41st Rolex 24
three weeks time, we’ll have a clearer idea of the future
for the Grand American Road Racing Association and their Rolex
Series, and the role that the Daytona prototypes are going
to play in 2003 and beyond. For now, let’s have an early
look at prospects for the 41st Rolex 24, principally from observations
of the events at the Test Days.
was in contact with Roger Edmondson very recently, and expressed
the view that the upcoming race could have been very different,
had other decisions been made regarding this transitional year.
For example, suppose the SRP1 runners had been welcomed back
for one more year, with suitable penalties (restrictor changes)
to limit their laps to about the 1:48 level? Suppose the SRP2s
had modest restrictor changes (and no fuel tank changes) to
limit them to 1:48 or 1:50, instead of last year’s best
of 1:46. Suppose the ‘unibody’ GTS cars ran just
as they did a year ago, with a 1:48/1:50 potential. Let the
former AGTs rip, as seems to be the case now anyway, and there
could have been three / four classes – plus the Daytona
Prototypes – in contention for the race win. The field
would have been bigger and had more depth, existing car owners
would have logically jumped at the chance to race for the win,
and the prospects for on-track action would have been even
greater than is currently the case.
there’s an argument that there would have been too many
cars in the field with a similar pace (with the format outlined
above). With the GT class running at 1:55s or so, the whole
field would have been unusually evenly matched, and a possible
recipe for trouble. Who is it who has argued on these pages
that there needs to be a speed differential, to make overtaking
safer? With a 30 mph differential, moves are completed more
quickly, and more safely, aren’t they?
But at least
one DP driver has gone on the record to suggest that the Daytona
Prototypes will be more interesting from within because the
drivers will have to work harder at their overtaking moves:
overtaking will need to be planned from further back, and the
drivers will have to ‘work at it’ to get by the
cars that are only marginally slower.
we arrived at a similar situation to the proposed SRP1 / SRP2
etc. field, argued for above? Won’t there be considerable
bunching of the pack around the banking, with marginally quicker
cars trying to ease their way through them? That’s all
right for the professionals, but what about a gentleman driver
in a DP (or a GTS), racing at night, tired – and coming
up against a professional such as a Bergmeister or a Lieb in
a 911? Or six professionals in 911s, all dicing hard among
themselves? Fortunately, the DPs’ and GTSs’ marginal
(if any) speed advantage over the rest will ensure that there
is actually very little lapping of slower cars throughout the
will be at a premium at this year’s race like never before
though, won’t it? Any time lost while a gentleman driver
is at the wheel (or a problem is fixed) will just not be made
just argued that actually the 41st Rolex 24 could be an unmissable
treat for sportscar fans: the prospects for seeing big bunches
of cars racing together have never been greater, have they?
But is this good or bad?
One of the
Picchio drivers is never reluctant to express a view, and after
a couple of days in the car, Boris Said was left wishing for
another 200 bhp. What’s he got at the moment, about 470?
Who wouldn’t be happier with 670? That could have been
so simple to arrange. Aren’t big reliable V8s the ‘stock’ engine
in this part of the world in February? Wouldn’t gentleman
drivers be happier with more bang for their bucks in their
DPs? Wouldn’t overtaking be safer for them? Wouldn’t
playing ‘catch-up’ be more realistic for the pros.
In these cars?
not what they’ve got though. It’s the brave new
world of the 470 bhp Daytona Prototypes, and we’ll follow
their maiden race with considerable interest. The race winner
could come from the DP class, the GTS class or the GT class – and
that’s a fascinating prospect. It’s about as far
removed from Ari Luyendyk and a 1992 Nissan as you can get.
Remember him swooping past slower cars, first left then right?
That was a fantastic spectacle, having already had Fangio on
pole, plus the last appearance of the V12 Jaguars – with
one D Brabham making his Daytona debut. 2003 is going to be
very different indeed. If you like packs of cars glued together
round the banking, make sure you’re there on February
1 / 2. Outright speed is no longer part of the attraction,
but side by side racing certainly will be.