Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Pre-Rolex 24 notes include return of Gidley back at track

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The reveal of all 55 cars competing in this weekend’s 55th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona headlined Wednesday’s activity, with all cars confirmed in their full liveries and regalia.

Meanwhile, later this week, Memo Gidley will make a triumphant return to Daytona International Speedway this week, as he and wife Mari will attend this weekend’s Rolex 24 as guests of IMSA.

Those two are among the key notes going into this weekend’s race, but not the only ones.

Gidley sustained a number of injuries in a devastating crash in the 2014 Rolex 24, the first race under the auspices of the newly merged IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Photo courtesy of IMSA
Photo courtesy of IMSA

While he hasn’t raced competitively since, the likable Californian has been well on his road to recovery in the intervening three years. He’ll make a visit to the media center on Thursday and later in the week, plans to visit with doctors and staff at Halifax Health Medical Center, where he was transported after the incident and spent several days undergoing treatment for his injuries.

“Daytona is a special place for me and I’ve been wanting to get back as soon as I was healed,” Gidley said in a release. “It’s been a long recovery journey, and a big part of my motivation was to be here now. The healing has gone so well and I’ve been cleared by doctors to drive again.”

Here’s some of the other news items or quick quotes from team releases that have come in, in advance of the Rolex 24:

  • On Wednesday, the full field of 55 cars assembled for a group photo on the pit lane at Daytona. Last year’s class champions took the front row, with the remaining 51 cars filling in behind.
  • On Tuesday, Corvette Racing and SONIC Tools announced a partnership, which sees sponsorship on the team’s Corvette C7.Rs and an outlet for SONIC Tools to display and sell its line of precision-crafted tools. Corvette goes for its third straight Rolex 24 win this week, and more info on SONIC Tools’ rapid growth is linked here.
  • tristannuneztomlongMazda Motorsports has a number of nuggets it released on Tuesday. The team will have a large rice spoon (called a skakushi, pictured right) in their pit box for the Rolex 24 weekend. In Japanese culture, the spoons are talismans for good luck, victory, business prosperity and a safe household. The spoon was brought from the Miyajima Temple in Hiroshima, Japan, by drivers Tom Long and Tristan Nunez with Mazda Motorsports boss John Doonan after a recent Mazda fan festival near there. The characters on the spoon read “Certain Victory” and “Must Win.”
  • The manufacturer also revealed the number of either Mazda Road to Indy and/or Mazda Road to 24 graduates in this year’s Rolex 24; a total of 54 drivers have driven some sort of Mazda on their way up either of the parallel ladders prior to competing in the Rolex 24. Two NASCAR spotters, Tim Fedewa and Tyler Green, will join Mazda’s two primary spotters this week.
  • Speaking of spotters, Performance Tech Motorsports will have Kenton Koch back this week, albeit not in a car but only on the spotters’ stand. Koch, one of sports car racing’s up-and-coming young talents, won’t have a chance at an encore win in the PC class.
  • Interestingly, all three Cadillac DPi-V.R entries see the former Action Express Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing teams now entered as their sponsor name. The pair of AXR entries are entered as the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac and No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac, respectively, while WTR’s car is the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. Keen-eyed observers of the series will note the changes, while for Cadillac’s debut, this marks an interesting approach to have their teams identified as such.
  • AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology will have its paint on several cars, including those from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Scuderia Corsa and Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian. C360R continues with AERO in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ranks.
  • In the “as the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 GTD entry ranks turn” department, a couple quick changes occur with Brandon Gdovic (fourth driver for DAC Motorsports) and Michele Beretta (No. 61 GRT Grasser Racing Team entry, replacing Christoph Lenz) now in for the race. Grasser also comes here after racing in the Dubai 24 Hours two weeks ago.
  • Quick notes on one of the other Lamborghinis, the full-season entry from Change Racing. The team here again has the youngest driver entered in Kaz Grala, who just turned 18, and back for a second season. The team’s partnership presence comes with new support from Forza Motorsports/Turn 10 Studios, and continuing support from Monster Energy, Orion Lighting and Lamborghini Carolinas. Grala shares the No. 16 Huracán with Jeroen Mul, Corey Lewis and Brett Sandberg for one of the most youthful lineups on the grid.
  • This is the 23rd entry for Alex Job Racing in the Rolex 24, coincidentally with the team running the No. 23 Audi R8 LMS for Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler, Frankie Montecalvo and Pierre Kaffer. Hard as this may seem to believe, this is Montecalvo’s GTD debut in the race; the Bayshore Racing driver previously raced a PC car here in 2014.
  • An interesting note from veteran motorsports journalist Jonathan Ingram about the legend that is Bob Riley: The head designers at Dallara (Luca Pignacca), ORECA (David Floury) and Onroak Automotive (Nicolas Clémençon) have a combined total of 46 years of experience – which falls five short of Bob Riley’s 51 years since the Lynx B Formula V first appeared. Including Riley Technologies, all four companies will have prototypes debuting in the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona in the new DPi era.
  • The incomparable Andy Blackmore’s designs and Spotter Guides for both the WeatherTech and Continental races is linked here and available for free download. Also free and available? IMSA Radio’s session by session broadcasts, which you can listen into via radiolemans.com.
  • Mobil 1 The Grid’s preview of the race with Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin, who edged Antonio Garcia a year ago in the thrilling battle of the two Corvette C7.Rs in GT Le Mans, is below.

More to follow as the weekend progresses. In the interim, here’s a look through our other Rolex 24 posts so far:

P/PC car-by-car preview
GTLM car-by-car preview
GTD car-by-car preview
Without a Shank seat, Allmendinger opts out of Rolex 24 pursuit
Nearly a dozen IndyCar drivers, only Gordon for NASCAR, set for Rolex 24
Four Ford GTs determined to rise to top of GTLM crop at Rolex 24
First taste of tantalizing new prototype battle set for Rolex 24
Post-Viper, the new Mercedes-AMG era begins for Bleekemolen, Keating
Handful of changes identified on Rolex 24 entry list
New GTD manufacturers add intrigue to 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona
Porsche sets sail for new voyage with new 911 RSR into 2017
TRG, Porsche reunite, Buckler looking to recapture glory once more at Rolex 24
Kanaan set for banner January with Race of Champions, Ford GT debut
Roar Before the Rolex 24 recap, notes, musings, observations
Roar Before the Rolex 24 WeatherTech, Continental test results
Jeff Gordon embracing Rolex 24 return with Taylors, Cadillac
Dario Franchitti named grand marshal for Rolex 24 at Daytona
Roar Before the Rolex 24 preview, pre-test notes

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.