Tire strategy will play a huge part in the 62nd Rolex 24 At Daytona as always, and that’s become even more true as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has made efforts to minimize tire usage.
GTP cars have 21 sets for qualifying and race. With 24 hours of racing and approximately 50-minute stints, that’s roughly eight more stints than they have sets of tires, so some double stinting will be required. That discounts cautions or significant periods of rain, since rain tires don’t count against the allocation. LMP2 cars have 23 sets. GTD PRO and GTD have 25 sets for the entire event, and not a specific amount for the race. That could play into the hands of teams that chose to forego the final practice, such as AWA and Heart of Racing (or Pfaff and Vasser Sullivan, which sat out the night practice), or did very limited running.
GTD PRO and GTD teams have an extra consideration: Michelin has recommended to the GT teams that they not double stint right-side tires, due to the nature of Daytona International Speedway, the load placed on the tires on the banking and the fact that the GT3 cars have stints closer to an hour under green. That will create some interesting situations for teams and drivers when they either double stint lefts and go out with fresh rights, or perhaps even putting used rights on the left side in order to have enough tires for the race.
Several drivers have reported that the new Michelin Pilot Sport Pro GT H1 tire the GT cars are using is a little less sensitive to temperature fluctuations than the previous tire, although some report seeing no improvement.
As important as how many tires a team has is what type of tires. Depending on the time of day, GTP teams have a choice of two different compounds, usually referred to as medium and soft. From 7pm Saturday until 8am Sunday, the soft tire is an option. However, depending on temperature — and the low is only expected to dip into the mid-60s F — many of the GTP teams feel the cars work better on the mediums.
“We’ve saved a lot of mediums,” reveals Ricky Taylor, driver of the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06. “We don’t know what other people have been doing in practice, but we have a lot of medium tires, which seems to be preferred. We’re hoping to use that for track position in the last four hours.”