By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
DAYTONA — Late nights, hard work and uncertainty were the storylines on the first official day of track activity ahead of the Rolex 24 at Daytona as the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship roars to life.
Acura on top, then rebuild
Each of the two pre-qualifying practice sessions were led by one of the Acura Team Penske ARX-05 machines, with the No. 6 entry leading the morning session and the No. 7 entry leading the afternoon session. However, the No. 7 crew were faced with a large workload after qualifying.
Ricky Taylor was qualifying the No. 7 entry and lost control of the car entering the bus stop chicane on the back of the circuit. The car slid into the tire barrier nose first, and the damage was sufficient enough to require the mechanics to replace both the left and right front corners on the car.
Taylor got back into the car and turned two installation laps near the end of the session.
Porsche dominant in GTLM
Porsche GT Team is racing a pair of new 911 RSR-19 models this year in the WeatherTech Championship and put the rest of the field on notice that the path to new Rolex watches in GTLM would go through the German brand.
The Nos. 912 and 911 entries were respectively first and second in class in both pre-qualifying practice sessions before the 911 set a new GTLM Daytona lap record in qualifying with Nick Tandy behind the wheel. The No. 912 qualified second, but would lead the Thursday evening practice with the No. 911 in third place.
Putting it mildly, the rest of the GTLM field might be in trouble if this pace keeps up.
New faces in somewhat new places for Corvette Racing
Jordan Taylor has raced Corvettes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans while racing prototypes for his father’s team in IMSA competition. However, the younger of the Taylor brothers has moved to Corvette Racing in 2020 to share full time driving duties of the No. 3 C8.R entry with Antonio Garcia.
Taylor has had to do a complete shift mentally to get back in the habit of driving a GT car. The 2020 Rolex 24 will be Taylor’s first race in a GT car since 2017 so there will be a large change in driving style.
“The biggest thing is just readjusting my mental side, to look in the mirrors more often,” said Taylor. “In the prototype, you’re hopefully not looking in the mirrors very often so I’ve got to get in the habit of looking in certain areas of the track, where to expect prototypes to be coming by, where they’re way faster [and] where we’re a little bit quicker. So, learning that side of it, and then also racing GTD traffic is a lot different now because we don’t have that huge closing speeds.”
The new C8.R is a drastic change from all previous Corvette models. The engine is now behind the driver, so weight distribution and handling are entirely different in this generation of Corvettes. This required Taylor to ‘unlearn’ nearly everything he remembered from driving the C6.R and C7.R iterations of America’s sports car.
“I think the old car, the C7 and the C6 was a very unique driving style with the front engine,” said Taylor. “Just the way you enter the corner, the way you had to work the pedals and the steering, the new mid-engined C8.R I think has been a big upgrade from a drivability point of view. It’s way more predictable, way more of a normal driving style [and] way more comfortable, which is great for 24 hours. So far it’s been good, all the drivers have similar feedback, and it’s a new car so we’re constantly developing it so I think it’s been a promising start.”
Never give up in GTD
GTD mechanics were hard at work during Thursday afternoon for various reasons. AIM Vasser Sullivan made a pre-emptive engine change to their No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 entry while Magnus Racing had mechanical trouble that forced them to miss qualifying with their No. 44 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 machine.
However, Black Swan Racing will have the latest night of all the teams. Tim Pappas’s team was almost ready to withdraw from the Rolex 24 after contact during Thursday’s morning practice session rendered their chassis unrepairable. The team sourced a car from Wright Motorsports and set to work stripping it down before putting all of their parts in what is Wright Motorsports’s backup car.
Could it be?
The ACO has sent out a bulletin that a press conference is taking place at Daytona International Speedway’s media center at 11:45 a.m. ET. Speculation has been running wild, but the prevailing theory is that there may be convergence between IMSA’s DPi concept and the ACO’s Hypercar rules for Le Mans that would see crossover between the two platforms.
Friday’s single practice session is at 9:50 a.m. ET while the Rolex 24 at Daytona starts Saturday afternoon at 1:40 ET.