It wasn’t exactly lost at sea, more accurately delayed. But Racing Team Nederland’s bid to participate in the Roar Before the Rolex 24 was hindered by the late arrival of its LMP2 chassis.
The No. 29 ORECA 07 didn’t reach the Daytona International Speedway grounds until the first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship test session was already underway Friday. Undeterred, the crew swiftly got to work putting the car together in the garage. It worked. Despite missing the first session entirely, the No. 29 was atop the LMP2 speed chart within 30 minutes of the second session starting Friday afternoon and stayed there.
The lap of 1m37.991s turned by Giedo van der Garde ranked second on the combined session chart for the day, a quarter-second off the pace. He’s joined by fellow Dutch co-drivers Fritz van Eerd and Job van Uitert, along with Frenchman Charles Milesi, for the Roar and next week’s Rolex 24 At Daytona. It will be the first appearance in the iconic race for drivers and team alike.
Team manager Mark Koense explained the decision was made to compete in the Rolex 24 after the team finished its FIA World Endurance Championship season at Bahrain in November. The equipment was placed on a cargo ship with what was thought to be plenty of time to reach the U.S.
“It was a late decision straight after the last round of the WEC to do Daytona with an eye on what we plan to do next year. The team did a fantastic job of organizing all that at the last minute,” said Koense with a watchful eye as crewmen scrambled piecing the LMP2 together shortly before the second Friday session was to begin. “Everything was shipped out in time, but we lost time at sea. About a week ago, we started to get messages that they were losing time at sea and there was a problem at the port in New York.”
Despite the travel disruptions, the car was still slated to reach Daytona on Thursday night — leaving enough time to have it ready for the first session Friday. Alas, the truck carrying the shipment from the port was, you guessed it, delayed once more.
“So, things went from rather worrying to impossible because the car arrived during the first session,” Koense said with a wry smile. “The team again has done a fantastic job, too, because everything is in there, it’s almost together. Little bit of a false start but we’re happy to be here and we’ve had a great reception from IMSA. Everybody has been very helpful.”
Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, Koense preferred to look on the bright side with the bulk of the Rolex 24 experience still in front of them.
“The rest of the week can only go better,” he said. “You know when you enter any motor race, it’s not going to go as you planned. But obviously to not have any car is way off your plan. But again, you have to learn to deal with that.
“We’re happy to be here with the world being what it is. It’s a privilege to be here together with all the other competitors. We also have an eye on the future, so for us it’s a great way to prepare for the world championship and a great way to do our first IMSA race and to see what we can do in the future. And it’s a great event, let’s face it.”