The Rolex 24 at Daytona's pre-season test has been a source of controversy for quite some time. The event is famous for its potential for "Sandbagging," putting in slower-than-expected lap times during the test to convince regulators to give a team a pre-season performance increase before their biggest race of the season, and IMSA has been trying to legislate the practice out since at least 2014.
These plans have not worked. Sandbagging has remained a ubiquitous part of the test, which now seems to exist only to provide a platform for sandbagging to happen in the first place.
This year's plan, to run a sprint race to determine the Rolex 24 grid one weekend early, was a novel and interesting solution. By offering both grid position for the category's most important race and some championship points, IMSA thought it could convince teams to run all-out before the 24 hour race. After the race, however, DPi drivers were again accusing other manufacturers of sandbagging. This solution may not get another chance next year.
The race was not a screaming success, but it was a race. Chip Ganassi Racing's Cadillac led overall in wet-but-drying conditions that dominated the early running, but a late decision to switch from rain tires to slicks left the new-for-2021 #01 Cadillac team a lap down. This opened the door for Action Express Racing's Felipe Nasr, who cruised to the lead in the #31 Cadillac and never looked back. Nasr's entry will start from pole, ahead of the #55 Mazda, the #5 Cadillac, and the #60 and #10 Acuras of Meyer Shank Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing, respectively.
In GTLM, Corvette Racing's dominant pace has continued from 2020. Their two C8.Rs, the #4 and #3, will convert their class wins into a 1-2 start, leading the #79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche, #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari, and BMW's two M8 GTEs.
Turner Motorsports will lead the GTD field to green with their #96 BMW M6, ahead of the #9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche GT3R and the #111 GRT Grasser Lamborghini Huracan.
PR1 Mathiasen's #52 ORECA will start on pole in LMP2, but teams in that category have some concern about the straight-line performance of the #47 Cetilar Racing Dallara. That car has run in Europe over the past few seasons, but this will be Dallara's first race in IMSA as an LMP2 constructor. Muehlner Motorsports America's #6 entry will lead the new-for-2021 LMP3 field to the green.
42 cars finished the race, with two entries failing to start and five failing to finish. Some of those were intentionally-parked in an effort to avoid damaging their car before a 24 hour race.
The Rolex 24 itself will be run next Saturday.
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