By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
Going through the session results for the Roar Before the 24 a week later, a few things stood out that deserve attention ahead of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship season opener.
Mazda had a rough go with a private testing incident in December setting their program back but it’s interesting to see their progress through the various sessions. In the first session, neither Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi took to the track and in the second session the No. 55 car with Spencer Pigot, Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito turned the 15th fastest lap (1.7 seconds behind) while the No. 77 of Tristan Nunez, Rene Rast and Oliver Jarvis was still in the garage.
Here’s how the cars fared in each of the remaining sessions:
Third session: No. 55 was 15th, No. 77 was 16th.
Fourth session: No. 55 was 19th, No. 77 was 12th
Fifth session: No. 55 was 11th, No. 77 was 10th
Sixth session: No. 55 was 10th, No. 77 was eighth
Seventh session: No. 55 was 10th, No. 77 was 12th.
The remarkable thing about this progress is that this was the first official test for Mazda Team Joest and in the fifth session the cars were both within a second of the Action Express Racing Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi. Of course, sandbagging might have been taking place at the sharp end of the grid but nevertheless, it’s impressive to see a new program make that sort of progress.
Team Penske has had involvement in sports cars during various times in the organization’s history. The team ran a Ferrari at Le Mans in 1971, were involved in the American Le Mans Series as well as Grand Am.
But this time, Penske’s jumping in feet first with a pair of Acura DPi machines and have an all star driver lineup to do it with Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron and Simon Pagenaud (endurance races only) in the No. 6 Acura DPi while Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and Graham Rahal (endurance races only) are in the No. 7 Acura DPi.
In the qualifying session held to determine pit road and garage assignments, the two Team Penske Acuras were fifth and sixth with the No. 6 edging out the No. 7.
Not a bad way to get back into the sport.
Ford vs Chevrolet
One of the oldest and most storied rivalries in American motorsport is that between Ford and Chevrolet. Their rivalry has been contested in NASCAR, IndyCar and with the Ford GT program coming on board a couple of years ago the rivalry gained another stage.
The 2018 Rolex 24 begins the third season of the renewal of the sports car stage of this rivalry and it’s interesting to see how different the two programs did at the Roar.
For example, in the first session the Ford GTs were first and second in class while the Corvettes were sixth and seventh out of nine cars with the No. 67 of Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook leading the class. The next session was closer with the Fords being third and fourth while the Corvettes were fifth and seventh but the Fords were back on top in the third session at first and second in class while the Corvettes were fourth and seventh.
In fact, it wasn’t until the sixth session that the Corvettes showed muscle as the No. 4 Corvette C7.R driven by Marcel Fassler, Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin were able to finish that session in second place just .016 seconds behind the No. 66 Ford GT driven by Sebastien Bourdais, Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand. The next session is a bit of a misleading one because on paper, the Corvettes led both Fords but neither Ford turned a lap in that session.
The qualifying session made it clear how close both cars were to each other as the No. 66 Ford GT led the class, just .03 seconds faster than the No. 4 Corvette in second while the No. 67 Ford GT was third and the No. 3 Corvette was fifth in class so expect this grand rivalry to have another chapter added on January 27th/28th.
The Lambo Show
The final category of GT Daytona had a major similarity with that of Prototype and GT Le Mans in that there was one manufacturer that was either always on top or they were very close to the top of the class standings. In Prototype that mantle was held by Cadillac while Ford held it in GTLM in the sessions they took part in. However, Lamborghini were on top in GTD and it shows.
In seven practice sessions, the highest-placed Lamborghini was never below third place and out of 21 placements of being in the top three in seven sessions, Lamborghini had 11 of those placements. This is a class that had 21 cars participate in it, the largest of the three classes and with more manufacturers involved than in any other class with Lamborghini, Acura, Lexus, Mercedes, Ferrari, Porsche, BMW and Audi having cars take to the track.
The normally fastest Lamborghini Huracan GT3 belonged to GRT Grasser Racing Team as their No. 11 machine piloted by Rik Breukers, Mirko Bortolotti, Franck Perera and Rolf Ineichen led their class in two practice sessions and the qualifying session while in the other sessions they were second twice and third three times in class.