RACER.com is reporting live from the TUDOR Continental Tire Sports Car Series’ three-day Roar Before The 24 test at Daytona International Speedway, and will provide an ongoing series of brief updates, news items and quick analysis from Friday through Sunday.
The SpeedSource Mazda P2 team had a tough opening day to the Roar Before The 24. Driver Joel Miller had an off in the No. 70 during the morning session, damaging the right rear corner of the car, which stayed in the garage for the afternoon as repairs were made. And the No. 07 was hit with an immediate engine-related issue when it took to the track in the morning and received a new engine to use tomorrow. Team owner/driver Sylvain Tremblay took a 10,000-foot view of the situation.
“We had two failures that we’ve had before in the driveline,” he told RACER. “This one (the 07) is easy and it’s going back together right now. The other one will take more work. We had some driveline issues in testing, so we went to stronger parts to keep them from breaking, and now they’re too strong and won’t absorb the torque without damaging things inside the gearbox. So we’re preparing a new gearbox with a lighter input shaft and tapered driveshafts that should absorb the shock a lot better. This is a big learning experience with this program, and we’re here learning as fast as we can. It’s part of the process.”
RACER has learned German Porsche factory P1 driver Marc Lieb will complete the Rolex 24 lineup for the No. 27 Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 GT America. “We are excited about having Marc join our team,” said Dempsey. “His knowledge and experience with Porsche will help us align ourselves with those who know how to win. I’m looking forward to learning from him and sharing seat time with him during the Rolex 24.”
[4:50 p.m. ET]
Michael Shank Racing was forced to pull its No. 60 Riley-Ford EcoBoost turbo DP off track to visit the garage and inspect what could be a driveline failure. Driver A.J. Allmendinger was behind the wheel when something went wrong underneath the engine cover.
[3:00 p.m. ET]
Keeping track of the Porsche driver and car combinations is always a struggle at the Rolex 24. Our friends at Porsche put together a table to help everyone keep track of who’s in what 911 GT America
Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost turbo drivers Tony Kanaan and Sage Karam shared some laughs with The RACER Channel on Friday.
SRT Viper’s newest signings, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Rob Bell, spoke with The RACER Channel about their new opportunities in the manufacturer’s GTLM program and how it might fit into their other obligations this year.
The Friday morning session saw Action Express Racing lead the timesheets with a 1:38.6 in the No. 5 Corvette DP, matching the best set in private testing by the Ganassi Ford EcoBoost turbo in December. The fastest P2 time in the combined Prototype class during the two-hour session run in cold, windy conditions, went to the No. 1 Extreme Speed Motorsports with a 1:41.0. Core Autosport paced the PC class with its No. 54 entry, turning a 1:42.4. Corvette Racing’s brand-new C7.Rs went 1-2 in GTLM, with the No. 4 posting a 1:45.7. Fast time in GTD went to the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 at 1:48.4. The full times for all 55 cars that turned laps can be found here.
- The No. 911 factory Porsche GTLM went off at Turn 5, nudging into the tires and bringing out out a red flag. The car suffered no damage.
- American junior open-wheel talent Spencer Pigot tells RACER he’s hoping to get his driver classification sorted so he can find a ride in the PC class for the Rolex 24.
- BMW DTM driver Joey Hand is on a whirlwind tour, driving at the Roar with the RLL team before heading back to Europe for DTM testing. He’ll then sprint back to Florida for the race. Hand recently sold his kart shop, but says he’s still driving karts now with his 7-year-old son joining him in a second kart.
- Stefan Wilson, who made his IndyCar Series debut last year at Baltimore with Dale Coyne Racing, is also prowling for a Rolex 24 seat.
[11:05 a.m. ET]
- The Mazda P2 team is having more issues. The crashed No. 07 needs the right-rear suspension replaced and bodywork fixed Now, the No. 70 is undergoing an engine change after the team saw abnormalities during its first few laps.
- Mazda P2 driver Joel Miller went off avoiding a spinning Porsche, making barrier contact and damaging the right-rear corner of the Mazda prototype. The team is evaluating the extent of the damage and how long it will take to get the car back on track.
[10:30 a.m. ET]
- The combined Action Express Racing/DELTA-ADR driver lineup will see Brian and Burt Frisselle, John Martin, Stefan Johansson and Fabien Giroix share the No. 9 Corvette DP.
- Michael Shank Racing will field a single entry at the Rolex 24 for the first time since 2005. On a related MSR note, the team will carry full season sponsorship from Curb/Agajanian Records.
- Mazda has fashioned a nice pair of overhead lighting gantries for its P2 cars. The SkyActiv diesels also feature a striking new “soul red” colored paint with creative branding throughout the bodywork.
[9:55 a.m. ET]
- Reigning Firestone Indy Lights champion Sage Karam has been selected as the final driver in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates DP. He’ll drive with Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Jamie McMurray.
- Michael Shank Racing’s Justin Wilson reports he’s back to full strength and ready to race. “I met with the doctor five week after my crash, he told me to put down the crutches and try walking without them. I did that with no issues and he sent me home, cleared and good to go. I feel great,” he said.
- Daytona international Speedway has reportedly seen a 40 percent increase in pre-event sales, and the infield is completely sold out.
- SpeedSource Mazda team owner/driver Sylvain Tremblay will make use of today’s cold ambient temperatures to work on traction control programming with their pair of SkyActiv Diesel P2 cars. “Engine power is very temperature sensitive the colder it is the more you make, so we’ll concentrate more on getting traction control strategies in place because the ambient will have us out of the normal window.”
- The DeltaWing Coupe has undergone some changes since I last saw it at Circuit of The Americas in September. A header bag of sorts has been fashioned around the turbo housing, and the turbo inlet has been moved from the roof to an intake mounted between the left wheel pod and the engine cover.
- Former Grand-Am Rolex GT factory Pontiac entrant Leighton Reece is at the track and tells RACER he’s looking for ways to get back into the new-look TUDOR Championship.
- Nissan branding has appeared on Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s ORECA P2 car (ABOVE). The team and manufacturer have been working through numerous relationship possibilities, and it’s great to see the Japanese marque expand their presence with the team. Driver Tom Dyer has also been added as the fourth member of the team. “We tested Tom in the P1 car two years ago and were really impressed,” MMPR team manager Brandon Fry told RACER.
- Most of the attention at the Roar will go to the TUDOR Championship cars, but there are reasons to be interested in the Continental Tire Series that’s also here. The most anticipated new-car entry in the Grand Sport class, the Stevenson Motorsports-run Camaro Z/28, would have been a delight to see in action, butthe team took a pass at revealing its capabilities in front of the GS field, and will continue testing in private ahead of its debut on January 24. “I’m sure it’s going to turn a lot of heads when people see it in person,” Stevenson team manager Mike Johnson told RACER. “We’re going to have two really strong cars. We’ve got the might of General Motors and Pratt & Miller behind us and they’ve created a beast. This car, it’s pretty awesome. There’s really no other way to describe it.”
- Michael Shank Racing has thankfully continued its relationship with AERO Advanced Paint Technology, whose products have been used to dress the No. 60 Riley-Ford EcoBoost turbo in a new reflective chrome and blue livery.
- Barbara Burns, who has handled PR for Krohn Racing, among others in recent years, has had her BurnsGroup Unlimited agency named as the new PR rep for Chrysler’s SRT Motorsports endeavors. She’ll collaborate with PR ace Adam Saal on the project. After parting ways with the respected Denny Darnell and his Darnell Communications outfit, it’s a pleasant surprise to see a manufacturer keep their business local, opting for another small, specialist PR firm.
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- Driving rain made for a wet Thursday at Daytona, but the forecast calls for a dry, albeit cold and windy Friday. Temperatures in the high 40s/low 50s and winds up to 30mph could see teams limit their running. Most will want to gather data in those conditions, but with Saturday and Sunday’s temperatures moving into the 70s, we could see more on-track activity 24 hours from now. Rain is also a possibility for the weekend, so at this point, I’m not sure whether cold and windy is any better than warm and rainy.
- The SRT Viper team will hold a press conference today at 12:20 p.m. ET where, among other items, it will announce its two new endurance drivers who will partner with the four full-time drivers at the Rolex 24, 12 Hours of Sebring, Petit Le Mans and possibly elsewhere. I understand an open-wheel champion and a driver I recommended to the brand one I’ve long regarded as the most underrated GT pilot on the planet will be introduced to the assembled press corps.
- Months of rumors regarding a new DP powerplant could come to reality for the Rolex 24, but there’s no guarantee all of the pieces will be in place before the Jan. 25-26 race. Just as engine builder Steve Dinan has been working on a P2 version of BMW’s 4.5-liter P65 M3 DP motor he prepares, it’s believed Honda has been working in the opposite direction, and could be preparing its Acura MDX-based 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 P2 engine for use in a Riley DP. It’s said Starworks Motorsport, winners of the 2012 WEC P2 championship in a Honda-powered HPD chassis, would serve as the entrant if and when the project breaks cover.
- IndyCar Series driver E.J. Viso is working hard to find a Prototype seat for the Rolex 24, and depending on how many doors open up in the world of open-wheel racing, the Venezuelan, who has a class win in the PC category to his credit at the 2011 12 Hours of Sebring, says he would be happy to spend the year in sports car racing. Talks with numerous teams, including AXR, MSR, Level 5 and Oak have taken place, and Viso also says he’s interested in doing a full WEC calendar in P2 if he can find the right program. Oak is among the WEC candidates.
- Mazda is expected to confirm its P2 driver lineup, which features familiar faces from its Mazda6 GX program and should have two familiar open-wheel drivers joining in for at least the Rolex 24.
- The No. 03 BMW M3 Rum Bum Racing Continental Tire Series entry will feature the youngest driver in IMSA history to take part in an official session. 15-year-old Kaz Grala, whose father Darius Grala contested almost 30 DP races between 2002 and 2005, will have veteran Hugh Plumb to ease his transition to sports cars.