The wait for one of the most action-packed races in the world is almost over; its finally time for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, a historic 24 Hour race held at the legendary Daytona International Speedway in Florida. The race is a championship round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, which is contested in racetracks across the USA. So, as the race comes closer, let’s have a look at its history and how it operates today.
The 24 Hours Of Daytona started out in 1962 as the Daytona Continental 3 Hour Race and also had brief spells as a 2000km race and a 6 hour race but in 1966 it turned into the format that it is well known for, a hardcore 24 hour endurance race.
Since then, it has played host to some incredible battles, with the most memorable one being the epic Ford vs Ferrari feud which took place in the late 60s. Porsche have won the most races at Daytona as constructors with 13 wins, the last one coming 15 years ago in 2003. Riley follow them up in second place with 10 wins and Ferrari are third, with 5 victories to their name.
Coming back to the 21st century, some truly iconic drivers like Scott Dixon, Jeff Gordon, Buddy Rice, JP Montoya, Dario Franchitti, Sebastian Bourdais and Tony Kanaan have won the prestigious race in the last few years, taking home a Rolex Daytona watch as a prize for winning the race.
The Rolex 24 Today
The Rolex 24 offers a perfect start to the motorsport season with some of the top Endurance GT drivers and cars taking part to produce a truly exciting race. This year, big names such as Fernando Alonso, Felix Rosenqvist, Lance Stroll, Lando Norris, Felipe Nasr, Paul Di Resta, Mike Conway, Bruno Senna, Robin Frijns, Antonio Felix Da Costa, Jan Magnussen, Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Nick Tandy, Romain Dumas, Loic Duval, Marcel Fassler, Harry Tincknell, Felipe Albequerque, Maro Engel and Sam Bird will be competing in the race across the different categories with top drivers in the American Racing scheme such as Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, JP Montoya, Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger also competing in the race, making it a true all-star event.
The cars competing at Daytona this year will be divided into three classes; the Prototypes, the GT Le Mans cars and the GT Daytona cars. The prototypes contain LMP2 cars in both, the LMP2 configuration with the Gibson V8 engine and also in the DPi configuration, in which manufacturers are allowed to use their own engines and aero kits, although the chassis will be the same. The engines of these cars produce approximately 600 horsepower, making the DPis extremely powerful; Manufacturers such as Acura, Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan run their DPis the the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship.
The GTs, as I previously mentioned are split up into two categories, the GT Le Mans and the GT Daytona cars. The GTLMs are the GT PROs from the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the WEC and currently, Ford, Ferrari, BMW, Corvette and Porsche are competing in both the WeatherTech Sportscar Series as well as the World Endurance Championship.
On the other hand, the GT Daytona is a class for amateur drivers and the FIA GT3-spec cars compete in this series. At Daytona this year, cars such as the Acura NSX GT3, the Aston Martin Vantage GT3, the Audi R8 LMS GT3, the BMW M6 GT3, the Ferrari 488 GT3, the Lamborghini Huracan GT3, the Lexus RF GT3, the Mercedes AMG-GT3, the Nissan GT3-R and the Porsche 911 GT3-R will be competing against each other.
What makes it special?
The Rolex 24 is exceptional in multiple ways; the race is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the world of motorsport; the winners etch their name into history and can claim to have won one of the most gruelling and demanding races in the world. Also, since the race is contested in January, a lot of sportcars make their debuts here, for instance, the new Ford GT made its debut here in 2016 and last year the Acura NSX GT3 made its first appearance at Daytona. This year, we will get a chance to watch BMW’s all-new M8 GTE in action for the very first time and that is bound to be exciting.
The fans visiting the race can camp in the infield and watch some of the fastest sportscars in the world go round the oval for 24 hours, through dusk, midnight, dawn and the morning; this is something on the top of all petrolheads’ bucket lists. Daytona is a really special place in the history of motorsport and the 24 Hours Of Daytona contributes to its status of being called ‘the World Center Of Racing’.