TUSC: The Rolex 24 finally arrives after long anticipation

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It’s hard to quantify what’s going to come out of the 2014 edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

On-track, the four classes of the unified TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona – are pretty much wide open, even though Corvette DPs have dominated the P and overall timesheets this week.

The backstory of the 16 months leading up to today’s moment is that of unification in North American sports car racing at long last, after more than a dozen years between two combined series (GRAND-AM Rolex Series, American Le Mans Series).

Discussion has centered on rules, regulations, rankings, ramblings and regurgitations of platitudes we’ve all heard before in various years or series.

Today, none of that matters.

TUSC has a golden opportunity to seize its moment both in the motorsports landscape and additionally, the sporting world at large.

The manufacturer interest is legitimate. The media interest is legitimate – the press room for this year’s Rolex 24 is filled to the brim, much as you’d see for a Daytona 500.

And more importantly, the fan interest is legitimate. The infield is packed with fans, campers and filled grandstands.

It won’t look that way from the outside, because the outside grandstands of the oval never have that many folks sitting them.

But the discussion is robust, and the chance for this mix of cars, sounds, partners is there to capitalize.

Whether it does or not is a question mark. To my mind, the confusion that sports car racing presents, by its very nature, is going to be the hardest thing for this new series to overcome in the long run. But that question can wait.

As for the next 24-plus hours though, it’s time to ignore the BS, watch the cars, have a beer or two and enjoy the on-track action as the sweet symphony of engine noise wakes the racing world up from its winter hibernation.

McLaren unveils 2018 F1 car, the MCL33

Photo: Getty Images
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McLaren F1 Team became the latest to launch their 2018 challenger on Friday, taking the covers off their new MCL33 chassis early on Friday morning.

McLaren endured a difficult 2017 season of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, with their partnership with Honda eventually dissolving after a troublesome power unit saw them plagued by unreliability and low power.

A switch to Renault power units is expected to see them get an uptick in form, and the MCL33 chassis itself is actually an evolution on last year’s MCL32. Still, the team highlighted areas to improve upon, and aims for a return to prominence in 2018.

“The McLaren team was created by a brave pioneer, and has had bravery at its core ever since. Whether it’s been with brave drivers, brave leaders or brave fortune, this team has always fought back. And we definitely view 2018 as the year when McLaren will move closer to the front, fighting teams and drivers as we improve our fortunes,” said Zak Brown, executive director of McLaren Technology Group.

Brown also highlighted the car’s new papaya orange livery, a throwback to some of the most popular color schemes that have adorned McLaren entrants in a variety of disciplines. Brown indicated that this came about from requests of fans who wanted to see such a livery return to the McLaren marque.

“Our return to a papaya orange livery for this year wasn’t simply an emotional decision; it demonstrates that we are listening to our fans, building deeper engagement with them and the Formula 1 community as a whole. We want McLaren to earn respect on and off the track, and this felt like a good starting point. We want to show everyone what makes this team special, whether that’s our fans or our partners – there’s room for more on our journey.”

The team’s racing director Eric Boullier expressed optimism about the team’s potential for 2018, but also acknowledged the season will be sure to see its fair share of challenges.

“I think the whole team feels proud of this car,” he asserted. “The design, engineering and aerodynamic departments have done an incredible job delivering a new car with a new power unit in an extremely short timeframe. We never took the easy route or looked to shortcut a process or a solution; and the result is a car that is neat and well-resolved.

“That said, we are under no illusions that it will be difficult to splinter the hegemony at the front; and that the midfield will be full of well-funded, experienced outfits with plenty to prove. We are humble about the challenge ahead, but feel we’ve prepared well, have a solid package that we can build upon and exploit as the season progresses, and have two excellent drivers who will make the difference in races.”

The MCL33 took to the track on Friday for filming at a test track in Spain, and will be run in anger for the first time when testing begins next week at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

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