Starting Off the Year with a Roar

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There’s no better time to learn something new than at the beginning of the year. It feels fresh – like we are starting with a clean slate and the possibilities are endless. The other great thing about the beginning of a new year, particularly if you are a race fan, is that the race season officially starts this month with the Rolex 24 in Daytona at the end of January. The Roar Before the 24 is this weekend, however. And that’s where my “learning something new” comes in.

roarMy best friend and I became best friends for a lot of reasons, but one of the big reasons was because of our mutual love of auto racing. She absolutely loves SportsCar racing and I of course, am the IndyCar fanatic. I’ve been to the SportsCar series races but want to learn more about the different classes, the drivers, the cars, etc. Last year, I heard that the Lemans & Grand-Am series would be combining into one unified series.  However, my confusion continued… was it USCR? USCC? TUSC? TSCC? TUDOR? Well regardless,  I thought that now would be just as good a time to get on board, as any. What better way to start learning than by looking at some of the IndyCar drivers I am already familiar with, who have entered into the Roar Before the 24?

Earlier this week, IMSA released and updated the entry list for this weekend’s testing session. Included in it were some current and former IndyCar drivers that I would like to take a closer look at:

Katherine Legge, (who only appearance in the 2013 IndyCar season was at the Indianapolis 500) will be racing the DeltaWing DWC13 for DeltaWing Racing Cars along with fellow UK native, Andy Meyrick & Alexander Rossi. Legge & Meyrick drove the DeltaWing for most of the 2013 season. It’s results have been less than anticipated thus far, so it will definitely be interesting to see how it performs this weekend and later this month in the 24 hour endurance race.

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Simon Pagenaud & Scott Sharp will both be behind the wheel of Honda’s HPD-ARX-03b for Extreme Speed Motorsports, but in separate vehicles. Simon, coming off his 3rd place finish in the IndyCar series Championship with wins at both Detroit and Baltimore in 2013 will undoubtedly be striving for an impressive test run this weekend in Daytona. Coincidently, Scott (owner of the aforementioned Extreme Speed Motorsports team) also finished 3rd in his respective series, ALMS, in 2013.

Lucas-Luhr-and-Klaus-GrafLucas Luhr, who drove in his first IndyCar race this past August at Sonoma for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, will be in the ORECA 03 Nissan for Pickett Racing, along with co-driver and fellow German, Klaus Graf. Luhr and Graf won the Drivers Championship for ALMS LMP1 in both 2012 & 2013.

AJ Allmendinger & Justin Wilson are set to be sharing driving responsibilities with John Pew & Oswaldo Negri, Jr. in the Ford EcoBoost Riley DP for Michael Shank Racing. Allmendinger had a bittersweet experience in the 2013 IndyCar season – from impressively qualifying for his first Indy 500 in the 2nd row (P5) and finishing 7th, to making significant contact with the wall before completing a single lap on back-to-back race days the following weekend on Belle Isle for the Dual in Detroit. Justin Wilson was in a significant accident during the IndyCar finale in Fontana back in October, resulting in pelvic fractures. It was a sad end to a season which had produced 4 podium finishes for the Brit. I was pleasantly surprised to see his name on the list for this weekend’s testing session and I’m hoping the best of for him.

Scott Pruett will also be driving a Ford EcoBoost Riley DP but for Chip Ganassi Racing. Pruett will be testing with Memo Rojas again this weekend – the driving duo along with Charlie Kimball (2013 Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio winner) and Juan Pablo Montoya (returning to IndyCar in 2014 with Penske Racing) won the 24 Hours at Daytona last season. Pruett ended up being a part of the winning 2013 Team Title with Ganassi Racing but came in 2nd place behind Wayne Taylor Racing for the Driver’s Title. Even though he did not take home the latter title this time, we can be sure that he still said “hi to his family back home” in the post-race interview.

Back tracking for just a second and speaking of Wayne Taylor Racing – this is probably the team/race family I know the most about in SportsCar racing. They are the favorite of my best friend and she informed me earlier this week that Wayne was going to be back in the car with his boys, Ricky and Jordan, for the Rolex 24. This is pretty exciting and I look forward to watching the three of them, along with Max Angelelli, drive the Chevrolet Corvette DP in what is sure to be another incredible show of speed and talent.

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Looking back at the entry list, we move on to the GT LeMans class where Ryan Briscoe and Graham Rahal will be in the driver’s seat of two different cars. Briscoe, with Corvette Racing will be in the new Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, while Rahal will drive the BMW Z4 GTE for BMW Team RLL.

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An addition to the entry list roster was Townsend Bell for Level 5 Motorsports in the Ferrari 458 Italia. He will share driving with three other racers at the Roar Before the 24. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing him back in a car for the first time since the 2013 Indianapolis 500. That is, if we’re not including all those GoPro test drives before the IndyCar races this past season… as entertaining as they were!

Oh and of course, I can’t forget to mention the other SportsCar driver that I am familiar with – Patrick Dempsey. The actor turned racecar driver (or maybe the other way around if you ask him) will be testing in the Porsche 911 GT America for this own, Dempsey Racing team. He will also be donning the #27 which is one of my favorite numbers… first, because it’s my birthday and second, because it’s Hinch’s car number for Andretti Autosport. Hmm, maybe someone should see if Hinch would be interested in co-driving with Dempsey later this month in Daytona? Long shot I know… but hey, if it were to happen, I wouldn’t be upset. Just sayin’.

I feel like I’m definitely learning a lot about this Unified series already and I can’t wait to keep reading, watching and researching in order to become well-versed. I appreciate any feedback, suggestions or ideas you might have for me as always! This is yet another reason I love this sport – there is always something new to learn about in the world of racing. I know I will checking my emails and newsfeeds for updates on how the testing is going this weekend – I hope you enjoy the excitement and anticipation of the new race season as well. My goal is to go to both the Roar Before the Rolex 24 and the Rolex 24 at Daytona within the next few years with my best friend – I mean how can you possibly go wrong with literally an entire weekend of listening to the hum of the engines and staying overnight at the track? Truthfully, you had me at ROAR.

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