Roar Before the 24: Finally freedom within the Prototypes?

Last weekend saw a three day test ahead of this month’s 24 Hours of Daytona, the Roar Before the 24. Over the course of the weekend all 53 cars across the four classes participated in the event, although there’s a possibility that we can see some additional entries for the crown jewel of north american endurance racing (67 cars took part last year). So now, instead of rambling on, I will focus on the highly controversial and intense Prototype class, where however the controversy and the comments of „Nascar destroyed everything“ the last couple of months is starting to calm down. So who are the favourites, who are the dark horses and who are the ones who will get lapped very quickly?

Corvette C7 DP (pictured above)

The most successful prototype machine of 2014 will probably stay dominant in 2015 with the brand new C7 bodywork.

Although the changes are only cosmetic, and all the aerodynamics remain the same, the car still seems to have the extra edge over its competitors.

All three teams who enter the “other Vette” (VisitFlorida.com Racing, WTR, and Action Express) are all deemed to be succesfull at the big race.

Again, like last year, it looks like the normally aspirated Chevrolet V8 remains the best choice in terms of straight line speed, which is vital at the banking of the Daytona road course.

Riley Ford/Dinan-BMW DP

The Riley DP is the odd cousin of the Corvette. Yes, Chip Ganassi Racing was victorious at Sebring last year, but other than the wins at the Lone Star Le Mans and the Long Beach GP, the car wasn’t really a front running force.

But Ford worked hard with TCGR during the off-season to get back to winning ways this year. And the testing seems to have immediate positive impact on the perfomance of the twin-turbo V6 EcoBoost engine, with the 02 car being quickest in the first test day. With an all-star line-up across the two cars, this car and this team could be a real threat for the Vettes.

The Dinan-BMW powered Riley entered by Starworks, RG Racing and Highway to Help/Fifty Plus Racing, especially the one by Starworks, could be a dark horse here. Barrichello even went fastest on the last, quite rainy, test day, although he only did because he had the right timing, doing the lap on a drying track before the session ended.

I mean, who didn’t make a „Oh….WOW“ face when you looked at their driver line-up. An Indycar/Indy 500 champion, a Porsche LMP1 driver, a nine time GP winner and former Ferrari F1 second fiddle, an experienced P2 driver and Scott Mayer, in one car? Do you know what that means? You have to pray Scott Mayer isn’t going to take the start (just joking).

Ligier JS P2 HPD/Judd

This has to be the most beautiful machine out there. Having had it’s very first outing at Le Mans and finishing 2nd in class, shows that this fine piece of art with wheels on it is no stranger to 24hr races. Top speed was always the biggest disadvantage of a P2 comapred to a DP, but this year it looks like IMSA got the BoP for both types of cars just about right. However, only the MSR Ligier with HPD powerplant was able to achieve DP’s. So, this year it seems like the carbon fibre monsters are much closer to the the tube frame dinosaurs. This could end up being a great scrap for track positions, when the MSR Ligier goes the full distance without issues (not always 100% guaranteed at a 24hr endurance event with 53 cars).

HPD ARX 04-b
I said it before and I will say it again, this car looks like something that will crawl into your room at night and shoot lasers at you. I would really love to see that thing shooting lasers to the other competitors, then it would look like a Star Wars road race, with all the science but no fiction. Ok, anyway, to come back to reality, the HPD is still in development, so not really quick out of the box. ESM said that they will be rapid at Sebring (they made their majority of testing there), but aren’t as optimistic for the Rolex 24. They would be happy with a finish.

Lola B12/80- Mazda Diesel

Who wasn’t disappointed and somewhat embarrassed seeing the two beautifully coloured Lolas (the last of its kind) being slower on the straight than a GTD or LMP2 machine? And that wasn’t just the issue at Daytona, that was their biggest deal breaker the whole season long. They mentioned that they were the fastest blokes around the corners but other than Laguna Seca or Mosport, that isn’t really an advantage when a long straight is coming up. But SpeedSource bragged about significant improvements in top speed during testing of the new engine parts in the off-season and still keeping the Skyactic Diesel to 70% stock. And, indeed, it was significant they at least pulled away from the GTD and GTLM cars, but still weren’t in reach of the DP’s and P2’s with being three seconds off the pace over the five test sessions they participated in. I guess you can only be assured that this car isn’t about to break down after the first half an hour like last year, but also don’t expect miracles.
Delta Wing DWC13

Now this is the Atomic 2-Series 7 (Robot Wars reference) story of the Roar. You either hate it or like it, but I always liked this car since it’s debut at Le Mans in 2012. It’s different, people bully it for being so – but isn’t that exactly what the essence of sportscars is all about, trying new things, going beyond the rules? I’m quite surprised that other chassis or car makers (other than Nissan) weren’t thinking about having a “Garage 56” like idea trying to establish itself in a racing series, instead of going away as a one-off (as the Delta Wing was first intended to). Again gone in a heated racer.com like comment-thread discussion with DP haters and people wondering if GM is ever going to do LMP1 (whoever came up with that idea) and now going back to Daytona International dick-measuring, where the Delta Wing did brilliantly well. Being third quickest in the first session, before Memo Rojas jumped in, drove over a part that was thrown onto the track after a vicious crash involving Bryon DeFoor and then losing the rear left side panel…, was pretty decent for Delta Wing standards. So the DeltaWing team had to pack up early in order to be fully ready for the Rolex 24. Don’t expect, but watchout on their straight line speed, you could be here for one or two surprises.

Obviously also looking forward to the battles in GTLM and GTD and also my least favourite class….LMPC. So you could argue that having 53 cars instead of the 67 cars last year, is a downward trend, but I would go here wth quality over quantity.

I’m also excited for the BMW Perfomance 200, the first round of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (still the longest name in racing of human history).

I can’t wait.

(All images belong to their respective owners, no copyright infrigement intented, credit to: imsa.com)

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