Let the season begin.
We are officially under way at the World Center of Speed, Daytona International Speedway for the 2015 edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Practice session 1 started under overcast conditions, but the cover burned off as the 1-hour session went on.
15 minutes into the session, the Deltawing lost power after the Bus Stop, bringing out the only red of the session. The greatly improved car has shown impressive speed thus far in testing and the program has advanced enough that it is possible that the car could well be seen in victory circle at some point this season. The failure was, it seems a brand new gearbox, new design that is!
Fastest overall was Oz Negri in the MSR Ligier Honda. In the new modern no sandbagging days, their 1:39.633 was an impressive 1.115 seconds faster than Christian Fittipaldi as his Action Express Corvette. The top 4 were all different cars, consisting of the Ligier Honda, Corvette, followed by the Sage Karam driven Ganassi Ford Riley and then the distinctive Krohn Ligier Judd.
The balance shown thus far up front in the Protoype category is very impressive and hopefully will pay off in a much more competitive show, not just at Daytona but all season long.
Extreme Speed is still coming to grips with the new HPD ARX coupes. In the Roar test, the team was limited to only one car, which according to team driver Johannes van Overbeek has been difficult. “We’ve been extremely lap limited thus far. Getting the second car up to speed will be important for us moving forward. That said, things are coming along quite well for us and the new cars. Garage wise, they’re the same, as we have the same running gear and suspension as before, but with the new aero, we have a lot to learn on the track.”
“It’s going to be an interesting season, running the WEC. I’m really looking forward to running and learning all of the new tracks we’ll be visiting.”
Unfortunately in this session, ESM was still limited to one car on track, the #2 car did not get credited with a lap, although it was out on pit lane.
The Starworks DP was in paddleshift trouble as the session started, the team getting out later in the session, Tor Graves first at the wheel.
RG Racing’s #66 BMW engined DP is having some electronic issues, little or no dash information is currently available, no shift or gear indications! The team are working hard on those issues but have also needed new gear clusters after a decision to restrict peak revs on the Dinan BMW V8 rendered their planned internals surplus to requirements.
Sunoco Daytona Challenge winner Phil Keen arrived at the circuit after an overnight flight from the UK. “Off for a sleep and in the car later” said a cheerful but weary Phil.
The improved pace of the PC cars sees them right on the heels of the P cars. In this session, it was PR1-Mathiasen over CORE; Kimber-Smith over Braun.
As expected, GTLM sees an intense battle. Wiley old veteran Bill Auberlen brought the 25 BMW through fastest, dipping into the 1:44 range. The Mags Corvette just missed that mark, turning a 1:45.005. As typical, the class remained tight throughout the session, with 9 of the 10 cars entered taking laps within a second of the leading BMW.
New to the class is Simon Pagenaud, who for the long races is part of the No. 4 Corvette driving strength. “I’m enjoying the team and the car and wish I could be doing more with them. I can’t do Le Mans with them because of a conflict with the Indy Car schedule, but I’d really like to have that opportunity to race with them there sometime.”
In GTD, the numerically reduced entry is still impressive, and the fact that there are four makes in the top 5 supports the fact that the series has been very active in sorting out the class balance in this class also. Best this time out was Andy Lally in the Magnus Porsche, followed by Scuderia Corsa Ferrari, AJR Porsche, TRG Aston Martin and one of the Riley Vipers.
We’ll be having a full day here, a 30 minute session in the early afternoon, followed by qualifying and then night practice.