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Thursday, January 24, 2013

An IndyCar Fan’s Quick Guide To The Rolex 24

So, you’re an IndyCar-only kind of guy or gal, but have heard good things about racing’s first big event of the year, the Rolex 24 at Daytona. You might not know much about it, but want to check it out, because you’ve heard some IndyCar guys and teams participate. Well, you’re in luck, because below will tell you all you need to know about watching it from an IndyCar fan POV:

What Is The Rolex 24?

Well, we’ll assume if you’re reading this, you’re pretty familiar with racing, but the Rolex 24 is the big Grand-Am race to open their season. It’s 24 hours of racing between three classes: Daytona Prototypes (DP), Grand Touring (GT), and the GX class. Teams of drivers take turns behind the wheel in a contest that’s about both relative speed and endurance.

So What Do Those Classes Mean?

Well, in layman’s terms, Daytona Prototypes are where your fastest, customized rides are. You’ll see Corvette, Ford/Riley, and BMW/Riley as some of the cars entered in here. The GT class is where you see cars that look more akin to production sports cars—Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, Mazda—as you can imagine, it’s a great group, though their speeds don’t stand up to the Prototypes. The GX class is the smallest group—it’s essentially would-be GT cars that don’t meet all the criteria for that class. They have some manner of technological development, alternate fuels, or advancement that puts them in a class apart.

Watching the battles within each class is a very fun part of the race. For example, last year, Michael Shank Racing’s #60 entry won the overall race, but Magnus Racing’s #44 car won the GT class while finishing P11 overall. This year, there are officially 17 DPs, 36 GTs, and 6 GX entries, though we’ll see how many actually start the race (the actual number always being a bit south of that).

Where/When Can I Watch It?

Race coverage starts at 3:00pm ET Saturday, January 26, on SPEED. The race begins at 3:30pm ET and ends, well, 24 hours later. You can follow along overnight via the Grand-Am website. It’s pretty cool to crash Saturday night, wake up around 9am on Sunday, flip to the website or turn on the TV, and see what befell teams in the middle of the night. If you’re a warrior, you can stay awake through the whole thing, but it’s OK.

Where are all the IndyCar drivers?

Racing in the Daytona Prototype class are Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, and Charlie Kimball (Chip Ganassi/Felix Sabates #01/02), Sebastien Bourdais (Starworks with Alex Popow #2), Ryan Hunter-Reay (VelcoityWW #10), Simon Pagenaud and Bruno Junqueira (Team Sahlen #42), and Justin Wilson (Mike Shank Racing #60, the race’s defending champs!).

In the GT class, we have Rubens Barrichello and Tony Kanaan (Dener Motorsport #21). The GX class reveals James Hinchcliffe (Mazdaspeed/Speedsource #70), and Firestone Indy Lights champ Tristan Vautier in the #00 Speedsource/Yellow Dragon ride (along with just-signed Pro Mazda driver Spencer Pigot).

Other general IndyCar and Mazda Road to Indy alumni in the DP and GT classes include Gustavo Yacaman and Jorge Goncalvez (Mike Shank Racing #6), Rafa Matos (Scuederia Corsa #64), Paul Tracy (Doran Racing #77), with a few other familiar faces in there as well. I guarantee if you listen in, you’ll hear more than a few other names you’ll recognize.

The GT class competition is wide-open.
(Courtesy IMS Media)
What Should I Look For?

Oh my goodness, so many things. Over 24 hours, all sorts of issues can develop. Along from crashes, team run into all sorts of issues, and you can be assured at least one or two quality teams will see their race cut jarringly short by some manner of epic failure. There are lulls in the race, but you’ll be surprised just how much action and suspense there is—and how close the final result will be.

The battle in DP should be tremendous, with the Michael Shank entries fast in testing, but they should be staunchly challenged by the Ganassi entries, who swept the front row in qualifying. The Starworks #2 entry could also be a very strong candidate, and could pull off the victory. The DP field is very solid, so watch for some surprises, as one of the other teams could very easily find themselves in a good position come Sunday morning. My dark horse pick is the Team Sahlen #42, which between Pags and Junky should be an IndyCar fan favorite.

In GT, I personally think the AIM Motorsport Ferrari #61 has a good shot at the class win; plus, it gives me a chance to cheer for Max Papis. It should be a good fight, with Magnus Racing’s #44 Porsche right there, as well. Other contenders would include the Stevenson Motorsports #57 (Camaro fans take note), the Brumos Racing #59, the polesitting Konrad Motorsport #32 Porsche, and a whole host of strong Audi entries. I’ll be pulling for TK in Dener Motorsports' #21, but it will be a likely struggle for that team to contend up front.

There’s plenty more, but hopefully that’s enough to get you started. Enjoy the weekend, pull for the IndyCar drivers to again put on a great show, and let the Rolex 24 help you count down the days until St. Pete!

1 comment:

  1. Don't count out any of the Corvette DPs; for the most part I think they were sandbagging during testing, practice, and qualifying. They haven't even dropped the green flag on a race session yet this season and the Balance of Performance politics is already raging. I think some of the other DP teams were also sandbagging through qualifying but to a lesser extent. The Starworks 2 car is definitely a strong entry: Bourdais - Champion, Dalziel - Champion, McNish - Champion, Popow - outstanding, much improved driver over the last few seasons. Starworks is also a championship team, what they did racing in both the WEC and Grand Am last season was just amazing!

    Another source of coverage for the Rolex 24 will be online radio. After initially not being involved, Grand Am heard from the fans and Radio LeMans, http://www.radiolemans.com/, will be covering the race. Radio LeMans is THE best endurance/sports car coverage you can find. Use them in conjunction with the TV/streaming coverage and you're good to go!

    If you're interested in the engineering aspect of motor sport, Jeff Braun - who will be engineering on of the AIM Ferraris - is a must follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jvbraun He has also started a Facebook page on sports car engineering topics that folks might want to check out: https://www.facebook.com/AutoRacingTechTips

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