GTP cars debut at Daytona in ‘Gymkhana’-level traffic for Roar Before Rolex 24 warmup

Rolex GTP Daytona debut

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Powerhouse Rolex 24 teams tiptoed through navigating the high-tech machinery of the hybrid era that dawned Friday with the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category at Daytona International Speedway.

Meanwhile, some of the best drivers in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s premier prototype class also were trying to dodge disasters on a 3.56-mile road course clogged with traffic on the opening day of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 weekend as 61 cars scrambled to prepare for the 2023 season opener next weekend.

“It was very busy this morning, that is for sure,” Chip Ganassi Racing No. 01 Cadillac driver Sebastien Bourdais said after the first of two practice sessions. “With 61 cars, everyone was trying to find their references, and it did feel a bit like ‘Gymkhana’ in heavy traffic, which is a little scary because everybody is really scarce on spare parts, and we all got the message loud and clear.

PRACTICE RESULTS: Click here for Session I (by class) l Session II (by class) l Combined speeds

ROLEX 24 DETAILS: How to watch, entry lists schedules for the IMSA season opener

“You are already finding yourself in situations you do not want to be in because you can’t afford to damage anything, so that is going to be a consideration for sure.”

With the Rolex 24 looming Jan. 28-29 at Daytona, the four manufacturers that have spent millions preparing for the inaugural season of GTP are very concerned about reliability when the curtain rises on the 24-hour endurance race classic.

Aside from being extremely scarce on spare parts because of supply chain problems and startup limitations, teams also have been lacked real-world testing. Some have been unable to run their cars more than a few hours consecutively while focusing on durability gremlins.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTP: Rolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

So the speed charts Friday might not necessarily be indicative of prerace favorites. But it still was notable that the top two speeds belonged to the top two finishers in last year’s Rolex 24.

Helio Castroneves, who made a memorable charge to his second consecutive victory at Daytona a year ago, turned a 1 minute, 35.210-second lap in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing ARX-06 that nipped Filipe Albuquerque’s No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing.

“It was a good lap, always keep working hard,” Castroneves told IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam. “I guess I put myself in the right positions. This is nothing. It’s all about (his teammates) and especially the engineers of Meyer Shank Racing and Acura. We’ll keep it going. It’s just the first day.”

Gearbox problems sidelined the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac V-LMDh for all but four laps (none at speed) during the morning session. But the new LMDh cars otherwise seemed to hold up in their first official sessions of the 2023 season.

The top nine speeds were claimed by all the GTP cars in the field – three Cadillacs, two Porsche 963s, two BMW M Hybrid V8s and two Acuras.

Team owner Chip Ganassi said it still was unlike any typical practice dominated by the top-end prototypes.

“This is obviously a new endeavor for a lot of people on pit lane this year,” Ganassi said. “Everyone’s having to change their way of thinking a little bit, the way they approach these practice sessions, the way we approach things like just understanding how to get the most out of the car with the little time you have in practice. These cars are very complex.”

Mike O’Gara, global director of operations for Ganassi, said much of the session was spent on the basics with two cars that are virtually new.

“This car depends a lot more on the data that it is generating itself to run itself,” O’Gara said. “So, things like tire pressures, brake sensors, brake pressures that were important before are critical now. They are mission critical, so we have to make sure all those basic things work before all the other systems like the hybrid system, the electronic brake bias.

“We have to have those basic things right before those other things work properly. So, this morning, we were just making sure all of that worked right, so this afternoon, and the rest of the weekend, we can just start pushing. There is a mountain of work and a mountain of data for all of our folks to look at just to make sure all of that is functioning properly before we can start pushing on the rest of the systems in the car.”

Top speeds in other categories:

LMP2: Mikkel Jensen, No. 11 TDS Racing, ORECA LMP2 07, 1:38.730

LMP3: Gabby Chaves, No. 36 Andretti Autosport, Ligier JS P320, 1:42.926

GTD Pro: Ben Barnicoat, No. 14 Vasser Sullivan, Lexus RC F GT3, 1:47.040

GTD: Andy Lally, No. 44 Magnus Racing, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, 1:47.004





IndyCar Detroit GP starting lineup: Alex Palou wins first pole position on a street course


DETROIT — Alex Palou won the pole position for the second consecutive NTT IndyCar Series race and will lead the Detroit Grand Prix starting lineup to green on a new downtown layout.

The 2021 series champion, who finished fourth in the 107th Indy 500 after qualifying first, earned his third career pole position as the first of three Chip Ganassi Racing drivers in the top four (Scott Dixon qualified fourth, and Marcus Ericsson sixth).

Scott McLaughlin will start second, followed by Romain Grosjean. Coming off his first Indianapolis 500 victory, Josef Newgarden qualified fifth.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

It’s the third career pole position for Palou and his first on a street course — a big advantage on a nine-turn, 1.645-mile track that is expected to be calamitous over 100 laps Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

“It’s going to be a tough day for sure,” Palou told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “It feels good we’ve had a great car since the beginning, and it was just about maximizing. They did a great strategy on tires and everything. We need to finish it (Sunday).

“I got off a lot in practice. We wanted to see where the limit was, and we found it. It’s a crazy track. I think it’s too tight for Indy cars and too short as well, but we’ll make it happen.”

QUALIFYING RESULTSClick here for Detroit GP qualifying speeds | Round 1, Group 1 | Round 1, Group 2 | Round 2 l Round 3

The narrow quarters (originally listed as a 1.7-mile track, its distance shrunk by a couple hundred feet when measured Friday) already were causing problems in qualifying.

Colton Herta, who has four career poles on street courses, qualified 24th after failing to advance from the first round because of damage to his No. 26 Dallara-Honda. It’s the worst starting spot in an IndyCar street course race for Herta (and the second-worst of his career on the heels of qualifying 25th for the GMR Grand Prix three weeks ago).

Andretti Autosport teammate Kyle Kirkwood also found misfortune in the second round, damaging the left front of his No. 27 Dallara-Honda despite light wall contact.

“I’m disappointed for the crew because that was a pole-winning car,” Kirkwood told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “Man, I barely touched the wall. I touched it way harder in all the practices, and it’s just like the angle at which the wall was right there, it caught the point and just ripped the front off the car.

“If the wall was rounded, that wouldn’t have happened. That’s just unfortunate for the guys, but it’s my mistake. It’s hard enough to get around this place let alone race around it. We’ll see how it goes.”

Many IndyCar drivers are expecting it to go badly, which isn’t uncommon for a new street layout. The inaugural Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee, was the biggest crashfest of the 2021 season with 33 of 80 laps run under caution plus two red flags.

It could be worse at Detroit, which is the shortest track on the IndyCar circuit. It also features the series’ only split pit lane (with cars pitting on opposite sides and blending into a single-lane exit), a 0.9-mile straightaway and a hairpin third turn that is considered the best passing zone.

“If there’s one day you need to be lucky in the year, it’s tomorrow,” Grosjean told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “A lot is going to happen, and it’s being in the right time at the right place.”

Said Dixon: “Expect probably a lot of unexpected things to happen. We’ll try and get through it. I think it’ll be similar to Nashville and maybe the last man standing is the one who gets the victory.”

With the field at 27 cars, Palou estimated the length of the course leaves a gap of about 2.4 seconds between each car, which he preferred would be double. During practice Friday, there were six red flags and 19 local yellows as teams tried to sort out the tricky and tight layout.

“I don’t know what the perfect distance is, but I would say adding 30 seconds to a track or 20 seconds would help a lot,” said Palou, one of many drivers who also said the streets were too bumpy despite work to grind down some surfaces. “We have a lot of cars. It’s crazy. It’s really good for the series, for the racing. But when it comes to practice, and we have 10 red flags, 25 yellows, it’s traffic all the time.”

It seems certain to be a memorable reimagining of the Detroit GP, which was moved downtown by IndyCar owner Roger Penske after a 30-year run at the Belle Isle course a few miles north.

McLaughlin, who drives for Team Penske, believes the race will be very similar to Nashville, but “it’s just going to be up to us with the etiquette of the drivers to figure it out along the way. I think there’s going to be a lot of passes, opportunities.

“With the track, there’s been a lot of noise I’ve seen on Twitter, from other drivers and stuff,” McLaughlin said. “At the end of the day, this is a new track, new complex. I think what everyone has done to get this going, the vibe is awesome. Belle Isle was getting old. We had to do it.

“First-year problems, it’s always going to happen. It’s just going to get better from here. The racetrack for the drivers is a blast. We don’t even know how it races yet. Everyone is making conclusions already. They probably just need to relax and wait for (Sunday).”

Here’s the IndyCar starting lineup for Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix (qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine and speed):


1. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 1 minute, 1.8592 seconds (95.734 mph)
2. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 1:02.1592 (95.271)


3. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 1:02.2896 (95.072)
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:02.4272 (94.862)


5. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:02.5223 (94.718)
6. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 1:02.6184 (94.573)


7. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:02.1817 (95.237)
8. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 1:02.1860 (95.230)


9. (6) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 1:02.1937 (95.219)
10. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 1:02.2564 (95.123)


11. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 1:02.2958 (95.063)
12. (27) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 1:04.6075 (91.661)


13. (7) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 1:02.5714 (94.644)
14. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 1:02.1911 (95.223)


15. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 1:02.9522 (94.071)
16. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 1:02.2644 (95.111)


17. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 1:03.0017 (93.997)
18. (45) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 1:02.6495 (94.526)

ROW 10

19. (55) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 1:03.1599 (93.762)
20. (78) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 1:02.9071 (94.139)

ROW 11

21. (18) David Malukas, Honda, 1:03.2126 (93.684)
22. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 1:02.9589 (94.061)

ROW 12

23. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 1:03.3879 (93.425)
24. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 1:03.4165 (93.383)

ROW 13

25. (30) Jack Harvey, Honda, 1:03.7728 (92.861)
26. (51) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 1:03.7496 (92.895)

ROW 14

27. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:03.8663 (92.725)