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TUSC: Rolex 24 weekend recap, competition side

Jan 27, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

2014 Rolex 24 At Daytona Getty Images

Some general weekend observations from the scene at Daytona International Speedway, site of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The buzz, of course, was a little different this year with this being the opening round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, new for 2014.

Competition wise…

  • Thank goodness Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli are beginning the recovery process after their severe accident in Hour 3. A disastrous accident to witness, but the safety elements and structural integrity of their cars did their jobs.
  • Bravo, CORE autosport. PC class win and GT Le Mans class win with the Porsche 911 RSR in only its second U.S. race. Jon Bennett and Morgan Brady have developed one of the finest organizations currently competing in motorsports.
  • It’s rare to hear the words “Chip Ganassi” and “Double DNF” in the same sentence. But a floor issue took the No. 02 Ford EcoBoost Riley out late, with an accident and other issues striking the defending race champion No. 01 at times.
  • The phrase BoP isn’t going away anytime soon. The most common refrains? The P2 cars were grossly overmatched at Daytona given their aero and limited power meant reduced top speeds. Additionally, the GT Daytona class Ferraris and Audis were rockets, and gaining anywhere from 8 to 15+ mph on the Porsches, Viper, BMW, and Aston Martins.
  • The speed gaps meant some of the talented drivers in the slower cars in GTD didn’t really get a chance to showcase themselves. Dane Cameron did a solid job to finish seventh in the GT3-spec BMW Z4 for Turner Motorsport, ahead of Alex Job’s No. 22 and NGT’s No. 30 Porsches. The latter car had IndyCar Race Director Beaux Barfield moonlighting as a race strategist…
  • On the other hand, several drivers made cracks about slower drivers in good cars. Overall co-winner Sebastien Bourdais went the furthest, calling some of the amateur drivers “terrorists.”
  • Muscle Milk Pickett Racing had arguably one of its best ever races as an organization this weekend. Perhaps under the radar since it wasn’t considered an outright win contender, the ALMS P1 champs stayed consistent and collected over its first 24-hour race since 2008, with a just result of fifth overall best of the P2 bunch in its ORECA 03 Nissan.
  • OAK Racing ran rather well, too, with its Morgan Nissan in terms of pace. But an alternator issue cost it a better result than eighth overall, and sixth in the P class. At one point, the black-and-pink No. 42 ran as high as third overall.
  • BMW had a weekend to remember, even though it had moments to forget after Friday’s Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge BMW Performance 200. In the Conti race, the overall winner and third-placed GS cars were bounced after the race… which meant only a 1-4 sweep in GS and 1-2 in ST. Meanwhile in the Rolex, the BMW Team RLL Z4s used strategy and reliability to finish second and fourth in GTLM – huge points results considering the car’s lack of top end speed meant it was not a match for Daytona.
  • Tough day in GTLM for the two American bruisers, Corvette and Viper. Corvette suffered mechanical issues for both of the debuting C7.Rs at one point or another; same for Viper, but at least one of the grease-covered SRTs made it to the podium after gathering its battle scars.
  • The DeltaWing and SpeedSource Mazda prototypes overachieved compared to expectations. Despite various issues, the DeltaWing pressed on for more than 1,000 miles of racing before retiring, and the Mazda SKYACTIV-D coupes were courteous when being lapped and kept running with both cars for more than 18 hours. Baby steps, perhaps, but the spirit of development and the underdog are alive with these two squads.
  • Overachievers of the race? For my money, the Starworks Motorsport DP with a run from a mid-60s overall starting position into second overall with Brendon Hartley in the first hour, and a consistent presence in the top seven until retiring with a mechanical issue. A genuinely impressive effort from Peter Baron’s squad.

  1. convincedofthehex - Jan 27, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    I was at the race in person, 4th time overall having missed it last year. I go to Sebring every year. I won’t comment on the officiating, that joke has already been handled. The 2 day ticket at Daytona was a cheap pink wristband similar to what you would get for going to see a crappy band in a bar. Every year Sebring has a beautiful laminated ticket that makes for a great memento. I sure hope with Nascar in charge now Sebring doesn’t get rid of the tickets for general admission. The lack of P1’s was sorely missed, and it will be more apparent at Sebring where we have watched Audi and the other P1’s pounding around for 15 years. The DPs just don’t do it for me.

  2. midtec2005 - Jan 27, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    You know how you can tell this series is run by NASCAR?

    That penalty on the last lap. WHAT WAS THAT??
    That was such an exciting last lap and the officiating ruined it.

  3. testover6370 - Jan 27, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    I’m glad you wrote this entry, specifically on the actual racing, because I’ve said all I have to say about the officiating and formatting by the owners. Now I get to talk about the good stuff, which is the racing!

    I’m glad you pointed out the achievements of the Deltawing, Mazdas, Muscle Milk, and Oak. They exceeded (admittedly low) expectations and soldiered on, fixing mechanical issues, driving smart and clean, and making the best of what they had. I nominate any of these teams for an award for the spirit of endurance racing.

    I have to put my foot in my mouth over the GTLM BMWs. I said here before the race that they were too far off the pace to be factors. Once again in the spirit of endurance racing they persevered, ran a smart race, and proved me absolutely dead wrong. Well done to them.

    Complaining about amateur drivers getting in the way is practically a traditional element of sports car endurance racing, but I have to agree with the drivers this time. I saw some particularly bad driving this time where some blocks almost looked intentional. And that wasn’t just in the green-white-wreckers staged chaotic finish, but early in the race where position isn’t nearly as important as letting other classes by cleanly and staying out of trouble.

    I think these BOP issues will be unique to Daytona. The sustained high speeds and minimal need for handling will not be seen at any other track this year. Even Road America requires a more balanced package. If the gross inequalities continue then we will have a major problem, but I don’t think that will be the case.

    Finally, on the matter of the crash, I’ve never liked DPs, but I was certain Gidley wouldn’t make it out of that crash. It was the worst I’ve seen since Vegas ’11. That both drivers survived, and that the drivers in the big testing crashes were completely fine, speaks volumes about the safety of the DP cars.

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