An intense, barnburner 2016 Rolex 24 is set to occur

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s been a semi-weird week ahead of the 54th Rolex 24 at Daytona, with rain making Thursday an irrelevant day of running and then one final intense practice session on Friday setting the stage for what figures to be a barnburner of a race.

Here’s the provisional grid for today’s race.

There’s a number of story lines to hit, so here’s what to look for:

  • The P2, DP and the DeltaWing interaction: We know the P2s and DeltaWing have the pace. They’re faster, they’re lighter… and they’re also more fragile. The compelling story line here is that the variety of potential spoilers, be it the polesitting SMP Racing BR Engineering BR01 Nissan, the DeltaWing, the pair of Ligier JS P2 Hondas from Michael Shank Racing and Tequila Patron ESM and the two Mazdas, have their best shot yet to upset the apple cart. Key to their success will be long green flag runs. With too many yellows, it will box the field up and negate any outright pace advantage. And you can bank on about 10 to 12 yellows – if it gets to be more than that, the P2 advantage may slip away.
  • Pruett’s quest for six: Scott Pruett, with a win, would win the Rolex 24 for the sixth time overall. It would break a tie with Hurley Haywood, at five, for the most overall. He’s got a great chance to win in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP, which he’ll share with Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque.
  • Wide-open GTLM, which is glorious: There’s no favorite in GT Le Mans, which is awesome. Corvette won last year and Porsche the year before that, and in 2016 their cars are more evolutions than revolutions. BMW and Ferrari meanwhile debut new turbocharged cars, the M6 GTLM and 488 GTE respectively, and have looked impressive on pace all week. The wild card, though, and the star attraction heading into the race is the new Ford GT, entered by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing with a key partnership with Multimatic.
  • And wide-open GTD too for good measure: Seven manufacturers have produced 22 FIA GT3-spec cars, most new with a handful of slightly older cars, to produce the other “big show” heading into the race in GT Daytona. It’s hard to rule out too many of the efforts, although Lamborghini, Porsche and Audi – the three VW brands – have had a minuscule edge over Ferrari, Dodge, BMW and Aston Martin. The Park Place Motorsports Porsche, qualified by Norbert Siedler, starts on pole in arguably the deepest class this year.
  • PC likely a battle of survival: With only eight cars, all spec cars and a higher volume of gentlemen drivers, Prototype Challenge is probably the least attractive of the four classes but it’s not something to be entirely overlooked. On paper, CORE autosport and Starworks Motorsport must be considered the favorites, with any of the other five entries in the mix for podiums provided they run the distance.

Notable Quotes

Sebastien Bourdais (KVSH Racing; No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, GT Le Mans class, making its debut): “It’s the grand opening for the Ford GT, the whole brand new program starting with the 24-hour race. It’s a pretty big challenge but looking forward to it. We’ve got a great team with Chip Ganassi Racing to try and make it work and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing; No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford, Prototype class): “The balance and performance is still quite a ways off, maybe a little broader now – I think 2, 2.5 seconds to the quick P2s and some of the other cars. We’re going to have our work cut out and have to hope for a little bit of attrition on the P2 side, which in the past has helped. But in the past we’ve also been a lot closer on straight-up pace.”

Andy Meyrick (Panoz DeltaWing Racing; No. 0 DeltaWing DWC13, Prototype class): “I know this place well and I know the car, so it didn’t take much time to get up to speed. The car was quick right out of the box. Everyone was struggling with cold temperatures whereas we were pretty strong. We’ve got a good setup from the Roar and I don’t think we should change it. We’re starting a ways back but it was the right decision to skip qualifying so now we just need to not make mistakes in the first hour or two and move forward.”

Rick Mayer (Risi Competizione race engineer, No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE, GT Le Mans class): “All of our running so far has been in the wet. Toni and Fisichella, the only two guys who have driven the car yet today, say that it was good in the wet for them. We’ll wait until tomorrow until we get in the dry. Qualifying was pretty treacherous because it started raining pretty hard once we went out. Then one of our sister cars had an accident, which caused a red flag, so we really only got two timed laps.”

Gary Nelson (Action Express Racing team manager, Nos. 5 and 31 Corvette DPs, Prototype class): “We came to Daytona International Speedway focused on winning the Rolex 24 and following qualifying, that goal is still attainable because our drivers took care of our Corvette DPs.”