The 62nd Rolex 24 At Daytona takes the green flag at 1:40pm ET, with 59 cars slated to start the kickoff to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. The opening hour will be broadcast live on NBC.
Qualifying took place last Sunday during the Roar Before the 24 weekend. Pipo Derani was the top qualifier in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac Racing V-Series.R with a new record of 1m32.656s as Cadillac locked out the front row. Ben Keating, who is also scheduled to drive the No. 85 JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963 during the race, took the LMP2 pole in the No. 2 United Autosports ORECA 07. AO Racing will lead the GTs to the green in a split start after Seb Priaulx claimed the GTD PRO pole in the No. 77 Porsche 911 GT3 R. Starting on the inside of the second row of GTs will be the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 after Parker Thompson set the top qualifying time for GTD.
Ganassi likes his chances
Although much of the spotlight has been on the sister Whelen Engineering Cadillac Racing entry that will start from pole, the No. 01 V-Series.R run by Chip Ganassi Racing has been quick as well, and will start on the outside of the front row.
“By looking at practice and qualifying, you would say that we’ve come here, for the first time in a few years, and I think we have a real shot at the thing. So it’s just a matter now of doing the obvious things right,” said team owner Chip Ganassi, who expects to see everything that might happen in a whole season in the Rolex 24. One thing he hopes not to see: “Some sort of plan you’ve been on for eight or nine hours getting negated by a poorly placed yellow.” But, he added, it’s part of the deal and you just roll with the punches.
WTRAndretti weighing its strategy
The two Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06s have not shown great pace throughout the Roar and race week. Team co-owner Wayne Taylor makes no bones about believing the fact that the Acuras carry the most weight — 42kg more than the lightest car in the GTP field — contributes to that. So the team has had to come up with tactics to overcome that in the race.
The Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti crew plot the strategy for their two Acura ARX-06 GTPs. Richard Dole/Lumen
“We do have two cars this year — there were two Acuras in the field in years past, but it wasn’t a situation where you could split strategies and play that game,” said Ricky Taylor, driver of the No. 10 WTRAndretti ARX-06. “We’ve got that card. There are so many yellows, you can work a lot with strategy to get track position. And then with two cars, it kind of magnifies that so we can hold people off for a while, and who knows what happens. The wind changes here a lot and our car’s very sensitive to wind. Little things like that could add up to where we could have a good day.”
Every team hopes nothing goes wrong during the 24 hours of the race, and that their fortune comes down to driving, engineering and strategy. But when things do go wrong — a GT car that doesn’t see you coming, over-aggressive racing, or even just plain old driver error — the old “Be Prepared” Boy Scout motto comes into play.
“We make what our team refers to, and I think most do, as a fight bay,” explained Whelen Engineering Cadillac Racing Team Operations Manager Chris Mitchum. “So if things go pear-shaped and you have a problem during the race, our garage will be set up with spare front corners, spare components, spare back half. We have a very limited number of repairs that we will do in pit lane, and those parts are in the pit lane. Everything else is staged in the garage. And you go so far — as I’m sure every team here will do about the same — you have a set of bodywork sitting in your garage and a set of bodywork in your pit lane. You work from a disaster-times-two mentality and you try to be as prepared as you can.”
Fittipaldi to sub for injured Novalak at Inter Europol
Pietro Fittipaldi will replace Clément Novalak in the LMP2 No. 52 Inter Europol by PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA for the race. Novalak sustained a leg and hip injury in a pitlane incident in the practice session; while the injury is not serious, he will not be able to participate in the remainder of the event. Fittipaldi will instead join Nick Boulle, Jakub Śmiechowski and Tom Dillmann in the No. 52. He is well known to the Inter Europol Competition crew, having raced the ORECA 07 with the team in the European Le Mans Series in 2022.
As Novalak’s injury occurred in the final practice, Fittipaldi will have his first at-speed laps in the car during the race.
Heritage Display grows
One of the highlights of the Rolex 24 for racing history buffs is the Heritage Display in the Fan Zone, along with the Saturday morning 20-minute on-track exhibition for participating cars. Highlights include the Dauer 962 LM that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1994, a Mazda RX-7 GTO car, the NASCAR Garage 56 Project car that ran at Le Mans last year, and a BMW CSL that won at Daytona in 1975.
Jenson Button snaps a fan photo of the Garage 56 Camaro he raced at Le Mans last year. Richard S. James photo
Minimum drive times for GTP and GTD PRO are two hours. For LMP2 and GTD, the minimum drive time is 4h30m. No driver may drive for more than 13 hours, and no more than four hours in any six-hour period.
How to watch/listen
The entirety of the Rolex 24 At Daytona will be carried live on NBC’s Peacock streaming platform. Sixteen-and-a-half hours will be on television, with the start and finish on NBC. USA Network will carry the race from 2:30 to 8pm ET, and 10pm to midnight ET. Sunday coverage begins at 6am ET on USA, continuing to noon ET. NBC will carry the finish of the race from noon ET until 2pm.
In addition, IMSA Radio will be broadcasting for the duration of the event.
This will be the warmest Rolex 24 in several years, with temperature on Saturday peaking at 78 degrees F right around the race start. Overnight temperatures are only expected to drop into the mid-60s, and Sunday morning brings a small chance of rain, with conditions expected to be partly cloudy and in the low 70s when the checker falls.