2017 Rolex 24 thoughts, musings, observations

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A slow-burner of a Rolex 24 at Daytona, the 55th edition, again came alive in the final hours. Some thoughts and reflections from the race and the week just passed are below:

  • Opinions have, understandably, varied about the contact between Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque which decided the race. You have to realize both drivers acted in their own best interests at that particular moment, neither one willing to give an inch in pursuit of the victory. Albuquerque wanted the corner, and Taylor saw a gap he thought he could make work. The contact was unavoidable at that moment although because Taylor’s intent wasn’t malicious – he just wanted the spot, not to take Albuquerque out. In my view, a good no call from IMSA Race Director Beaux Barfield and Race Control. More important, it was consistent with calls from Race Control throughout the race.
  • I’m not worrying too much about Prototype Balance of Performance after just one race where all 12 cars debuted. Daytona is always a race-specific BoP, it’s a power track, and the Cadillac DPi-V.Rs led the DPi field on testing mileage and preparation compared to their competitors – so they were always going to have an early advantage, even despite the gains made time-wise from the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test. Other cars in Prototype improved from the Roar, as well, although race times were a bit slower. Keep in mind the new-for-2017 Continental Tires haven’t debuted yet – those come online at Sebring. If the Cadillac remains as far ahead at Sebring, a wildly different track, then we can talk about there being a big BoP problem.
  • The paddock buzz was pretty good, if not great. Between the number of fans on the grounds and in the infield, there was excitement for the new cars. The rain then made a negative impact on the number of fans who came back on Sunday.
  • Props to the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley Mk. 30 Gibson team for fighting through a lack of runs prior to the race and securing a podium on Sunday. More on their quiet P3 from the Daytona Beach News-Journal and Sportscar365 here.
  • Disappointing to see both Rebellion Racing and DragonSpeed have a tough week with various issues, but props to the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson for being the best of the new Oreca 07s results-wise, P5 with an under-the-radar lineup.
  • All told, the level of reliability among the debuting 18 cars was impressive. Despite some garage trips, nine of the 12 Prototype cars finished, with the only cars suffering a double DNF the Mazda RT24-Ps. That said this was a better debut for Mazda than in recent years. The mid-engined Porsche 911 RSRs did well in GTLM with second and sixth place results; Acura’s NSX GT3s both led and Lexus got one of its new RC F GT3s home clean, which also led, with the second out by accident, not mechanical woes.
  • It was a great GT Le Mans race. All told though Ford and Ferrari’s edge wore on, with Porsche getting right on pace with the new car (albeit a bit behind) and Corvette and BMW struggling. Corvette was particularly unlucky, having gained seven spots on the last two pit stops to get to the lead, but with Antonio Garcia a sitting duck once the race resumed under green. A shame Corvette never really had a proper go at defending its Rolex 24 title for a third year running.
  • The GT Daytona class indeed saw the under-the-radar entries from Alegra Motorsports and Land Motorsport star, although I would have only bet one of them would have finished on the podium – not both in a 1-2 finish! It speaks volumes of both team’s efforts that in a series they’re not used to running in that they’d be consistent and stay largely on the lead lap both on-track and in the pits.
  • The hard luck award in GTD goes to Scuderia Corsa, which looked poised for a win before an engine issue grounded Sam Bird in the final few hours. The No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 saw Alessandro Balzan, Christina Nielsen and Matteo Cressoni shared the car with Bird.
  • Spencer Pumpelly (GTD) and Kenton Koch (PC) both assisted the winning entries in class, Alegra and Performance Tech, despite not racing themselves. Pumpelly sat on the box to assist Alegra from a strategy standpoint while Koch was a spotter for Performance Tech.
  • Rather bright rain lights from the Prototypes were a topic of conversation, triggered here by a tweet from Land Audi driver Connor De Phillippi, with IMSA noting change may be on the way.
  • Tough race for Lamborghini. Eight cars, no laps led, and best finish of seventh in the GT Daytona class with the Lamborghini Huracán GT3s.
  • Good weekend for Trent Hindman, who won the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race on Friday, then finished on the podium on Sunday in the Prototype Challenge class with BAR1 Motorsports.
  • Felt in a lot of ways like an IndyCar weekend, with a heavy IndyCar driver and personnel present.

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is off until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, on March 18, the Saturday after the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener in St. Petersburg on March 12.

Red Bull Air Race: Yoshi Muroya joins Sato as Japanese champs at Indy

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool
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Takuma Sato isn’t the only major Japanese athlete to take home top honors at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year. Countryman Yoshihide Muroya joined him in that on Sunday after winning Red Bull Air Race at IMS, and the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in the process.

Fittingly, the 101st Indianapolis 500 champion was there on site to join him in the celebration.

Muroya flew with a track-record run in the final and erased the four-point deficit to points leader Martin Sonka. The record run came after a disappointing qualifying effort of 11th in the 14-pilot field in the Master Class.

A day after the win, Muroya joined Sato in heading to Sato’s new Verizon IndyCar Series team, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s, Indianapolis-based shop.

A few social posts from Muroya’s victory and the subsequent celebration are below.

CHECKING OUT EACH OTHER’S RIDES

ASTLES BREAKS THOUGH AS WELL

Muroya wasn’t alone among big winners at the Speedway. In the Challenger Class, Melanie Astles of France became the first woman to win a major race at IMS, and is the first female winner in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

Nine women have competed in the Indianapolis 500 (Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz, Katherine Legge) and Mann is the first woman to have been on the pole position at IMS, having done so for the Freedom 100 in 2010 in Indy Lights.

Photo: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool