Rajan Khanna/News Editor
It is almost time for Daytona International Speedway to come alive. The Rolex 24 at Daytona will once again pierce through the night with the roar of over 50 high performance racing engines. The cars and their drivers will be put through one of the most grueling races that people can race in, others being the 24 Hours of Nurburgring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But before anyone can even think of racing, they have to iron out the issues and test the cars at The Roar Before the Rolex 24. the Roar surprisingly only became mandatory for all teams to participate this year. All the teams get a chance at getting race ready while giving the fans enduring the long offseason a treat of what is to come later in the month.
The field will have many Formula 1 drivers racing this year: Fernando Alonso, Lando Norris, Paul Di Resta, Bruno Senna, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Lance Stroll. The biggest story from the Roar Before the Rolex 24 was Fernando Alonso’s debut at Daytona International Speedway. The two-time Formula One World Champion will pilot the number 23 United Autosport Ligier JS P217 LMP2 car alongside F1 driver Lando Norris and Phillip Hanson. Fellow F1 driver, Mark Webber, believes Alonso is making a mistake by running the endurance race. He believes that Formula 1 requires a specific skill set and racing in an endurance race will distract Alonso from it. Webber addresses Nico Hulkenburg’s experience competing and winning in the 24 Hours of Le Mans but defuses the argument by stating: “That was with a second-rate team in F1. The pressures are different. He was also with the top Le Mans team and that simplified things a lot.” Along with Alonso, Juan Pablo will make his first start at Daytona International Speedway outside of NASCAR. All eyes will be on them to prove their true ability at the World Center of Racing.
In the DPi prototype class, Cadillac has once again taken the field by storm. The Cadillac DPi-V.R looks to be the favorite for the class and overall victory, with support from four teams. Winner of the 2017 Rolex 24 in a dominating fashion, Wayne Taylor Racing looks to go back to back as overall winner this year. The number 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac will have much more inner-manufacturer competition. Whelen Engineering Racing set the fastest time of the weekend with their number 31 Whelen Cadillac DPi-V.R. They set an extremely fast 1:36.973, the only team to break into the 1:36s. A new contender will also enter the field. Acura has united with Team Penske and Oreca to create the Acura ARX-05. The engine is a 3.5L V6TT based off their production engines. This new DPi looks to break the Cadillac stranglehold on the class victory. Their fastest time of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 was a 1:37.669. The competition looks great and there is guaranteed to be some exciting racing to come in the next few weeks.
In the GT classes, BMW has introduced the brand new BMW M8 entry. Fielding two vehicles, the car looks to bring BMW back on top. Their entries have been lackluster in prior years. They still have work to do before the Rolex 24, as they placed last in class during the Roar Before the Rolex 24.
Ford has completely reworked the Ford GT’s paint scheme. It is now painted instead of wrapped, presumably to remove any imperfections or air bubbles that can be found in wraps. The new paint also gives the car a beautiful shine which looks amazing in photos. This car will surely hold the top spot in the GTLM class during the Rolex 24 at Daytona
This year’s Rolex 24 will be the most competitive iteration in recent memory. It will provide some great entertainment for fans and drivers alike.