IMSA Penalizes Lamborghini GTD cars

Ummm…  About those Lamborghinis that were so fast at the Rolex 24?  IMSA announced  penalties today for the entire Lamborghini GTD field field.  Apparently, there is a good reason why they were faster – an older and larger air restrictor.

Here’s the story from Marshall Pruett and  In addition to race penalties, championship point penalties and financial fines, IMSA will likely be making Adjustment of Performance tweaks before Sebring.  Without good data to work with from Daytona, adjustments for the Lamborghinis will be more of a guess than the other cars.  Lamborghini shouldn’t expect that IMSA will be generous.

With the prior news that the O’Gara team has ceased operations, it has been an eventful last week or so for the Lamborghini world.


Rolex 24 P Class – A Deeper Look

Endurance races have multiple layers and there are a multitude of plots and sub-plots, unseen stories and angles and facts that get filled in later.  The Rolex 24 at Daytona had plenty of storylines that grabbed the headlines, but the days and weeks after the race provided an opportunity to have a closer look.  The Prototype class had 13 entries and plenty of intrigue.  With that, some observations and nuggets through the Prototype field at the Rolex 24:

  • In past years, P2 cars showed some pace, but struggled with reliability, fragility, and less professional driver line-ups. The Daytona Prototype platform has racked up wins with the opposite – reliability, strength and solid driving strength.  With that background, it was ironic that the 2016 Rolex 24 saw the winner persevere through early rear contact (at the hands of another P2 car) and late gearbox alarms to take the win while Daytona Prototypes that should have been favorites for the win suffered mechanical failures.20160130-30215427252
  • Both Ganassi cars had braking issues. The #02 had an exceptionally difficult race, plagued by brake issues throughout.  Tony Kanaan completed a three hour stint at about 8.5 hours into the race by losing front brakes completely and taking the car directly to the garage.  A broken brake line cost 10 laps to repair.  With just under three hours to go, NASCAR driver Kyle Larson was onboard the #02 when the brakes failed in the infield sending the car into the tire barrier and doing significant front-end damage and needed a flatbed for recovery.  The #02 eventually finished 7th in class and 13th overall, 28 laps off the lead.20160130-30143718149 20160130-3020051834 20160128-28091652253 20160128-28090909204
  • The #01 stayed on the lead lap until the early morning hours when overheating issues with about 5 hours to go sent the car to the garage for several laps. While stars among the driving line-up included Alex Wurz and Brendan Hartley, and Andy Priaulx, it also included young Lance Stroll.  We don’t know for sure one way or another, but one suspects that Stroll landed the ride due more to a business arrangement than pure merits given Ganassi’s access to other drivers like Sage Karam that didn’t drive.  Given Mr. Stroll’s youth, family resources, single seater crashes in Europe, a lack of any prior experience in a Daytona Prototype, and a crash on cold tires in his first outing in the car at the Roar test, observers wondered if he was the weakest link in the driving chain.  However, he acquitted himself quite well.  He drove three stints of about 7 hours of total drive time with average lap times within a few tenths of Hartley, the fastest of the drivers in the car.20160128-28092057298 20160130-3020031925
  • The Ganassi Daytona Prototype program officially ended after the Rolex 24. The two prototypes will not run again in competition.
  • The two Mazdas showed enough pace to give the team a taste of the front of the field. They’re not there yet, but were a lot closer than in all of 2015.  While the engineering exercise of the diesel engine may have been extraordinary, the move to a gasoline powerplant for 2016 finally allowed Mazda to play with the rest of the prototypes.  Sadly, the #70 retired after only 11 laps with a flywheel issue and gained fame as the first retirement of the 2016 Rolex 24 Hours in the hands of Tom Long.  Joel Miller and Ben Devlin never got to drive. The #55 ran another 316 laps before a valve train issue ended its run an hour shy of halfway.  The new engine had been in development during 2015 and racked up nearly 4,000 testing miles prior to the Roar test in January.  The little 2 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine manages to make about 570 horsepower.  The #55 wasn’t immune to more traditional dramas – the team switched steering wheel and ECU at about the 6 hour mark and also suffered a shredded left rear tire just after the 10 hour mark.20160130-30144229196 20160130-30204622121 20160128-28090758171 20160128-28090832189  20160130-30143722152 20160131-310316531 IMG_20160130_211227739
  • 2015 Indy Lights champ Spencer Pigot got his first ride in the prototype and first outing at the Rolex 24. He wasn’t use to sharing a car and looked forward to starting the 2016 IndyCar campaign with RLL with March testing at Sebring and an Indy 500 run in May.  All of the Mazda drivers were part of the Mazda driver development program.  Pigot had a distinctive fluorescent green glow in the dark helmet which made him easy to spot during the nighttime hours.  Despite Pigot’s resume, he wasn’t the fastest of the drivers in the car.  That honor was reserved for Jonathan Bomarito who has plenty of experience with the car and will run for the full season with teammate Tristan Nunez.20160130-302048141
  • The sympathetic favorite early in the race was the DeltaWing. Plagued by gearbox issues throughout 2015 and the perpetual debate about what it is and where it fits, Katherine Legge charged to the front in the opening of the race with an electric drive.  She drove with confidence, making bold passes into the bus stop and into turn one.  In her hands, the Delta Wing raced and passed other prototypes on the track for position on its merits without gimmicks of strategy or luck of caution flags. Legge has been extremely loyal to the program for several years – potentially to her detriment – and it was marvelous to see her and the car run well.20160128-2809085219520160128-28120632343  20160130-30143327117 The DeltaWing skipped the wet qualifying, so started dead last in the prototype field which equated to 13th place on the starting grid. By lap 8, Legge was up to overall.  By lap 27, she was leading overall and stayed in the lead for 14 laps.  She reclaimed the lead on lap 70 and held it through lap 81 when she pitted to hand over to Andy Meyrick after 2 hours and 34 minutes at the controls.  She was effusive when visiting the media center after her stint.  She rose to the pressure of having a competitive car.  She noted that the gearbox had been the car’s nemesis and admitted that they hadn’t run a 24 hour simulation, but were hopeful.  It must have been a crushing moment to see Meyrick crash into the back of a stalled prototype challenge car in turn one, ending the car’s race just over an hour later.  Somehow the radio message from the pits didn’t get through or was missed which left Meyrick unsighted as he arrived at the corner.  Sean Rayhall and Andreas Wirth did not get to drive.20160130-30143324114IMG_20160130_211131792
  • Action Express had to be one of the favorites for the overall win coming into the 2016 event. The team not only had won the Rolex 24 several times previously, but brought a stable driver line up and a stable car.  With so many other teams experiencing changes, they knew what they had and arguably enhanced their lineup with the addition of Scott Pruett in the #5 car.  It was surprising then to see both cars experience driveshaft failures at separate points during the race.  The #31 Whelen Corvette ran at or near the front for the bulk of the race until under 6 hours to go when a left rear drive shaft failed.  The repair took about 20 minutes and 13 laps.  Later, with only 3.5 hours to go, the #5 experienced the exact same problem while leading the race.  For a team that has little to no mechanical failures for two years, it was a tough time for a failure to strike.  The #5 lost only 11 minutes and 5 laps in the repair (remarkable – faster with practice?).  The #5 Mustang Sampling post-race press release noted that the car went off track three times during the race.  One was a brief nudge into the tires at turn 3 just shy of two hours into the event.  Another was a brief off track tour at turn 5 just shy of the 7.5 hour mark.  The third was a brief overnight detour due to oil from a troubled engine in a competitor’s car. The cars finished 4th for the #5 and 6th for the #31 – solid runs for both and both logged many laps in the lead, but they needed a perfect run for a podium. 20160130-30214738234
  • Is Pruett still fast?   He did fewer laps than the other drivers in the #5, but had the fastest average lap time.  Barbosa did the most laps by far for drivers in the #5 car.20160130-3019595517 20160130-3020250491
  • What about the #31? Simon Pagenaud was fastest and Brit Jonny Adam was close behind in his debut, Dane Cameron was also close and did the most laps of any driver in the car.  Kudos to Cameron for logging drive times among the longest of all drivers at a competitive pace.  Notably, there is no evidence that the #31 incurred any pit lane penalties at all – a very impressive feat given the number of other cars with at least one infraction.20160130-301958171
  • The “Highway to Help” Daytona Prototype sports the #50 as a nod to the more experienced driver line up. The team runs for charity and giggles rather than hardware, so they provide some additional color and character to the event.  When the checkered flag flew, the team not only was running at the finish, but finished 36th overall and 8th in class.  It wasn’t an uneventful run though.  The car earned several pit lane penalties, had some radio problems, incurred some rear bodywork damage, brought out a full course caution just before the halfway mark when the car came to a halt to drivers’ right at turn one.   The #50 went behind the wall, but emerged only 10 minutes later.  With under 2 hours to go, a left rear wheel hub issue delayed the car in pit lane.  Drivers Jim Pace and Dorsey Schroeder had both won in previous years.  Pace, the overall winner in 1996, was clearly the fastest in the car based on average lap times.20160130-30202705100
  • The #37 SMP BR-01 prototype surprisingly sat on the pole in the hands of Indycar driver Mikhail Aleshin which was quite the splash for the car’s US debut. After setting pole time in the wet Thursday session, however, the car lost its Nissan engine 21 minutes into Friday practice.  The team changed to an engine with some prior run time, but was unable to get a hardship lap prior to the start of the race.  Despite starting on the pole, Aleshin was third at the end of the first lap and slipped off the track at the west horseshoe on the 7th lap which cost several additional positions.  The car never led a lap during the race and spent almost the first 6 hours of the race near the back of the prototype field.  The car had contact with the pit exit wall and returned to the garage via the infield, dropping quickly to something like 44th  The BR-01 struggled throughout the race with brake problems but finished – albeit in 28th place overall 108 laps off the lead.  Nicholas Minassian was aboard when the car made a 3:30am visit to the garage for 15 minute stop.  Sadly, the language barrier prevented a full understanding of the issue by your humble scribe who doesn’t speak Russian.  Two technicians with laptops focused on the steering wheel which suggested that perhaps shifting electronics in the complex steering wheel were the culprit.20160130-30143712147 20160130-30215414242 20160130-30215416243 20160131-31033659300 20160131-310342064 20160131-31034533311 20160130-3020001119 Michael Shank has to wonder what might have been. The #60 Ligier-Honda was dominant for hours at a time.  From just after the 4 hour mark, the car led more often than not in the hands of Oz Negri, Olivier Pla and AJ Allmendinger.  At times, the lead stretched to 30 seconds or more.  By average lap time, Pla was the fastest driver in the entire field.  Unfortunately, an engine failure at the 9.5 hour mark took the car from the lead to retirement.  The same powerplant went to victory lane in the other Ligier, so the platform was clearly a strong horse.  Ironically, the two Ligiers got together in the braking zone for the bus stop as John Pew overcooked his brakes and hit the back of the ESM car.  The Shank car needed a new nose, but the ESM car appeared to dodge a bullet that could have ruined its race.20160128-28120816344 IMG_20160129_083940638 20160128-28085729100 20160130-3020080551 20160130-3019594516 20160131-310317521
  • It was all change for the VisitFlorida #90 Daytona prototype behind the wheel and the team was rewarded with a quiet run to the podium and a lead-lap finish. Some grass on the grille and loose front bodywork in the early hours was visible evidence of a run off course at some point with Ryan Hunter-Reay.  The team changed the rear wing at the 5 hour mark.  The #90 appears to have incurred a single drive through penalty for a pit lane infringement (wheels spinning while up on the jacks) and that was at the 7 hour mark.   It also had a power steering problem on Sunday morning that required an ECU change.  Otherwise, it was a clean race and the #90 stayed in the top 3 or 4 cars for most of the race.  Marc Goosens was the iron man at the controls with the most green laps run and the fastest average lap time.20160128-28091732261 20160130-3020071044 20160130-3020153869
  • The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Daytona Prototype Corvette again came up just short of a win.  Jordan Taylor suffered from mononucleosis but still managed to show strong pace in the car and log over 100 green laps.  So much attention was shined towards late joiner Rubens Barrichello, but he was the slowest driver based on average lap times and did the fewest laps in the car.  While Jordan Taylor and Barrichello got the headlines, Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor were the strong horses for the #10 entry, logging many of the green laps. Ricky Taylor tweeted after the race that he lost 9 pounds of weight through the event.  Showing what kind of run is required for the win, the #10 car spent less time in the pits than any other prototype, had no pit lane penalties, and had no off course incidents.  However, exhaust fumes got into the cockpit for the last few hours and ended up with Jordan Taylor cutting his last stint short and Angelelli barely bringing the car across the finish line.  He was taken unconscious to the hospital and kept overnight.  An extremely close call that could have resulted in disaster for the drivers in the #10 car and other competitors.  One wonders whether some sort of sensor in the driver’s compartment would be a good idea since monitoring the environment for the driver ought to be at least as important as telemetry for the car’s health.20160128-28091419231 20160129-2908411457 20160128-2809194428620160130-30214804237 20160130-3020052035 20160130-3020253093
  • That leaves the winning #2 ESM Patron Ligier Honda. The car took the lead with about 6 hours to go and never really relinquished it until the checkered flag.  As noted previously, the ESM car had a close call with contact from the rear heading into the bus stop.  In the closing laps, a gearbox temperature alarm was going off for Pipo Derani which kept everybody on edge but obviously the car finished the race.  Derani was clearly the star of the show with the fastest average lap times of drivers in the car (and most drivers) and the most green laps logged in the car.  In fact, his record of about 250 laps was among the most green laps run in the event by any driver overall.  Johannes van Overbeek and Scott Sharp ran clean, consistent and quick laps as well.  Owner Ed Brown did only a small handful of laps and deferred to the hot shoes for the vast bulk of the running.  Brazilian Derani was known to those that follow the WEC and LeMans given his 2015 drive with the G-Force Ligier LMP2 team, but 2016 was his first race in the US and first Rolex 24 run.  He certainly will have done his career prospects no harm, so keep an eye out for him.  He will be running with ESM for a full 2016 WEC season.20160128-2808560893 20160130-30143307111 20160130-30212902161 20160130-3020000518
  • The first ever Rolex 24 win for the Honda engine almost got lost in all the excitement. Honda has had a challenged several years in US sportscar racing between prototype cars and engines, so a win must be a welcome reward for all of the work and faith.  Interestingly, it also puts Honda in an odd position for the future when it isn’t sure whether it can supply engines to customers in light of ambiguities in the rules package.20160128-28090754169
  • Interestingly, the Shank and ESM teams coordinated on logistics for 2016. The chassis used by ESM to win the Rolex 24 was also run by Oak Racing at the 2015 LeMans 24 hours with Nissan power.  Shank is running the 24 Hours of LeMans in 2016 for the first time and will be using the Daytona winning car for that race.  As ESM is running the full WEC season, ESM leased the car from Oak for Daytona who will eventually ship the car back to Europe to get it ready for Shank at LeMans.  The arrangement permitted ESM to lease their car for Daytona without having to risk impacting their WEC cars and program and likewise permits Shank to show up to LeMans  without impacting his US IMSA program.20160130-30143312113 20160130-30144723238

All eyes look forward to Sebring and remaining questions on reliability and pace among the various prototype flavors.

Rolex 24 GTLM Class – A Deeper Look

Endurance races have multiple layers and there are a multitude of plots and sub-plots, unseen stories and angles and facts that get filled in later.  The Rolex 24 at Daytona had plenty of storylines that grabbed the headlines, but the days and weeks after the race provided an opportunity to have a closer look.  The GTLM class had only 11 entries and some of the closest racing of the event.  With that, some observations and nuggets through the GTLM field at the Rolex 24:

  • Nick Tandy was the star in his #911 Porsche. He not only logged the most green laps of any GTLM driver (241 – 4th most of any driver in the race overall), but the fastest driver in either of the Porsches based on average lap time.  Did we mention that Tandy set pole time in GTLM in wet conditions?  How about that Tandy’s pole lap time was the fastest of all – including the prototypes?  Clearly changing conditions had something to do with that, but the GTLM cars and their Michelin rubber clearly favored the Porsche.  Tandy’s endurance and pace was a “what could have been,” as the car suffered a driveshaft failure with just over 5 hours to go and went back to the garage for repairs.  The repairs cost about an hour and 36 laps. 20160130-30125717920160130-3020213674IMG_20160131_100828331 IMG_20160131_093612570
  • The #912 in the hands of Fred Makowiecki qualified in second and the car ran a trouble-free race to finish third in GTLM and ninth overall. Earl Bamber lost second with 22 minutes to go as a charging Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette nudged by.  New Zealander Bamber went from Daytona to Bathurst and finished first in Class-B in a Porsche 911.  Fastest times were close, but Bamber was the fastest in the #912 and just a shade off of Tandy’s times in the #911.20160130-3020142961 20160130-30125602120160130-30213015170 20160130-3019583611 20160130-30125602120160128-2808550784
  • Notably, the Porsche pair ran together for most of the race. The entire GTLM class seemed content to run consistent laps, stay on the lead lap, and avoid trouble until the end.  The Porsches, however, appeared to run a dedicated strategy of pacing each other and protecting each other’s flanks.20160130-30144816247
  • BMW will likely look back at the Rolex 24 as a reasonable debut, but with a need to find more speed out of the car (and potentially some Adjustment of Performance help as well). The BMWs were respectable in the turns, but lagged where horsepower was needed as evidenced by top speed numbers at the bottom of the class.  The whole class is tight and there were times where the BMWs were close, but the BMWs never consistently challenged for the top positions during the race.  The BMW M6 is a very different car than the Z4 used in 2015.  It will be interesting to see if the handling qualities give the BMW an advantage at Sebring.20160130-3020125258 20160130-3012592020 20160128-28085924123 20160128-28090731163
  • The #100 Anniversary car was returned to the BMW garage on the back of a flatbed at 3:15am after a suspected right front disc failure put Lucas Luhr into the outside wall at the end of the front stretch and beyond turn one.  The damage was severe and the car was retired.  Luhr was the fastest driver in the car and was uninjured.20160131-310318261 20160131-310321113 20160131-31031932283
  • A needed splash of fuel in the closing minutes put the #25 Heritage BMW into fifth place in class after running between fourth and fifth of the last few hours. An early puncture suffered near the bus stop dropped the car down two laps, but Bill Auberlen expertly brought the car back to the pits after a long and slow lap with no damage.   The margins between the drivers for average fastest lap were amazingly minimal – 9/100 covered all four drivers in terms of average lap times.  Farfus and Spengler tied for the most laps among the #25 drivers – each ran 169 green laps.20160128-28090727161
  • The new Ferrari 488 was represented by three cars – #62 Risi, #68 Scuderia Corsa, and #72 SMP Racing. The car was brand new.  Risi ran some shakedown laps at Fiorano in Italy before shipping the car to Miami and having it delivered directly to Daytona on Tuesday before the race.  The Thursday morning practice session were the first laps turned on US soil.  The wet practice and qualifying sessions meant that the team had very little dry running to work on setups before the race start.  Risi clearly missed valuable testing time at the Roar where it would have resolved issues like basic setups and driver comfort among the multiple drivers.  The car ran flawlessly and stayed close to the top but had contact with other cars on the track.  Olivier Beretta served a drive through penalty at the 13 hour mark for avoidable contact with the #3 Corvette.  Later contact with a Ford damaged the diffuser which ultimately led to a stop to remove it completely.  Repairs took place in the garage under green which cost four laps but the team had no spare. The Ferrari ran without a rear diffuser at all for the last six hours of the race which hampered its pace further.  Risi’s post-race press release proudly noted that the crew had no penalties and only one driver-caused penalty during the race.  A 6th place in class must be a frustrating result after a very strong race with no mechanical issues for the new car and the only problem caused by contact with another competitor.  Watch for Risi at Sebring.20160128-2808523368 20160130-30203016111
  • Likewise, the #68 Scuderia Corsa team had a strong debut for its 488 after a clean run on the pits and on the track. After four hours of running, the team incurred a 3m 30 second penalty for multiple violations (including running a red light at the end of pit lane).  The penalty cost three laps, but the team regained the laps and finished fourth in class.  Primat served another penalty during the night under green for speeding on pit lane as well.  The 488 appears to balance the infield and high speed bits of the track to assemble its lap times.  Alessandro Pier Guidi was the leader of the Scuderia Corsa team.  Not only did he average the fastest time among the drivers, he ran the most laps (tied for fifth most of all drivers in all classes with 232 green laps).20160130-3012590014 20160128-2808521166 20160128-28091533240 20160130-30204617120 20160130-30213316180
  • The #72 SMP Racing Ferrari had an unfortunate qualifying session, ending up sliding through a wet turn one and making contact with the tires at the outside of turn one. Some racers tape, a new rear fascia and some rear wing work solved the problem and the car made it out for Friday practice and the race with good pace.  After staying in touch with the leaders for most of the race and running at the front at times, the car was retired just before the 19th hour mark with engine troubles and some left front body damage.  James Calado and Gimmi Bruini were the stars of the driving line-up and will make excellent teammates for the 2016 WEC season.  It must be said, however, that the SMP Ferrari and the two Ford GT cars need to coordinate on getting more distinctive liveries as they all have too much similar red, white and blue to easily distinguish at a glance.20160130-30214338228 20160130-30213559202 20160130-30144301199 20160130-3020252592 IMG_20160131_101315767
  • Speaking of the Ford GT program, the glare of the spotlight must have been hot on Rolex weekend. The team had so much advance publicity and expectations between the new entry, the Ford presence, the GT heritage, the backing of Chip Ganassi Racing, the driver line up, etc.  Somehow in all the testing miles, the electronics in the gear linkage never surfaced as an issue, but hampered both entries.  The team worked to get both cars back in the event and run as many miles and laps as possible.  Silver linings?  Both cars make speed on the straights.  Ryan Briscoe in the #67 set the fastest average top speed times of any GTLM car at over 185mph.   Next fastest?  Joey Hand in the #66 at a touch over 184mph.  Mucke and Muller were close behind.  As you might expect from a professional driver line-up, all the drivers averaged very close lap times to each other.  Despite the early problems and repair delays, both cars ran a lot of laps.  The #67 logged 429 green laps and the #66 logged 534 green laps.  If the Fords can resolve their reliability and trade some of their top speed for grip in the corners, they will be a threat for wins.  Sebring will be a major test.20160128-28085819108 20160128-281441331120160130-3013000724 20160130-3013001326 20160129-290841476020160130-3019584312 20160130-3020085852  20160130-3020163570 20160130-30213612204
  • What more can be said about the Corvette effort? The closest winning margin in Daytona history of 0.034 seconds after the Corvette team let both of their cars run for the win?  The stuff that legends are made of.  Oliver Gavin in the #4 just edged Antonio Garcia in the #3.  However, the win looked out of reach with a puncture at speed earlier in the race coming out of NASDCAR Turn 4 and then incurred a penalty on the pit stop.  The team recovered, charged to the front, and then suffered a stop plus a 60 second hold penalty for Marcel Fassler with only 3 hours to go after running the red light at the end of pit lane.  Not only did Gavin post the fastest average lap times in the #4, he ran the most green laps of the three drivers in the car (214).20160130-30144631230 20160130-30213420186
  • Jan Magnussen noted that the #3 had a fueling problem which resulted in an extra stop – and possibly cost the race. The car had earlier drama with 11 hours to go when Olivier Beretta in the Ferrari spun the #3 Corvette in the infield on a restart.  IMSA penalized Beretta, but the spin put the Corvette near the back of the GTLM field.  Garcia was the hot shoe in the #3 with the fastest average lap time and the most laps in the car.  He was too fast on pit lane with just under 7 hours to go, earning a drive through penalty for speeding on pit lane.20160128-2809054915820160130-3012595923 20160130-30143756162 20160130-30144447210 20160130-30203041112
  • Like the Porsches, the Corvettes also ran in tandem when possible during the race. Looking back through the notes during the race, it is remarkable how little went wrong for the Corvette team.  They should be very proud of their 1-2 accomplishment.
  • How hard were the Corvettes pushing at the end? They posted their fastest laps of the race on laps 702 for the #4 and 707 for the #3.  The winners covered a total of 722 laps, so that means the fastest Corvette laps were within 20 laps of the finish.

20160128-28085950128 20160128-28090023131

  • Two Corvette drivers had quiet, consistent, quick and clean races – the two Audi factory drivers. Marcel Fassler and Mike Rockenfeller are no strangers to endurance racing or standing on the podium.  LeMans and Sebring winner Fassler had never driven at Daytona before, but had run with Corvette in 2009.  However, Daytona was not his first 24 hour win in a Corvette – he won the 2007 24 Hours of Spa overall in a Corvette as well.  Rockenfeller won Daytona overall in 2010 in a Porsche powered Daytona prototype and had run for several years in Corvette DPs, but 2016 was his first ride in a Corvette GT car.  Both have amassed a very impressive career and will run with Corvette at the Sebring 12 Hours as well.  Full credit and kudos to Audi for permitting them to run.20160130-30144111186

How close was it at the end?  A fraction of a second for the win and three cars on the lead lap with two more a lap adrift.  All the teams appeared to try to keep a consistent pace, let attribution winnow the field, and save the hard racing until the end.  Sebring will offer less room to log clean laps and wait for the end.

Rolex 24 PC Class – A Deeper Look

Endurance races have multiple layers and there are a multitude of plots and sub-plots, unseen stories and angles and facts that get filled in later.  The Rolex 24 at Daytona had plenty of storylines that grabbed the headlines, but the days and weeks after the race provided an opportunity to have a closer look.  The Prototype Challenge class had only eight entries and the most attrition within the class.  The PC class doesn’t get as much attention as some other classes, but there is some good racing and compelling stories to be found.  With that, some observations and nuggets through the Prototype Challenge field at the Rolex 24:

  • Who logged the most laps of any driver of any car in any class at the Rolex 24? Alex Popow in the Starworks #8 with 268.  He was 18 laps clear of the next closest who was Pipo Derani in the race winning ESM prototype.  Who logged the third most laps of any driver in any class at the Rolex 24?  Renger van der Zande in the same Starworks #8 car with 243 laps.  That’s 10 hours plus in the car for both Starworks pilots.  Why?  After co-driver Chris Cumming was unable to re-start in the car in Turn 1 and was rear-ended by Andy Meyrick in the Delta Wing, the team repaired the car but Cumming was not cleared to continue.  Indycar driver Jack Hawksworth was on the entry and ready to go, but drive time regulations intended to ensure a minimum amount of seat time for amateurs meant that Jack didn’t drive.  The team repaired the #8 car after the contact and rejoined 38 laps down.  Running with right rear diffuser damage, the team finished the event 4th in class, 17 laps off the PC winner.  They were 8 laps away from a PC class podium.  Epic driving to finish the event with long drive times and fast laps even without podium hardware to take home.20160130-3020124157 20160130-30143740158 20160130-3020034829
  • The Starworks team #88 had a strong driver line up, including Mercedes standout Maro Engel who is better known for SLS GT racing than open-top prototype racing. Watching the team plan and practice driver changes on Friday was an interesting case study in minimizing motion and maximizing efficiency.  Sean Johnston got caught on cold tires on a painted line leaving pit lane, but ended up with front left damage rather than the more common front right damage.  The slow crawl around the remainder of the lap was painful to watch.  The crew repaired the damage in a half an hour and returned the car to the fight.  A crash in the bus stop for Mark Kvamme before the halfway mark damaged the mounting point for the nose cone and the tub, forcing an early retirement.  Felix Rosenqvist never got to race.  Engel went directly to Bathurst and had an epic run in a Mercedes SLS before a flat tire suffered while co-driver Austin Cindric was aboard ended their race.20160131-310348336 20160130-30143335119
  • The #54 CORE autosports team arguably should have been a favorite for the win but retired after only 116 laps run and 5.5 hours logged with an engine failure. Jon Bennett started the car and turned it over to Mark Wilkins who took the car to the class lead by the four and half hour mark.   Colin Braun and Martin Plowman did not drive at all.20160130-30143339121 20160130-30143341124 IMG_20160127_072516849_HDR IMG_20160127_072828153_HDR IMG_20160127_073126957_HDR
  • Signage from the movie “Zoolander 2” and light bars on top of the roll hoops made the #20 BAR1 entry easy to spot at night. Vastly experienced hot shoe Johnny Mowlem put the car on pole during a very wet qualifying session with the fastest time of all prototypes – not just the prototype challenge class.  Due to IMSA rules, each class was gridded together regardless of times, so Mowlem started behind the prototype field at the green flag.  Mowlem drove several races with the team in 2015 and claimed pole position in the 2015 edition of the Rolex 24 as well.  He will be running the full season with youngster Matt McMurry.  The team claimed the third spot on the PC podium for the 2016 running, mostly staying out of trouble and surviving the war of attrition.  Driver Brendan Gaughan was a very late addition to the team for the race, but brought some experience and success – he visited the podium previously in 2011 with a GT car.20160130-30203047113 20160130-30144605228 20160130-30143731156 20160130-3020233685
  • The #26 team BAR1 car finished fifth in class. After running close to the lead on Sunday morning, a gearbox put the car behind the wall for repairs and cost any chance of a podium.   The car lost third gear which likely had some connection with a spin for John Falb in his first Rolex 24.  The team struggled with a variety of issues throughout the race, including a right front brake caliper and radio communications between the driver and the team.  Driver Ryan Eversley spun in the infield after the radio came detached and ended up in the pedal box and struggled with handling and no spotter.  The team wasn’t the fastest, but should be proud to finish fifth despite such hurdles.20160130-3011365171 20160128-28090045138 20160130-3020060939 20160130-30203951115
  • Among other challenges, gearbox/clutch troubles slowed the #38 Performance Tech motorsports car. A walk through the garage in the wee hours found the team along with the XTrac technician at 3:50am rolling the car back out of the garage and towards the track.  Driver Josh Norman said later “The Daytona gods had no mercy upon us this year.”   The car was shown as not running at the end and ranked 6th in the PC class.20160131-31035056320 20160131-31035009316 20160130-3019585915
  • The #52 PR1/Mathiasen finished a strong second place in the PC class. While Tom Kimber-Smith is well known to sportscar fans and is lightning fast, the other three drivers on the squad were all Daytona 24 Hour rookies.  A faulty pump fuel relay after halfway put the car behind the wall for a 20 lap visit, but the end margin to first place in class was only four laps.  Jose Gutierrez in particular deserves credit for his speed and time in the car.  He was only slightly off the average fast lap times of TKS and did 139 laps (TKS did the most in the car at 185 laps).20160130-3020231783 20160130-3020250290 20160130-30143337120 20160130-30144045178
  • Kenton Koch came up through the Mazda scholarship program and is trying to juggle being a race car driver and a college student. His start in the #85 JDC-Miller entry was his first drive in a prototype challenge car.  Koch and co-driver Misha Goikhberg both won championships in the Mazda Prototype Cooper Lites junior series over the past two years.   But for an off on cold tires just after sunrise as Koch exited pit lane which inflicted modest nose damage, the #85 ran a dominant race in the lead with laps of many margins to the next runners.  The margin at the end was a four lap lead in PC and 18th  While the youngsters deserve credit, the star of the show was South African Stephen Simpson.  Simpson qualified the car second in the rain, started the car, ran 202 laps (60 laps more than the next closest in the car which was Koch with 142 laps), and had the fastest average lap times of the drivers on the winning car by over a second.  Very quietly, Simpson had an epic race and the PC win was well earned.20160130-30143733157 20160128-28091918283 20160130-3020235786 20160130-30144044176

Periodic PC driver Mike Hedlund noted that 6 of the 21 full course yellows in the Rolex 24 race were caused by stalled PC cars that couldn’t get restarted.  He attributes the issue to updated valve train and compression for new motors which overwhelmed the older starters.  Presumably, the issue can be remedied by an upgraded starter.  The PC cars are due for a variety of technical updates at Sebring as well.

The Sebring 12 Hours is next up.  Prototype Challenge cars are notoriously fragile class and Sebring is a notoriously rough track.  Having said that, PC cars did well in 2015 with the winner placing 6th overall only 6 laps off the lead.

Rolex 24 GTD Class – A Deeper Look

Endurance races have multiple layers and there are a multitude of plots and sub-plots, unseen stories and angles and facts that get filled in later.  The Rolex 24 at Daytona had plenty of storylines that grabbed the headlines, but the days and weeks after the race provided an opportunity to have a closer look.  The GTD class had the most entries in the race, some of the most significant changes to teams, cars and drivers, and some of the closest racing.  With that, some observations and nuggets through the GTD field at the Rolex 24:

  • The #22 WeatherTech/Alex Job Porsche looked like a strong contender for the win. Shane van Gisbergen in particular was electric.  Better known for his Australian V8 Supercar exploits, he set 24 of the top 25 fastest laps for the car throughout the event.  With 75 minutes to go, the rear wing mounts failed and the wing laid further back. He later said that he could see the crippled wing in the rear view mirror going into turn 1.  Regardless, he charged into the infield and went flat out through the kink where the lack of rear downforce sent him and into a spin across the grass.  The team tried to secure the rear wing and sent him back out.  Incredibly, he charged into the kink at full speed again and repeated his off course excursion in almost the same tire tracks.  A colleague described van Gisbergen as a grenade – pull the pin, stick him in the car, close the door and BOOM.  He further proved it by claiming an electric pole and spearheading a three driver team to take the win at the Bathurst 12 hour the following weekend.


  • The Lamborghini badge made its first appearance in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and let the chance for a debut victory get away despite clearly having the fastest GTD cars in the field. The #16 Change Racing entry and the #48 Paul Miller entry took each other out of the lead and both sustained major suspension damage.  The #11 O’Gara car suffered a variety of electrical maladies before the third hour.  The #28 Konrad Lamborghini took the lead with under 10 minutes to the checkered flag, but knew fuel would be marginal at best.  The team gambled in an effort to claim the win, but ran out of fuel with only 3 minutes to go and lost out on a podium position.




  • Daytona is unique, but the Lamborghini performance was sufficiently dominant that the marque may find itself the subject of a future Adjustment of Performance. The fastest average lap time for a Lamborghini (and GTD overall) was set by Madison Snow and was a full second clear of the fastest average time for the fastest non-Lamborghini car (Jorg Bergmeister in the Park Place Porsche).  How fast were the Lamborghinis through the speed traps?  Several cars had faster average top speeds that ALL of the GTLM cars and ALL of the PC cars.  Yes, they gave some of it up on the infield to the GTLM and PC cars, but less to the rest of the GTD field.  It is easy to understand the frustration of other GTD cars after seeing the Lamborghinis easily whistle past on the banking.


  • Change Racing and Franz Konrad managed to get some extra preparation time by entering the Lamborghini Huracan in the HSR Classic 24h race at Daytona in November. Change Racing was familiar with the Lamborghini Huracan after having run in the 2015 Super Trofeo series, but appreciated the additional time to adapt to the GT3 specification.  The car run by Konrad at the HSR Classic event was shared by multiple teams and drivers at the open IMSA test in November.  Perhaps a brand new Lamborghini Huracan GT3 is not strictly a “classic,” but kudos to Change Racing, Konrad and the HSR team to get the new car some track time during the classic event.20160130-3020465112420160130-30213048173
  • The Lamborghini crews worked a full day on Wednesday before the Rolex as fresh engines arrived at 6:30am for all the teams. It was quite a sight to walk through the garages and see all the Lamborghinis with empty engine bays.  Perhaps evidence of the Huracan as a new car, several teams had technical manuals within arm’s reach as they worked through the installations.


  • The Magnus victory was the first win in the US for the new Audi R8 LMS. The team first tested its new arrival on December 7 and announced Marco Seedfried and Rene Rast as drivers a month later to join Andy Lally and John Potter, but it was a bit of a challenge to adjust to seeing Magnus in an Audi after so many years of running Porsches.  Rast, Potter and Lally were also on the winning squad when Magnus won in 2012.  The victory was Lally’s fifth class victory at the Rolex which puts him in rare company (prior wins were with Archangel Motorsports with Nissan Lola, twice with TRG Porsche, and Magnus Porsche).  Rene Rast won a fuel strategy battle which was ironic after coming up just short in a fuel strategy race in 2013.  He managed his lead masterfully, running laps several seconds slower than the oncoming Nicky Catsburg in the Black Swan Porsche and Damien Faulkner in the #92 “Don’t Mess with Texas” Viper.

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  • The third place #93 ViperExchange “Don’t Mess with Texas” entry was also the winning GTD chassis in 2015. With their third place in class, the team came only seconds shy of giving the chassis another victory.   Team owner Ben Keating found the tires late Saturday night in the #33.  The excursion cost 10 laps between the time for the safety crew to recover the car and the subsequent repairs, but pushed ultimately finished only 3 laps down at the end.  Damien Faulkner in the #93 not only was the fastest driver in the car, but drove the most laps of any driver in the car and GTD overall, logging 195 laps.20160130-301132235120160128-2808560392
  • The #33 ViperExchange entry was the only car to completely miss the final Friday practice before the race. A clutch issue that took a lot of methodical effort to chase, diagnose and fix on Friday prevented participation.  The problem was fixed, but the team was denied a hardship lap prior to the race which meant the green flag was the first time the team could evaluate its repairs.  Likewise, the #93 team car had a brake issue in the final practice and it only got 6 timed laps.  The Friday practice session was the only dry practice session which meant that the race start was the first dry running for the #33 car at all, making the 6 laps logged by the #93 quite valuable for the team.


  • The ViperExchange team had several drivers doing “the double” between the Continental BMW Performance 200 support race on Friday and the Rolex 24 over the weekend. In the #93 Viper that finished 3rd in GTD class and 16th overall, drivers Eric Foss and Jeff Mosing won the ST class in their Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman.  On the #33 Viper that finished 10th in GTD and 24th overall in the Rolex 24 after running into problems, Marc Miller finished third in the CJ Wilson Racing “Darth Cayman” GT4 and Jeroen Bleekemolen finished sixth the Muehlner Motorsports Porsche Cayman in the Friday race.


  • Stevenson Motorsports brought two current spec Audi R8 LMS entries to the Rolex. Fans have been used to seeing Stevenson running Camaros in the Continental series.  The #6 Audi was the car that Audi brought to the November test for teams to try out and Stevenson took it home after that test.  The Rolex 24 was its first outing.  After running consistently in the top 5 in class, damage with four hours to go cost several laps that couldn’t be recovered and the car finished 15th in class and 32nd

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  • The #9 Audi was run by the Phoenix team at the Nurburgring 24 hours in 2015 at the debut for the revised R8 LMS platform. Unfortunately, a power steering problem ended up requiring removal of the gearbox to fix and the team missed the qualifying session.  The #9 also suffered an electrical/battery problem at the start of the Rolex 24 which cost two laps at the outset.  Once running, however, the #9 Audi ran a clean and consistent race but just didn’t have the outright speed to challenge for the lead.  The car finished 8th in class and 22nd overall, 2 laps off the class lead.  Dion von Moltke had the fastest average lap times, but Tristan Vautier ran the most laps (190) by far of any driver in the car and the second most laps of any GTD driver in the race.

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  • Frikadelli brought its “Fastest Meatball in the World” to Daytona for the first ever race for the team beyond the Nurburgring. Frank Stippler and Porsche Junior driver Sven Muller were clearly the fastest of the drivers in the #30 Porsche.  Queen of the Ring Sabine Schmitz never could get comfortable enough to match their speed.  Klaus Abbelen, the butcher whose business is the basis for the meatball theme, showed pace that was reasonably close to Sabine’s speed.  The Frikadelli team didn’t have the outright pace, but ran a very clean race to finish 12th in class and 27th  Coming to Daytona has been Abbelen’s dream for years and he drove the car for its last stint to the checkered flag.

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  • The #45 Krohn Racing/Flying Lizard Audi was a fan favorite during the Rolex weekend judging by the crowds gathered around its garage space. It never threatened for the lead, suffered through contact with a prototype that damaged its splitter, and ultimately retired with a gearbox problem with four hours to go.  The team will return at Sebring for the 12 hours in the older spec Audi R8.  The chassis was the same car that placed second in class at the 2014 Rolex 24.

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  • Turner Motorsport brought its pair of BMW M6 GT3 cars for their maiden run in the US. The blue and yellow pair of cars had 16 engineers looking after them, making the Turner team look like something out of NASA Mission Control.  The #97 had a very solid run and the best run of the two, placing 6th overall and 2 laps off the class lead.  The #96 replaced the gearbox and then later suffered nose damage after a tire blew out and required time in the garage to repair.  Oddly enough, the #97 suffered a tire failure in Friday practice as well, but suffered no damage.   Neither car had the top speed to compete at the front of the field.  The team will be hoping that Sebring fits the car better (and/or looking for changes to the Adjustment of Performance).

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  • The #73 Park Place Porsche sat on pole after a stellar wet qualifying lap by Norbert Siedler and ran very well throughout the race and into Sunday. However, gearbox woes struck on Sunday morning and deprived the team of a strong finish.  Driver Patrick Lindsey lost drive coming out of turn 5 and pulled off the track at turn 6 just before the banking and steered the car slowly through infield traffic back to the garage.  He had the media center in stitches recounting his voyage weaving between passenger cars, pedestrians and track shuttles.  He commented on the irony of getting all kinds of attention for the unusual drive through the infield – more than winning Petit LeMans. The team lost its shot for a win, but got the car back out later to let its season-long drivers meet their minimum drive times for points.

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  • Scuderia Corsa ran a Ferrari 458 in GTD and a brand new Ferrari 488 in GTLM. The team won the 2015 GTD IMSA championship with a completely different driver line-up.  The 2016 version ran a clean and consistent race and kept close, but finished two laps down 7th in class and 21st overall.  The car wasn’t involved in drama and ran competitive lap times which usually is a recipe for a higher finish.  The team should be proud of its run, but will likely be disappointed to miss out on a podium for the final run of the team’s 458 which is expected to be replaced with a shiny new 488 GT3 car.  Scuderia Corsa was also busy fielding three cars in the Ferrari Challenge support races over the weekend as well.20160128-2809172925920160130-301304225620160130-30215119239
  • The #23 Spirit of Seattle/Alex Job Porsche finished 9th in class and 23rd overall.  They raised in excess of $147,000 for Seattle Children’s Hospital based on pledges per lap run.  Wolf Henzler joined the team after the Falken Porsche team ceased operations at the end of 2015.  The team ran strongly in the top few spots throughout the night before problems with a shock and then a loose rear diffuser in the last few hours slowed things down a bit.  A strong run with the new Porsche car should be an encouraging sign for the team.20160128-28092033292 20160130-30204724128
  • Perhaps the reward for the invisible car of the race goes to the AF Corse operated Spirit of Race Ferrari 458. The entry barely featured in pre-race coverage and ran a quiet race.  They finished 11th in class and 26th overall, 5 laps off the class lead.   It was delayed by damage incurred through contact with another car near the halfway point but otherwise ran under the radar until a flat tire with under 19 minutes to go in the race garnered some television time.  Pace was consistent with driver Raffaele Gianmaria clearly the fast shoe behind the wheel with average lap times among the non-Lamborghini GTD leaders.


  • The #007 Racers Group Aston Martin ended its race the late Saturday night/early Sunday morning after side by side contact with the #21 Lamborghini in the bus stop at lap 371.  The Lamborghini was a customer car and not a threat for the lead.  The contact put both cars out. Formula One driver Sergio Perez was on site to support his brother, Tono Perez, who drove for the team.  With Mexican drivers, sponsors and coverage and 100+ guests, there was plenty of buzz all weekend near the TRG garage.  Before the race even started, the Aston Martin was the victim of a tire blowout on the front stretch in the second practice session which did significant damage to the right side of the car.  While such an issue is never good news, it could have been a lot worse.

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  • Lexus has announced plans to enter the IMSA GTD class mid-season with veteran Scott Pruett relative newcomer Sage Karam as drivers. The team is testing in the early part of 2016 and hopes to race by Laguna Seca or Detroit.  The news is noteworthy in light of the theoretical distinction between GTLM being a factory class and GT3 as a customer class.  However, another factory entry was at the Rolex 24 in the form of a works supported Aston Martin squad with some very experienced pilots.  Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, Paul Della Lana and Richie Stanaway comprised the driver strength.  The #98 ran strongly and relatively free of trouble and incidents, staying near the top of the GTD leaderboard consistently.  The team finished an impressive fourth, but a late stop for fuel win under 15 minutes remaining cost the team a podium finish.

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  • Perhaps the winner in the GTD livery contest was the #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche with is electric green and chrome wrap. The IMSA entry marked the return for team owner Tim Pappas who had been running in the Pirelli World Challenge series recently in a Mercedes SLS GT3 and a Viper GT3.  It also marked a return to Porsche for the Pappas.  The team plans to run the entire season with Pappas and Patrick Long as full season drivers and Andy Pilgrim and Nick Catsburg joining for the enduros.  Pilgrim was a late addition in December after parting ways with the Cadillac World Challenge.  Somehow, Pilgrim is ranked as a Silver category which gives the #540 a very strong driver line up as evidence by the impressive second place GTD finish.  Rene Rast’s fuel saving skills in the Magnus Audi is all that stood between the Black Swan team and the top step of the podium.20160128-280837473920160130-3013051262 20160130-30143432143 20160130-30204009116

Arguably, the Rolex 24 was a successful debut for new GT3 cars. Multiple Lamborghinis in the field, multiple new Audis, multiple new Porsches, and new BMW M6 entries put on a show.  The Ferrari 488 is coming soon.  The Viper and Aston Martin are unlikely to see new versions.  The Lexus should show up mid-season.  Mercedes will likely be on the grid in 2016 as well.  It is a good time to be a GT racing fan.  Sebring provides a very different setting with a very different race, but should be fun.