Category Archives: Daytona International Speedway

Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida, USA

Rolex 24 hours at Daytona the debrief

Endurance racing is my favorite form of Motorsport. This year’s Rolex 24 had the potential to be very special because in the middle of last season one of my Canadian colleagues put me in touch with an IMSA official and a prospect of a real job (even if it was on a part-time basis) to work events that I really love as a race official. I had my fingers and toes crossed even as December rolled around but the job did not materialize… The 2018 season though seemed to be off to an exciting start with lots of “new” cars/teams/drivers joining the series, so I scrambled to book my flights and went as a volunteer instead.

For the race I got my pit lane assignment directly across from folks whose team I was hoping to join. But instead of doing something important with a real impact on the competition, I spent five days trackside spectating. It was excellent entertainment being so close until the race rolled around when it became pretty obvious that much of the previous year will repeat itself and Cadillacs will dominate. The excitement wore off.

The most interesting racing was in the GT Daytona field so I paid special attention to that battle. In prototypes the lead car was several laps ahead of second place at one point. And in GT Le Mans Fords ran away with pace Corvette couldn’t match, they too were several laps ahead. It was sad to watch the BMW M8’s be so uncompetitive. And the Porsche RSR team didn’t seem to have it’s kamikaze pilots from last year. Oh well!

At the end of the race records were broken, champions were crowned, and Rolex watches handed out as prizes. Who cares though? The predictability of the outcome made things boring. Hey, at least the weather was good!

Luckily, the 24h wasn’t the only race of the weekend. I feel like I got my money’s worth going on this trip from the two support series. The Ferrari Challenge folks put on a grand battle, and with 40+ cars on the grid it was awesome to see the series alive and well after seeing it’s sorry state in Connecticut last time I volunteered for it at Lime Rock.

Similarly Continental Tire Challenge rocked! I loved the battles there in all the classes. Nice to see TC R cars slide in so well into the grid, though a little sad not to see Miatas in ST class.

So in conclusion it was a good trip for a good clean race. A bit disapointing because of lack of excitement but I departed satisfied. And since I’m having trouble finding paid work, it’s likely this event will be one of my last times volunteering until I get the means to afford it again in the future. Too bad I wasn’t good enough to be hired by the series so I could continue doing what I really like to do, but such is life…

It was Tough to be a Mazda Fan at Daytona 24 Hour this Race

I had high hopes for Mazda Motorsports DPi team this weekend. Team Joest showed so much potential at the Roar. And then 2017 repeated itself… deja vu all over again.

Right off the bat one of the cars had a hard time leaving the Le Mans style grid in pit lane. Remarkably IMSA allowed the car to retake its position on the sighting laps before the green flag started the race.  At one point (first full course yellow if I remember correctly) the car ended up in P1 briefly because it didn’t pit like the rest of the leading pack… but things fell apart quickly. I remember thinking, well at least it’s only tire failures which Mazda could easily blame on Continental Tire like Wayne Taylor Racing did, but long before the race ended there was an engine fire that took one of the cars out. Both would DNF from this year’s Rolex 24, much like last year.

What a shame!

The owners lounge in the fan zone  was similarly disappointing. I remember when they were generous… I remember collecting Mazda swag long before I bought my Miata. It encouraged me to develop enthusiasm for the brand. This year it was purely for show if you looked from the distance. Inside the fancy display you got some pictures on the walls with a nice Die-cast Model of the original Cosmo which you couldn’t even purchase. If you got a red wristband after registering as a Mazda owner, the lady behind the podium offered you a Mazda lanyard and a coffee mug. If you got a black wristband you only got a lanyard.

Why so stingy Mazda?

I hope with the money they saved on fans they could buy some better reliability. If that doesn’t work maybe their money is better spent slapping a Mazda sticker on a Cadillac powered Dallara like the Spirit of Daytona team… though their car failed to finish also, so clearly success isn’t guaranteed.

Hopefully things turn around in the future… It was obvious to see that Mazda Motorsport didn’t come to Daytona 24 to win it.

Daytona 24 Hour Favorite Moments of the Weekend

There were lots of ups and downs this Rolex 24 hour weekend. Mostly ups and one of my recent favorites was to see the Kremer Porsche out on track from the HSR display… what a cool sight to witness!

Great to see vintage race cars from way before I started in this motorsport hobby.

Also super happy to have been in pit lane for the majority of the weekend especially in my post at Out.

Special thanks to the chief of pit marshals Scott Lucas for taking care of our team. Including dinner and lunch deliveries:

Fine Dining with a view…

Even after being totally worn out and exhausted at the end of the weekend, I had a blast!

 

Rolex 24 at Daytona 2018 Grid Walk Pics

What an amazing experience this year’s Rolex 24 hours at Daytona was for me. Got to work in pit lane and was well positioned to do the grid walk just before the race. Here’s some of my pics:

 

I’m happy I got some close ups of the GT Daytona cars, the only true race of the weekend. The other two classes were a disappointment with runaway winners laps ahead of the competition. More on that later.

 

Rolex 24 at Daytona Spotter Guides by Andy Blackmore

Great news! Andy Blackmore has just released the 2018 IMSA Spotter Guides ahead of the Rolex 24 hour race at Daytona this weekend.

You may download the guides on Andy’s web site spotterguides.com or on official IMSA site, or do like me and get a printed booklet at the paddock in Daytona International Speedway. It’s a great collectable.

I’m writing about this while sitting at the gate in Newark Liberty International Airport about to board my flight to Florida to volunteer this awesome event.

The Roar Before the Rolex 24 Hour the debrief

I have to say that booking flights this year instead of driving down to Florida was a brilliant idea… boy am I glad I did that. The night I was flying out to Orlando flights at Newark were beginning to get cancelled for the next day. After I arrived in Daytona, NYC was getting 12 inches of snow, a storm that already dumped a ton on Savannah, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. There was even snow in the panhandle of Florida. No snow in Daytona Beach for the weekend but it was absolutely freezing. I brought a ton of warm winter clothing but I was still freezing cold.

Anyway… main reason for signing up to volunter this event was to see the new cars for the 2018 season. There was a lot new. The Acuras of Team Penske were quite ugly to look at but fast right out of the box. The Cadillac Dallaras were predictably the quickest. Mazda was still predictably slow, even under Team Joest management.

I love the fact there were so many prototypes. Seems like more than I remember in previous years. The GT Daytona collection had amazing variety again. Very nice to see both BMW M6 and M8 side by side in naked carbon fiber form.

In Continental Tire series it was near to see the fleet of TCR cars. Volksvagen Golf GTi especially was impressive to watch as it spun a few times in the bus stop where I was flagging for a few days.

Mercedes and Audi GT4 cars were a surprise especially when I realized that the R8 was a V10!

I got a chance to flag from Turn 4 as well and worked Turn 3 on Monday for Ferrari Challenge which looked revived with the Ferrari 488 Evo spec racers.

It was a great weekend despite the cold. Looking forward to the Rolex 24 next week.

Post Card from Ferrari Challenge at Daytona Pre-24h Weekend Test Day

Great way to spend Monday at the race track. The temperature is warmest it has been for the whole week down in Florida. Today was in the 70’s and misty. But despite the light rain it was enjoyable flagging at Turn 3.

I thought Ferrari Challenge was dying out based on the low attendance at Line Rock, but this field was impressive.

Some pix:

Back to reality tomorrow… great trip to Daytona! Can’t wait to return in two weeks.

Favorite car wrap:

Roar Before the 24 Pit Lane Preview

This year’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 was much bigger than last years… why? My guess would be because of Fernando Alonso… and maybe a gaggle of other Formula 1 drivers, along with a whole fleet of new Prototype and GT cars on display.

I’m thrilled to have had an opportunity to visit the pit area for WeatherTech Sports Car Championship practice, and I can’t wait for the proper enduro at the end of the month. It will be fantastic.

Here’s a few pix:

The elusive Team Joest Mazda

Alonso!

Hold on…

Jackie Chan Racing

Keep holding…

Hopefully… with a little bit of luck… this will be my view for the Rolex 24 in pit out.

Also hoping the weather is like this, warm and sunny.

With no Miatas racing in IMSA any more, it’s nice to see an RF at the Team Joest garages.

Post Card from the Conti Paddock at the Roar before the 24 at Daytona

Sunday Fun Day… Finally things turned around for me. I finally got my preferred station assignment to work Turn 4, which meant I could visit the paddock and take in all the new stuff on display this season.

Apparently IMSA will be following SRO specifications for GT4 machinery. And there’s lots of it here: Mercedes-AMG GT4 and Audi R8 GT4 joining an established field of Aston Martin GT4, Porsche Cayman GT4, and Mustang GT4.

A whole new series previously previewed in a competing series last year with Pirelli World Challenge: the TCR cars. We had a number of Audi RS3 LMS and a single VW Golf GTi TCR.

Here’s the pix:

Oh yes, another new addition to the GS field BMW M4

Lots of German silver cars in this growing field previously dominated by Mustangs and Camaros.