News and Notes from the Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway
The Roar before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway is the official three day weekend of testing announcing the start of the TUDOR SportsCar Championship racing season. Literally, the roar of the engines at the Roar ends the offseason and months of speculation around team sponsors, new cars, driver lineups, and IMSA rules and regulations. This weekend gives drivers and teams the chance to shake down new cars, new driver combinations, and settle into the steep NASCAR banking, horseshoe curves, the kink and the bus stop on the historical track. The test also invariably brings challenges from the ever changing Florida January weather: cold on Friday, sunny and windy on Saturday, and rain on Sunday, all of which are likely to show up at the Rolex 24 in less than 2 weeks.
Two major changes in the IMSA management structure were announced at the close of the testing weekend.
Geoff Carter, former IndyCar chief mechanic, American Le Mans Series team manager and Pirelli World Challenge technical director, has joined IMSA as TUDOR Championship Series manager, a role created specifically for him by the organization. Carter will report to Simon Hodgson, IMSA’s Managing Director of Racing Operations, and his duties will include acting as a liason with teams, manufactures, and assisting with Adjustment of Performance issues as part of the IMSA Technical Committee.
In addition, IMSA confirmed the exit of its Vice President of Technical Regulations, Scot Elkins, who most recently was hired as the race director for the USF 2000 and Pro Mazda open wheel Mazda Road to Indy ladder series. Elkins’ specific departure date isn’t certain, but as he was on track at this weekend’s testing, he is expected to remain with the series through the Rolex 24 in Daytona in 2 weeks.
IMSA has also created a new Technical Committee, to be responsible for the administration of technical aspects of the IMSA racing platforms including the Adjustment of Performance (aka Balance of Performance) in the TUDOR Championship Series. IMSA Technical Director Scott Raymond, TUDOR Championship Senior Technical Manager Charlie Cook and Continental Tire Challenge Senior Technical Manager Jeff Mishtawy comprise the committee, along with select members of the IMSA senior management team.
Several teams were on the radar due to changes and news during the off season:
Extreme Speed Motorsports is now officially Tequila Patron ESM for the 2015 season, which will see the team run the NAEC series with TUDOR, and a full season in WEC with both new HPD ARX-04bs. Neither car was in new livery, and the team just took delivery of the 2nd chassis at the test, so the team’s 6 drivers were sharing one car for the weekend. Plans to have the 2nd car prepared for Sunday’s sessions were thwarted by the Florida rain, although the ESM and Honda Performance Development crews continued their hard work to ready the cars as quickly as possible. Jon Fogarty, Johannes Van Overbeek and Ed Brown will share the wheel of one coupe, with Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and David Heinemeier Hanson piloting the other.
Riley Motorsports formally confirmed a full season return to TUDOR, with an additional Dodge Viper GT3-R to run in the NAEC series championship. Both cars were on track this weekend, in a new livery showcasing TI Automotive as the team’s primary sponsor. This privateer effort will see Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating together behind the wheel of the No 33 for the full season, although neither was at testing due to previous commitments. Kuno Wittmer, Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Goosens also rejoin the team for the Rolex 24, although no announcements have yet been made for these drivers beyond the start of the season. Al Carter, Sebastiaan Bleekemolen and Cameron Lawrence will also pilot one of the team’s Vipers for the Rolex 24.
Patrick Dempsey and Wright Motorsports recently announced a new partnership for TUDOR Series with Patrick Dempsey joining drivers Jan Heylen and Madison Snow for the NAEC endurance legs of the series. Porsche Carrera Cup Germany champion Phillip Eng will also co-pilot the No 58 car for the Rolex 24. Perhaps even more exciting is the historical Brumos Racing Porsche livery debuting on the car for the Rolex 24, and remaining at least through the 12 Hours of Sebring, due to a marketing partnership between the newly formed Dempsey Wright Motorsports and Brumos Racing. Many of the Brumos Racing crew, including Hurley Haywood, legendary racer and vice president of Brumos Automotive, were at the paddock for the weekend. As an historical side note, seeing Leh Keen, Andrew Davis and Hurley Haywood together was racing nostalgia at its finest.
Park Place Motorsports recently announced the team’s return for at least the opening TUDOR Championship race at Daytona, bringing Patrick Lindsay, Kevin Estre, Dr Jim Norman, Spencer Pumpelly and David Ducote together behind the wheel of the No 73 Porsche 911 GT America. Estre raced with Lindsay for most of the 2014 season, Spencer Pumpelly drove with the team in 2013, and Norman piloted the sister car in 2013 with Craig Stanton. The team worked out some kinks over the weekend, with Pumpelly then grabbing P3 in the GTD session on Sunday morning. While the car was in all white for testing, the livery is expected “to be awesome”, according to Norman.
Turner Motorsport arrived on Sunday in Daytona, just six days after announcing the team’s return to the TUDOR series, and met rainy conditions for the No 97 BMW Z4’s first laps of the test. Markus Palttala took most of the laps of the shakedown, but will be joined at the Rolex 24 by Boris Said, Michael Marsal, and Andy Priaulx, as announced by the team on Monday morning. Marsal and Palttala will race the entire 2015 TUDOR series, to be joined by Said and Priaulx for the NAEC events.
Patrick Long will join Falken Tire as the 3rd driver for the NAEC endurance races in the GTLM class. Long, who is also racing WEC for Porsche with Patrick Dempsey, will share time behind the wheel with veteran team members Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers.
Several notable names from other racing series also made an appearance behind the wheel of a sports car, among those:
Sebastian Bourdais (Action Express), AJ Allmendinger (MSR), Charlie Kimball, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Sage Karam (Ganassi), Ryan Hunter Reay (Starworks), Ryan Briscoe and Simon Pagenaud (Corvette), Graham Rahal (BWM Team RLL) Jack Hawksworth (RSR).
In the Continental Tire Series paddock, the buzz surrounded the new Porsche Caymans, fielded by both Rebel Rock Racing and Next Level European, an offshoot for James Clay of BimmerWorld and built by BGB Motorsports. None of the cars were yet in livery, but were all turning laps on the track all weekend.
Seth Thomas and Dan Rogers will co-drive the No 38 Porsche Cayman for Next Level European, with Eric Zimmerman and Greg Liefooghe behind the wheel of the 83.
While only Jim Jonsin and Erik Valdez are confirmed to drive for Rebel Rock Racing at the Rolex 24 weekend, Andy Lally, Cameron Lawrence, Robert Stout, James Vance and Ramin Abdolvahabi all turned laps in one of the teams’ GT or ST cars, the No 08 Porsche 997 or the 87 and 88 Porsche Caymans.
Strangely, Rum Bum Racing pulled out of the test early on Saturday, with only limited track time for the No 13 Porsche 997. The team has yet to announce plans for the 2015 season.
Also of note was the impressive showing of new teams Zero Zero Motorsports (No. 00 Ford Mustang Boss 302R) and Strategic Wealth Racing with Goldcrest Motorsports (No 36 Porsche Cayman).
Look for the Compass 360 “Art Cars” to debut new liveries featuring the artwork of Childrens Tumor Foundation Ambassador Jeffrey Owen Hanson. Each of the C360R Honda Civic Si chassis will feature its own unique livery created initially on canvass by Hanson.
With only about 30 cars entered in the Roar, the count is expected to almost double for the BMW Performance 200 at the Rolex 24.
Several teams were affected by both on and off track incidents throughout the weekend:
The No 50 Highway to Help Riley Dinan DP sustained weekend-ending damage Saturday morning after the car flipped coming into NASCAR turn 1 with Byron DeFoor behind the wheel. The right rear tire lost air pressure, which caused the car to spin backward and flip into the catch fence, landing on its roof. Thankfully, DeFoor was medically evaluated and released, but the accident ended the team’s efforts for the rest of the testing sessions. DeFoor drives for the Brian Johnson owned team this weekend with David Hinton, Jim Pace and racing legend Dorsey Schroeder.
DeltaWing also left the test weekend early, after damage sustained from an accident in the Kink was too extensive to repair on site. The team had already planned to skip Sunday, but didn’t expect to leave with damage to the all white Claro/Tracfone No 0 DWC13 coupe. Drivers Katherine Legge, Gabby Chaves, Memo Rojas and Andy Meyrick make up the team to return for the Rolex 24.
Dalton Sargeant cannot test or race the No 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 as planned, as the 16 year old driver was unable to obtain a license due to his age. The team left the test early with several other issues, including losing an additional driver, David Ostella.
As of Saturday night, Corvette Racing and SpeedSource Mazda decided not to complete Sunday’s sessions, satisfied with their teams’ progress during the weekend. With the Sunday rain, other teams’ plans changed, as well, with many cars opting to not run in the wet weather during the morning session. Some teams, like Paul Miller Racing, practiced driver change while parked in pit lane. Andy Lally of Magnus Racing topped the GTD standings in the same session after the team worked on changes to the car overnight.
Overall, Jordan Taylor of Wayne Taylor Racing produced the fastest lap times in the No 10 Konica Minolta Corvetter DP, setting 1:39.181 Saturday morning in the third session of the weekend. Other class fastest times included Colin Braun (No. 54 CORE autosport Oreca FLM09, PC, 1:41.769), Earl Bamber (No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM, 1:44.316) and Marc Goossens (No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R, GTD, 1:46.948).
The Rolex 24 at Daytona opens for fans Thursday morning, January 22. The schedule can be found here.
On a personal note: Many congratulations to Richard Westbrook and his wife, Jess; Westy arrived back home after testing to a beautiful baby girl, Laurel! And to Tony Kanaan and his wife, Lauren, who just announced the birth of their son, Deco.