Every January the Rolex 24 at Daytona is the newest addition to the major league motorsport season. Each year Daytona features a racing storyline that can continue throughout the year.
And this season, the intrigue begins with the 61st issue.st. A 24-hour endurance race at Daytona International Speedway, heralding both a return to a golden age and a bridge to an electrified global future.
The cars will be on the road Friday for Roar Before the Rolex 24, which will set the tone and starting lineup for the classic sports car Jan. 28-29 (which will air on NBC and in the US and air on Peacock flag to flag).
This season, the core Rolex 24 prototype division at Daytona has been upgraded with the introduction of the Le Mans Daytona Hybrid (LMDh), which will bring an element of electric propulsion to IMSA’s finest engines. The top class was renamed the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP). this is another touch of retro style), replacing the DPi moniker in place since 2017.
Its new brilliance goes far beyond the name.
61ST ROLEX 24 IN DAYTONA: Schedules, lists of participants, TV information, start time.
With the return of Cadillac and Acura, manufacturer participation in the top IMSA category will double with the arrival of Porsche and BMW (and the debut of Lamborghini in 2024).
It also marks the addition of strong drivers Team Penske (along with Porsche Motorsport) and Rahal Letterman Lanigan (BMW) to the GTP showdown with perennial rival teams Wayne Taylor Racing, Meyer Shank Racing, Action Express Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing.
Everyone will be trying to teach drivers and teams (literally and figuratively) how to use hybrid engines, which require new driving styles, more staff and more equipment than before.
“It was a huge undertaking,” said Mike O’Gara, Ganassi Cadillac Racing program director of operations. “Over the 30-year history of Chip Ganassi Racing, we have been fortunate to be involved in many different vehicle launches. This is by far the most intense, the most challenging and, frankly, the most exciting for the company.
“I think the deadlines we kept were challenging due to supply chain issues, trying to get enough miles on the cars to be ready, and the level of sophistication of cars with hybrid and other control systems. It’s just more than we’ve ever done before. An added complication is that this car will be racing in two different series on two different continents.”
After the Rolex 24, one of Ganassi’s LMDh cars will head to the European Endurance World Championship, the main event of which is the 24 Hours of Le Mans. (Roger Penske, whose team has yet to win Le Mans or the Rolex 24 overall, will also have two WEC teams.)
For the first time in decades (and going back to the heyday of the 1960s, described in the movie Ford v Ferrari), LMDh GTP cars will allow the same team and car to win the overall crowns at Dayton and Le Mans. .
This level of prestige for sports cars is the main reason why updated top-of-the-line prototypes have generated such a buzz.
But for Gary Nelson, longtime team manager for Action Express Racing, who also spent several decades in NASCAR as a championship team leader and head of competition, it’s also about the sheer level of difficulty.
“This new car is such a big challenge,” Nelson said. “All my racing career I have always wanted the hardest trophy to get. They are always harder when you don’t have a logbook, settings log or whatever else you need when you hit the track.
“We are going to create almost from scratch a program that we expect will win the 24 Hours of Daytona. I think this is the most pumped-up attempt in years to bring all these little things together. Hybrid, different rules, new car, pit stop method. It’s a lot easier when you’re going to a 24 hour race and you have the muscle memory of other races in the past. Everything is new here and I’m looking forward to competing for this trophy.”
Here are five main storylines to watch in the GTP category competing in the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener at Daytona International Speedway:
– Electrifying driving styles: It’s still a race car, but the transition from a traditional internal combustion engine to a hybrid engine in the first-class prototype division will still be a game-changer.
During off-season testing, IMSA veterans discovered the nuances of driving a car equipped with a host of new electronic systems that allow the cabin to be adjusted using computer and electronic technology. For example, the electromechanical braking system of a hybrid will allow you to change the brake bias in a more advanced and accessible way than mechanical brake bias adjustment.
Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor, who won the 2021 Rolex 24 and finished second last year, relied on Brandon Hartley, their Wayne Taylor Racing teammate in the 2023 Daytona, because the Formula E veteran knows how to fine-tune the hybrid for optimum performance. cornering speeds. . By storing and deploying energy, the new engine will introduce new methods of energy delivery.
“Obviously we have more tools because a hybrid engine can do a lot of things,” Albuquerque said. “You can use the hybrid to help you turn, how it will deploy, how it will help. V6/V8 turbo engines are only turbocharged with fuel. You may be able to help with a hybrid, especially depending on your driving style. There are things you need to process how you ride and how you use these tools to get faster. Instead of just jumping in the car and turning left and right and upshifting. Those days are gone with this technology.”
Taylor said that Hartley’s advice on cockpit basics (like making the steering wheel more ergonomic) was a big help in the “great, huge evolution” of learning new systems.
“From our end, there are really complex things going on in the background and how various OEMs will interpret how to run everything,” Taylor said. “It’s really interesting for them. It is important for us to understand what can make us faster and how best to use it. Just like the DPi, if you’re good at traction control, brake shifting, roll bars, the more comfortable you’ll be using them, the more powerful you’ll be. It’s just for us to understand them as best we can, and ultimately making them simple and intuitive is the hard part.
“Steering wheel, how can we make driving more comfortable because at 4am in Dayton you will be using your muscle memory and a little more subconscious driving. You want everything in the car to be easy to manage. He is constantly changing. We’ve changed the knobs, a couple of buttons, and how you press the buttons. Brandon has made good contributions to some of the tactile elements of the steering wheel.”
Jonathan Digid, managing director of Porsche Penske Motorsport, said the relationship between drivers and engineers will become more important.
“It’s the engineering staff — hybrid engineer, transmission engineer, electronic braking engineer,” he said. “It all has a huge impact on the balance of the car and developing those relationships and explaining concepts at a level of detail so that the driver understands what’s going on and how to give feedback on how to do it better. He builds these relationships and understands these systems in order to use and optimize hybrid powertrains.
“Drivers have an extremely wide range of settings available. It may not always be clear what is happening. You’ll hear a lot of chatter on the radio from the timing booth suggesting position changes based on driver feedback through tire stubs. Messages will be complex and multi-stage. The engineering challenge for cars is extremely high, as is driving.”
—New team mechanics and processes: The hardest part might be starting and restarting the car for drivers who are new to electrification – one of the many new challenges teams will be tackling.
“Once you start rolling, it’s very much like any other race car,” O’Gara said. “It’s getting up and running and diagnosing issues – that’s where there were some issues. We are lucky to have drivers who have raced in Formula E who have raced Porsche P1 cars, so these guys have helped others who have never driven a hybrid or anything electrified before.
“This is a pretty thick guide, not necessarily about driving a car, but about the procedures for starting or restarting it, or what to do if you see a red light. A race car is a race car, but all these other control systems make it unique compared to what we’ve done before.”
As drivers explore their newfound freedoms with cab options, this can bring both positive and negative results.
“By changing things to see what they do, you can discover a problem you didn’t know about,” said Justin Harnisfager, head of defense for Rolex 24 winner Meyer Shank Racing. “We try to orient drivers towards the entrances. There are starting points, but each rider has preferences, and we will adjust so that they are happy.
“They can make more adjustments and that might not be good for some drivers who might get lost. Getting out of the pit box is definitely different too.”