JANUARY 13, 2014
The 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona takes place in just two weeks time. This year’s edition is predicted to be one of the most competitive ever. A field of close to 70 cars is expected to cross the start line of North America’s most renowned endurance motorsport event at 14.30 EST on Saturday 25 January. The attention of those fascinated by true sporting drama will be held firmly gripped until the finish 24 hours later.
A little over a week ago competing teams across four classes were engaged in testing at the Daytona International Speedway. The fastest lap of the weekend was posted in Prototype by the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette, driven by Brazilian ace Christian Fittipaldi, with an average speed of 129.940 mph. The #8 Starworks Motorsports Oreca, driven by Briton Sam Bird, topped Prototype Challenge at 125.635 mph. In GTLM, another Briton, Nick Tandy, in the #911 Porsche North America 911 RSR, posted 121.405 mph, while Spencer Pumpelly from the USA lapped at 118.688 mph in GTD with the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS.
These may be good markers, but there is a huge gap between performance in testing and results in the race. The twice around the clock endurance challenge is the ultimate test of man and machine. All members of the team must be at the top of their game, and the car must be meticulously prepared to survive the rigours of 24 hours of high-octane action.
Within the Prototype class, those expected to vie for overall victory have issued firm statements of intent revealing driver line-ups brimming with talent. Five-time and reigning Rolex 24 At Daytona winner Chip Ganassi Racing has introduced two new faces to its lead car. Longstanding partners Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas will be joined in 2014 by 18-year old newcomer Sage Karam and NASCAR star Jamie McMurray who has said: “this is the one race that I would like to win more than anything right now. This is a huge race,” Meanwhile, Karam will be the envy of all other rookie drivers. Teammate Pruett has a phenomenal winning record over the 3.56 mile Daytona track, and is tied with the legendary Hurley Haywood with a record five Rolex 24 At Daytona triumphs.
Michael Shank Racing returns with the same drivers who secured victory at 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2012: Ozz Negri, John Pew, AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson. Joao Barbosa, a winning driver in 2010 with Action Express Racing, will be delighted with the performance of his car at the hands of co-pilot Fittipaldi this past weekend. Mike Rockenfeller, another member of the 2010 winning team and a winner at 24 Hours of Le Mans in the same year, is this year driving for Spirit of Daytona. Ryan Dalziel – the fourth and final member of the 2010 race-winning combination – heads the Extreme Speeds Motorsports line-up.
Whoever crosses the finish line in first place on Sunday 26 January at 14.30 EST will know that they have not triumphed alone. According to Chip Ganassi: “Because it is a 24-hour race, there are so many factors that go into having success. You need the drivers, the people, the equipment and the partners - but most importantly they all have to act as one team. When you make it to victory lane in this race, you know that you have accomplished something really special.”
A partner of track racing in Daytona Beach from its beginnings in the late 1950s, Rolex has been Title Sponsor of the race since 1992. The Rolex 24 At Daytona celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012 – just one year ahead of the Cosmograph Daytona, the Rolex chronograph dedicated to racing drivers. On its launch in 1963, the watch brand baptized its new model “Cosmograph Daytona” to mark the connection with the Daytona International Speedway, the fastest American track of its era.