. It shows the humour of the team whilst also being sponsor friendly (perhaps still a little too clean and corporate – every team ‘partner’ is clearly on show) and perhaps most importantly it gets across the message that McLaren is a high tech company… even if some of the gadgets are a bit ‘out there’!

Secondly, a quick word for the Lotus F1 Team. Keep an eye on their Twitter account (@Lotus_F1Team) during races, as for some weeks now they’ve been tweeting live drawings produced as the race progresses! Here is an example posted on lap 33 during Sunday’s German GP. Theirs is also one of the most active and funny accounts among all the F1 teams so do give them a follow.

[I’ve not been contacted by anyone from either team so this isn’t a promo piece, I just thought they were cool ideas worth sharing]

On The Limit: Porsche World Cup Nordschleife Onboard

You are going to want to watch this. This takes serious skill, or balls, or maybe it is just plain stupidity I don’t know! I have no idea how these drivers do it. He can’t even see at times!

Event: Porsche World Cup
Venue: Nürburgring Nordschleife
Driver: Sean Edwards
Team: Team Abu Dhabi by tolimit
Car: Porsche 997 GT3 Cup (no ABS)
Conditions: Very very wet!

As a prelude to last week’s Nürburgring 24 Hours held on the daunting Nordschleife, Porsche brought together several of its one-make series into one six-lap World Cup event. This included the Porsche Supercup (which normally supports F1 in Europe) and national Carrera Cup championships from Germany, Britain, France, Italy and maybe more.

Supercup and Carrera Cup Germany driver Sean Edwards entered the race and his Team Abu Dhabi by tolimit team fitted an onboard camera. Here are some highlights including the start and opening lap on the GP loop and a part of the long track, before a full lap on the Nordschleife itself.

This is why I am not a racing driver, or if I was I could never race something as powerful as a GT car, I would’ve been killed several times over! The reactions and car control are just astonishing.

Thanks to @habibif1 for the tip via Twitter and to Sean Edwards for uploading the video to YouTube. I’ve not arranged this with Edwards or tolimit, but it is available under a standard YouTube Licence which allows sharing.

The Killer Years

I urge any fan of any branch of motorsport to watch this programme.

It will not be an easy watch, although it may be easier if you are accustomed to watching war documentaries with the detachment that brings.

It tells the story of Grand Prix racing, and racing generally, in the 1960s and 1970s and the attitudes that persisted at the time. It tells of the battle fought by Jackie Stewart and others to change the attitudes by all means necessary. The shock after Clark. And it shows the courage and bravery of these drivers to continue what they were doing as their peers were being killed off.

As Stewart says, “it was like the circuit owners were holding a pistol to our heads”.

It also tells of the immense bravery of David Purley and the stupidity and futility of those who either couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything to help Roger Williamson, and so many others through the years.

On a different note, aside from the valuable history lesson, it is also worth watching for the other period footage (most of which I had never seen before) and the contemporary interviews with ‘names’ from the time and notable racing historians such as David Tremayne.

If you are in the UK you can watch on the BBC iPlayer before Sunday by using this link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00z8v18/Grand_Prix_The_Killer_Years/

If you are outside the UK or are reading this after Sunday, you can find the programme on YouTube in 4 chunks of 15 minutes: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. I urge UK residents to please use the BBC video above – it registers a viewing with the BBC and will encourage them to air more motorsport documentaries.

Like any documentary it may have a few faults, things it misses for brevity.. but it is still worth a watch.

Do watch it.