A new year brings with it the start of another year of motorsports. As we sit bundled against the frigid temperatures offered to us by our Michigan winter, we're impatiently counting down the hours until 1:40 p.m. on Saturday, January 27, when we'll be basking under the Florida sun watching tens of thousands of horsepower, spread among 59 cars, racing past us for the rolling start of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. To make sure everyone is up to speed, here's what you need to know about the Rolex 24. The twice-around-the-clock event marks the start of the IMSA SportsCar Championship each year at Daytona International Speedway.
Like all endurance racing, Daytona demands a lot from teams, drivers, and machinery. It's a relentless 24-hour marathon with four races occurring simultaneously. The top-flight race will see Acura, Cadillac, Porsche, and BMW working their way through slower traffic and battling for the overall victory in the GTP (Grand Touring Prototype) class. Behind them, 13 LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2) cars will fight and claw their way toward a class victory. Next come the GT Daytona and GT Daytona Pro classes, which comprise cars that look much closer to everyday vehicles than the prototype classes. Mechanically, the GTD classes are identical. The differentiating factor is the number of Pro level drivers allowed on each team, with IMSA limiting that number to one "pro" driver on GTD teams.
Now that you're caught up with what the 24 Hours of Daytona entails, here's some info you should know going into race weekend:
62nd Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. Saturday, January 27, 2024, 1:30 p.m. ET to Sunday, January 28, 1:30 p.m. ET.
3.56-mile racing circuit.
Broadcast coverage of the race starts from 1:30–2:30 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock. From that point until 8 p.m., coverage will move to Peacock and USA, and then Peacock and IMSA.TV from 8–10 p.m.
Coverage returns to USA and Peacock from 10-midnight, then back to Peacock and IMSA.TV until 6 a.m.
From 6 a.m.–noon, coverage will be on USA and then will transition a final time to NBC for the last two hours of coverage.
During the "Roar Before the Rolex 24" qualifying session, the Whelen Cadillac Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) not only beat its time that earned it pole position at last year's Rolex 24 by 1.4 seconds, it also beat Daytona's road course record by a full second. Pipo Derani, who also won the 2021 IMSA Daytona Prototype International championship, averaged 138 mph around the 3.56-mile course. The shiny new record is now 1:32.656. The nine GTP-car entries from the likes of Acura, BMW, Porsche, and another Cadillac also beat the track record. It's the only GTP car on which the gas-burning portion of its hybrid powertrain is using a naturally aspirated 5.5-liter V-8 engine. Last year, the Cadillac GTP cars finished third, fourth, and fifth after 24 hours, behind the two Acuras.
Sister Act 2
Have you ever seen your former car in traffic? That's what the driver of the Acura ARX-06 GTP car, Jordan Taylor, will be experiencing during his stints. Taylor, who drove several seasons with the bright-yellow Corvette Racing C8R, joins IndyCar driver Colton Herta, F1 champ Jenson Button, and Louis Delétraz in Acura's sister car. Not to be outdone, Wayne Taylor Racing's other ARX-06 will be driven by a team of all-stars: Indy500 winner Marcus Ericsson, platinum driver Filipe Albuquerque, and multiple World Endurance Championship winner Brendon Hartley.
GTD Pro, Fo-Sho
Sadly, full factory support from Corvette Racing ended with the 2023 season, but the Pratt Miller Chevrolet Corvette does make a return this year as a quicker GT3 car competing in the 36-car GTD class category. The familiar bright yellow paint is back, at least for both GTD Pro entries from Pratt Miller, who qualified three seconds quicker than last year's car. The other two Corvette Z06 GT3.R are competing in the GTD class, set apart by green and yellow Canadian Vettes from AWA Racing.
That's a Wrap!
Lap times are important, but you when the speed demons are captured with photography at 1/200 of a second, it's the wrap design or racing livery that really set them apart. The GTD Pro class McLaren 720S GT3 Evo from the Canadian team of Pfaff Motorsports had fans worried the iconic plaid livery wouldn't make the transition from last year's Porsche 911 GT3 R. New for this year from AO Racing is the LMP2 car the team calls "Spike." The dragon's teeth and nose are on the front section and hood of the car, while giant wings sprawl across the side of the car's vertical fin. The car that started it all, "Rexy" is easily the biggest fan favorite of all the schemes at the Rolex 24. Big teeth, tiny arms, and a pole position make AO Racing's Porsche 911 GT3 R one fierce predator.
Plenty of Ass Left to Kick
Two years after the 467-hp V-8-powered RC F debuted, team Vasser Sullivan Racing brought their Lexus sports cars to the 2019 Rolex 24. The team's No. 14 car won last season's IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with the No. 12 car finishing third. This year, the pair of GT3 cars qualified among the top: second in GTD Pro for the No. 14, and first in GTD with the No. 12 car.
OK, Now Ladies
Nine women are competing in this year's Rolex 24, including Katherine Legge, who makes her 11th debut. Legge, who according to IMSA is the highest-finishing female driver in a racing class at Daytona, is joined by Sheena Monk and Tatiana Calderón in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo22. The bright pink No. 83 Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 will be shared by drivers who are no strangers to sports-car racing. The all-female race team sees stints from Rahel Frey, Sarah Bovy, Doriane Pin, and Michelle Gatting, who have all competed at Daytona at least once before. Ashton Harrison will pilot an Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 for Wayne Taylor Racing in the GTD class, while 22-year-old Lilou Wadoux makes her first start at Daytona. Wadoux is the only driver on this list to compete outside of the GTD class, as she's behind the wheel of the No. 88 Richard Mille AF Corse ORECA 07 LMP2 car that's starting the endurance race from 10th.
Return of Ford
It's been five years since the factory-backed Ford GT graced our screens and our racetracks—capping off a four-year run with the 2019 Petit Le Mans. Combining IMSA and WEC results, the GT scraped together 19 race wins and 22 pole positions, including a 2016 class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Now Ford is making a return to GT3 racing, throwing its full weight behind two factory-backed teams while also giving its support to customer racing teams like the GTD-class No. 55 Mustang run by Proton. If Ford CEO Jim Farley's words are anything to go by, Ford is coming back to mess around. At the reveal of the new GT3 Mustang in Le Mans, France last year Farley issued a challenge to competitors, "It is not Ford versus Ferrari anymore. It is Ford versus everyone." Hopes are high for fans of the Blue Oval, though qualifying proved to be a struggle for the 'Stangs, with the factory teams qualifying 46th and 51st and the Proton customer car qualifying in 49th.
Formula 1 Reunion
Though they are plenty, the IndyCar drivers aren't the only drivers coming out of the woodwork for this year's Rolex 24. A handful of this year's drivers will be familiar to Formula 1 fans. Among those names racing in the GTP class is 2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button, who will be piloting the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-06 alongside Jordan Taylor, Louis Deletraz, and Colton Herta. Former Williams and Sauber F1 driver Felipe Nasr will be joining Button in GTP, driving the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963. The Formula 1 reunion doesn't stop in GTP, however, with Felipe Massa and Paul di Resta joining the No. 74 Riley Oreca 07-Gibson and No. 22 United Autosports Oreca 07-Gibson LMP2 cars, respectively. Marcus Ericsson, Sébastian Bourdais, Brendon Hartley, Jack Aitken, and Alexander Rossi are the other Daytona drivers who have also raced in F1.
Ben Keating's Double Duty
Perhaps the most interesting storyline of the weekend is that of amateur driver Ben Keating. While most drivers on the grid are putting the entirety of their focus into preparing for one car this weekend, the 52-year-old Keating will be racing in two. This weekend marks Keating's 14th time contesting the Rolex 24, and the eighth time with two entries. "I believe every car in a 24-hour race is a long shot, so therefore I like to double my chances by doing two different cars!" Keating told SportsCar365.
As the Bronze-rated driver for the No. 2 United Autosports Oreca 07-Gibson LMP2 car, Keating will be required to take the start in the No. 2 car along with a requirement to drive a minimum four and a half hours during the race. He'll also need to complete a minimum two hours in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Porsche 963 GTP car, which he says he plans to knock out early. "My only real job is to take care of the car, and with my two LMP2 championship titles, JDC has enough faith in me to do that," Keating told SportsCar365. Even if you aren't a fan of either team, it will be another exciting year of watching Keating attempt the impossible and pull off two wins.
GTD Champs Paul Miller Racing
Paul Miller Racing has cemented itself as a mainstay in recent years of the GTD Championship. In 2018 while the team was partnered with Lamborghini Squadra Corse the team took home the team, driver, and manufacturer championships for the GTD class. Those victories were followed by a 2020 class victory for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. In 2022 the team switched manufacturers, starting a new relationship with BMW. Coming into the 2024 season, the Paul Miller team are the defending GTD champions, once again running a BMW M4 GT3. Driver champions Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers are back for another season where they will look to add another Rolex Daytona to their collection.
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