JANUARY 23, 2015
Less than 24 hours remain before the first major race of the endurance motor-racing season: the 2015 Rolex 24 At Daytona, which starts at 1410 EST Saturday, 24 January. The line up of 53 cars offers a certain symmetry with the 53rd edition of this icon of motorsport. Teams are in the final throes of preparation, looking to eliminate any last identifiable risk to their challenge for the podium and the ultimate prize.
Pole sitter, #60 Michael Shank Racing, is in a better place than expected. Racing a wholly new platform this season, the Honda HPD Ligier JS P2, team owner Michael Shank was candid in expressing his delight at how well they have done ... so far. “We knew we were really quick after the Roar (Before The Rolex 24), but I was surprised how quickly we were on pace. I’m trying to manage expectations. We are keeping it steady, working on the reliability and the strategy, doing everything we can to minimize issues.”
David Sims, team manager for Risi Competizione’s #62 Ferrari 458 Italia, started in motorsport in the 1960s, working with drivers such as Jim Clark and Graham Hill. He exudes an experienced calm: “For a 24 hour race the complete vehicle set up is done at least twice: before we leave the factory and then again at the circuit ahead of final practice when we run her hard to shake everything down.” Is that typical for a race like this? “It is if you want to finish.”
Texan Tracy Krohn is owner of Krohn Racing and part of the multi-national line-up of drivers of #57 alongside Briton Alex Brundle, Frenchman Olivier Pla, and fellow-American Nic Jonsson: “This race is about passing cars, not getting hit or hitting anyone else, and having enough left in the car to finish. That puts a real premium on the entire crew. Everybody’s got to contribute.”
Yesterday’s qualifying offered a glimpse of those whose preparation has been on track:
Prototype (P) (16 cars) – #60 driver Ozz Negri took everyone but himself by surprise posting a lap time of 1:39.194, a split second ahead of New Zealander Scott Dixon in the #02 Chip Ganassi Racing: “We got faster and faster through practice and in qualifying. I was expecting to be up front.” It was not without peril: “I had a few moments in the bus stop (back straight chicane) where I really thought we might not even have a car for Sunday!”
Prototype Challenge (PC) (8 cars) - #16 BAR1 Motorsports was quickest in (1:42.318) with British driver Johnny Mowlem at the wheel.
GT Le Mans (GTLM) (10 cars) – the #4 C7.R of Corvette Racing set a new qualifying lap record for the category of 1:43.488. Driver Oliver Gavin from United Kingdom was thrilled to start 2015 with a bang, while exhibiting the realism that has to go hand in hand with expectation: “It’s 24 hours – it’s long and brutally hard.”
GT Daytona (GTD) (19 cars) - once again this class reeks of close competition with the first three in qualifying separated by less than two-tenths of a second. The #007 Aston Martin Vantage of TRG-AMR led the trio in 1:47.272.
Who will win? Christian Fittipaldi from Brazil, an overall winner last year, acknowledged that the Rolex 24 At Daytona is a war against attrition: the first 20 hours merely preparation for the final four: “When you get there, that is when it boils down to the real competition.”
Who has banked sufficient preparation and has the skill to ride their luck during the race to be in contention on Sunday morning is unknown. Only one thing is set in stone. When the Rolex timing marks the completion of the 24 hours on Sunday, 25 January the successful drivers will be justly rewarded for their enterprise.
A partner of track racing in Daytona Beach from its beginnings in the late 1950s, Rolex has been Title Sponsor of the Rolex 24 At Daytona since 1992. All winning drivers are presented with a Cosmograph Daytona, the chronograph Rolex dedicated to racing drivers on its launch in 1963, and which marks brand’s longstanding connection with the Daytona International Speedway.
Daytona International Speedway