During the Baltimore ALMS race weekend in 2012, rumors began to surface of a merger. Eighteen months later, it's here, and the American sports car world finally unites for it's grandest event of all. Get to know every facet of this historic event with this megaguide.
Sports Car Racing At Daytona - A History
Section by DannyCatSteve
The first sports car event held at Daytona was in 1959, sanctioned by USAC and the FIA, and was won by Antonio Von Dory and Robert Mieres in a Porsche. Three years later, a 3-hour event known as the "Daytona Continental" was run as part of the FIA's International Championship for GT Manufacturers. After two more years, the distance was changed to 2,000 kilometers, and finally in 1966, it was extended to become the twice-around-the-clock classic we know today.
The early years bared witness to the classic sports car rivalries of the era; Porsche, Ford, and Ferrari, all fighting for victory. A GT40 piloted by Lloyd Ruby won the first 24 hour race, and in the years that followed the event became one of the main battle grounds between Porsche and Ferrari. Ferrari claimed a famous 1-2-3 form finish victory in the 1967 running, and Porsche duplicated the feat a year later.
1973 was the first victory by arguably the race's biggest name. Hurley Haywood won the race four- times in the 1970s, and would win a fifth crown in the 1991 running. Between 1982 and 1997, the 24 hours of Daytona was run exclusively as part of the IMSA GT championship. In this era, famous IndyCar stars such as the Unsers, Andrettis, and A.J. Foyt stood on the top step of the podium; a plethora of international stars such as Brundle, Bell, and Boutsen also achieved glory.
Following the dissolve of IMSA GT, the U.S. Road Racing Championship (the predecessor to Grand-Am) began sanctioning the race. In the new century, it competed with the other famous endurance race in Florida – the 12 Hours of Sebring, run by the American Le Mans Series. Grand-Am introduced a new class in 2003 that would fight for overall victory. Chip Ganassi's team dominated the DP years; his driver, Scott Pruett, is now tied with Haywood for most victories in the event.
Now, a new era is about to begin. The stars of both ALMS and Grand-Am will team with drivers from IndyCar, NASCAR, and even V8 Supercars, for the first united Rolex 24 since 1997.
The Result Of Unity
The merger of Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series has been a long and arduous one, but the result is something that takes the strengths of the the two series to create the ultimate possible field of American sports car racing cars. From LMP1, LMP2, LMPC, DP, GTE, Grand-Am GT, GTC and GX comes just four classes, explained by our own Nobody below.
The Prototype class consists of Daytona Prototypes, LMP2s, and the DeltaWing. To keep the class competitive and avoid getting in the way of the slower classes, the DPs were sped up from last year, while the LMP2s were slowed down. The DPs got a power increase, a dual-element rear wing, and more freedom in the suspension and brakes. To slow down the LMP2 cars in the corners and help make up speed on the straights, IMSA is requiring the Le Mans Prototypes to run their low downforce Le Mans aero kit. The DeltaWing is still running to its own regulations, but presumably IMSA and the team have been communicating to try to get the DW to run somewhere close to the DPs and LMP2s. Teams are free to choose any drivers for the Prototype class.
Prototype Challenge (PC)
Prototype Challenge carries over mostly unchanged from the ALMS. The only change so far is that the Oreca FLM09 is running slightly more rear wing to keep the delta to the top Prototype class the same as the delta was between P2 and PC in the ALMS. As in the ALMS, the Prototype Challenge class is Pro-Am, with 4 and 5 driver teams only being allowed 2 professionals. If the team chooses to run only 3 drivers, then only 1 professional is allowed.
Grand Touring Le Mans (GTLM)
The GTLM class is directly carried over from the ALMS's GTE class. GTLM will see the all new C7.R take on challengers from Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche, SRT, and BMW. As in the Prototype class, teams are free to choose any drivers.
Grand Touring Daytona (GTD)
Grand Touring Daytona was supposed to be a continuation of the Grand Am GT class, but Porsche released a 991 specifically for the GTD class, rendering all of last year's GAGT 911s ineligible for GTD. The good news for GTD is that IMSA is allowing FIA GT3 cars to enter if they use a spec rear wing. GTD will see Aston Martins, 911s, Audi R8s, 458s, an SRT Viper and a BMW Z4 race with the same driver restrictions that PC has.
All Walks Of Life - The Drivers Of The Rolex 24
Section by Shea Holbrook
New and veteran drivers return for the longest endurance race of the year. "The Future" has brought a new kind of hype to racing and we figured what better way than to highlight young guns and, well, the old guys behind the wheel of a new era.
To get right into it, we'll start with the most distinguished racing machine on the entry list, the No. 0 DeltaWing Prototype. This year, UK native Katherine Legge flies solo as the only female pilot to drive a Prototype in the 24 hour endurance race, while American Formula One hopeful, Alexander Rossi, joins the four driver lineup.
One of Scotland's leading professional drivers, Ryan Dalziel is back in the saddle with the No. 1 Patron ESM HPD Prototype. If you know Ryan, you know his personality and needless to say, what is the series doing handing him over their Twitter (@continentaltire) account? For the duration of the race, Dalziel is giving fans a behind-the-scenes look into what a driver is thinking and doing, on- and off-track. You can chat with him using the hashtag, #RDalziel. So, feel free to ask him anything for everyone else's entertainment! But seriously, Ryan is the perfect personality for this gig.
The wolf pack has reunited as the Taylor family comes together for a once in a lifetime opportunity, driving with daddy. Wayne Taylor comes out of retirement to drive with sons, Ricky and Jordan and former co-driver, Max "The Ax" Angelelli in the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Chevrolet Corvette Dallara Daytona Prototype. Wayne, a two-time Daytona 24 winner could go into retirement, again with another 24 win.
Fifty Plus Racing, you gotta love these guys. The over fifties are set to drive the No. 50 Highway TO Help Riley Prototype with AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson leading the Highway to Help Team in Alzheimer's Awareness.
Grassroots driver Tom Long is one to cheer for. Tom has earned his career from racing Showroom Stock, MX-5 Cup (where he won his first championship in 2005), his first career race in the Grand Am Continental Tire Series he won, he lead several hours of the 2011 Daytona Rolex 24hr (got a podium finish with Dempsey Racing's Mazda RX8) and was runner-up in the 2012 Continental Tire Series ST Championship. Currently, Long is the Team Manager and a full-time lead driver for Freedom Autosport, while also scoring a huge gig co-driving for SpeedSource with their all new Mazda SKYACTIV Clean Diesel program in the Prototype category.
Young gun Sage Karam has secured himself his dream ride with Chip Ganassi in the No. 01 Riley Daytona Prototype. We're hearing the 2013 Indy Lights Champion, gets the "graveyard shift," the midnight to 2 a.m. stint. This opportunity gives Karam a chance to further associate himself with the Ganassi team and prove he's ready for an Indy 500 race in 2014.
21-year-old NASCAR driver Kyle Larson is behind the wheel of the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing machine. Larson is seriously busy. As a rookie his focus is on the NASCAR Cup car as the replacement for Juan Pablo Montoya at Chip Ganassi Racing. He also just recently competed in the Chili Bowl sprint car race last week winning the race of champion's event. Kyle has proven he can wear many hats but, this weekend the only hat he'll be wearing is that of the Rolex 24. Maybe the team will capture an actual Rolex watch to go with the hat.
Sean Rayhall has spent the past few years climbing to the top of the charts and recently captured the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship in 2013, then made his Prototype Challenge debut at Petit Le Mans where he finished 2nd with 8Star Motorsports. Rayhall has signed for a full season in the No. 87 BAR1 Motorsports Prototype Challenge car.
The debut of United Sports Car Racing sees an unsurprising capacity grid, filled in all four classes with competitive entries. Each and every car is detailed below, and most are shown in beautiful pictures by Halston Pitman of MotorSportMedia, though some didn't run in practice 1 when these pictures were taken and are thus either represented by their team mates or by no picture at all. Alongside relevant (and irrelevant) info with each car are a few subjective ratings: A "Driver rating" that judges the overall strength of the lineup in relation to the other lineups in the class on a scale from 1 to 5, a "Car rating" that judges the overall strength of the car in relation to the other cars running in the class, a "Power ranking" that judges how competitive the car has been in relation to the remainder of the field in practice, qualifying and prior races and a "Reliability index" that rates the reliability of cars as comparable to either a notoriously bulletproof Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, a relatively stable Volvo 240, a shoddy but functional Jaguar E-Type or a Jaguar XKR RSR GTE, falling apart at the seams. The reliability index is applied only to the Prototype contenders.
0 - David Price Racing (As DeltaWing Racing Cars)
Deltawing DWC13 - Andy Meyrick, Alexander Rossi, Katherine Legge, Gabby Chaves
Starting Position - 7th, Driver's Ranking - 3, Car's Ranking - 3, Reliability Index - Jaguar E-Type, Power Ranking - 7th
NOTES: The fan favorite finally comes to the track that it was unwittingly built for. If it can hold together through the night (Always a question with any car built by Don Panoz), it might be a legitimate contender at the end. Katherine Legge one of only two women in the race, the only in a Prototype, and she's shown exceptionally well this weekend. Her reward was a shot to qualify the car instead of F1 hopeful Rossi, and she delivered in fantastic fashion by slotting into P7. Road & Track once thought Gabby Chaves was a woman. He's not.