By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
DAYTONA — The final preparations for the 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona are underway at Daytona International Speedway with as much action off the track as on track before the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship kicks off another campaign.
IMSA and the ACO announced a common set of regulations for the prototype category that will allow manufacturers to build a prototype-class sports car to race in both the WeatherTech Championship and in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The announcement is the culmination of decades of discussions between IMSA and the ACO on getting a single set of rules for global prototype racing. The rules are set to go into effect in late 2021, with the newly created LMDh category eligible for the 2022 Rolex 24 at Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Hybridization is understood to be part of the formula, of which more technical details will be revealed in March at Sebring.
Black Swan Racing had a large frontal impact during Thursday morning practice that nearly wiped the team out of Saturday’s race. However, a donated chassis in an arrangement with Wright Motorsports and an all-nighter from the team’s mechanics put the No. 54 Porsche 911 GT3 R on track for Saturday’s sole practice session.
The engine fired up to life for the first time in the Black Swan garage around 5:30 in the morning and the car was ready in time to roll out for the 9:50 practice session. The car was third quickest in GTD, a heroic effort for the Black Swan crew.
The Friday practice did not go without incident, however. Don Yount in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA LMP2 entry had a massive brake lockup heading into Turn 6. The prototype pitched itself sideways, impacting the tire barrier at the end of the wall.
The Performance Tech crew were hard at work into the night as nearly every single garage door on their side of the garage was shut down.
“My guys are amazing, they always are and they’ll do anything to get the car back on the track,” said Performance Tech Motorsports co-owner Gwenn O’Neill They haven’t eaten, I brought them food, they still didn’t eat, they are working non-stop and they will work non-stop until it’s done and running well and smoothly and looking as good as it did this morning before the incident.”
Mazda Team Joest were also hard at work into the night. The RT24P machine has yet to finish the Rolex 24 since its debut in 2017 but mechanics were poring over both entries in an attempt to make sure that everything was mechanically sound.
NASCAR champion Kyle Busch is driving the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 entry in his first sports car race in over a decade. After driving a stock car nearly his entire career, Busch took some time to get used to the Lexus. However, Lexus factory driver Jack Hawksworth was very complimentary of the Las Vegas native’s talent.
“It’s really impressive what he’s done,” said Hawksworth. “The guy’s like a sponge, he comes in and he just listens to everything and tries to figure out how to I guess translate the skills he already has. He’s obviously a great driver, has a lot of skill and yeah, I’ve just been trying to help him transition to a different style of car, different style of driving and he’s just soaked it all in. I think he’s doing a good job, so I’m very excited to see how he gets on in the race. That’ll be the real acid test and I’m sure he’ll do great.”
Simon Pagenaud turned one lap in the No. 7 Team Penske Acura ARX-05 DPi in Friday’s morning practice session and felt that the car was good. Confidence is high after the team had to replace both front corners on the car after Ricky Taylor’s accident during qualifying on Thursday.
There were a handful of tire issues during the four hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race won by the No. 35 Mercedes AMG GT. Their cause is uncertain but it’s unlikely to crop up in the 24 hour race.
The No. 3 Corvette Racing C8.R led the GTLM field in the final practice session. It’s unclear how much the setup changed on the cars, but it is a morale boost to the Pratt & Miller crew.
With prototype convergence happening, will there be a convergence in GT rules and regulations, combining GTLM/GTE and GT3 in some way? Who knows, but anything can happen.