Four test sessions occurred on Saturday at the Daytona International Speedway for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s Roar Before the Rolex 24, and with temperatures upwards of 30 degrees warmer than they had been on Friday, teams were able to gather a better read on times and data.
Jamie McMurray, who we wrote yesterday is one of only three full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers confirmed to run the Rolex 24, led the overall (and P class) timesheets in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost Riley at 1:38.980. The CGR pair of cars, plus the sister Ford Riley of Michael Shank Racing, had to leave a day early as the engines suffered exhaust header failures. GP2 runner-up Sam Bird led the PC class for the day in a Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09 at 1:42.010.
Jan Magnussen (pictured right), father of McLaren Formula One rookie Kevin, led the GTLM competitors in the new factory Corvette C7.R with a best time of 1:46.010, with the lone Aston Martin Vantage in class and the sister Corvette next up in the 1:46 bracket. The GTD class was tightly bunched, as throughout the day the top 10 or 11 were roughly within a second and the top 18 or 19 separated by less than two. Jan Heylen led the times with a 1:48.228 in the No. 58 Snow Racing Porsche 911 GT America, run in partnership with Wright Motorsports and JDX Racing.
A link to all four of the day’s session PDFs, via IMSAtiming.com, is below. Meanwhile I’ll also give a shout out to two sports car super fans, Ben Wedge and Kevin Welling, who have dug deeper into the data, section times and top speeds, to analyze the respective car performances. Both of their Twitter feeds (@TheBenWedge, @Kevin_Welling) provide a lot of valuable technical data.
Final Balance of Performance adjustments across the TUDOR Championship’s four classes – P, PC, GTLM and GTD – are expected after the Roar this weekend.
Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.
It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.
“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”
In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.
With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.
In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.
“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.
“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”
Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.
“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said. “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”
Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.
“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.
“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”
Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.