Canadian F3 winner Lance Stroll, 17, to race for Ganassi in Rolex 24

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When you’re 17 years old, getting your driver’s license is typically the end all and be all of your young life.

Not so for Canadian driver Lance Stroll. Instead of asking mom or dad to borrow the family car, he’ll be driving a multi-million dollar sports car in the upcoming Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

Of course, it helps that Stroll is a Formula Three winner as he makes his sports car debut and endurance racing debut driving a Ford EcoBoost Prototype for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 30-31.

Stroll will team with New Zealander Brendon Hartley, Australian Alex Wurz and Great Britain’s Andy Priaulx.

“When an opportunity comes along to compete in one of the world’s greatest and definitely North America’s most famous sports car race, with one of America’s most successful teams in Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, and racing at the legendary Daytona International Speedway, it was too great an offer to turn down,” Stroll said in a media release.

Target 24 hour car

Stroll gets a head start on the action with the three-day (Jan. 8-10) “Roar Before the 24” test to allow himself to get acquainted with the 3.56-mile DIS road course.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing is seeking its seventh win in the annual 24-hour race, having taken the checkered flag in 2006 through 2008, 2011, 2013 and is the reigning champ from 2015.

Stroll began racing go-karts in 2008 and won the 2014 Italian Formula 4 Championship and 2015 Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand. He won a race and registered 17 top-six finishes in FIA Formula 3 European Championship Series. He will return to the Euro F3 Series for his third straight season with the Italian Prema Powerteam in 2016.

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Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Combined speeds