The Gibson-powered ORECA 07 proved to be the dominant force of the Prototype Class at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 on Jan. 6 – 8. Rebellion Racing’s Neel Jani was quickest in four of the first five practice sessions, but couldn’t quite top DragonSpeed hot shoe Ben Hanley.
DragonSpeed earned the top time with the No. 81 during Sunday morning’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice. Hanley’s chart-topping 1:38.343 beat Mazda Motorsports’ Jonathan Bomarito by just .02 seconds.
“The driver lineups are impressive, there’s not weak team out there,” said Hanley. “Everything’s new for everybody. It’s a 24-hour race and anything can happen, we know that. We’ve just got to be there at the end and hope we can grab something.”
Hanley is brand new to Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course – as is Jani – and finds that it lives up to its reputation.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “The first impression when you drive close to the place, you see the huge grandstand and you see the banking when you come into the track. It’s a great experience to drive around here. The whole week has been an eye-opener for me and a good first few days racing in America.”
In GT Le Mans (GTLM), the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs would not be beaten at the Roar, with the top three fastest times in class set by Ford drivers. Ganassi’s IndyCar stars Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon were second and third on the charts, but it was 2016 WeatherTech Championship runner-up Ryan Briscoe who was quickest in class for the weekend in the No. 67 Ford GT. He set a 1:44.380 during Sunday morning’s WeatherTech Championship session.
Making up fourth through sixth quickest in GTLM were drivers from BMW, Ferrari and Corvette Racing.
In GT Daytona, Porsche factory driver Sven Muller took the No. 59 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R to the top, with the quickest time of 1:46.810 also set on Sunday morning.
Performance Tech Motorsports went fastest in Prototype Challenge, with James French setting a 1:41.888, just beating out teammate Patricio O'Ward.
HISTORY HEATS UP FOR CORVETTE RACING: During Sunday morning’s practice session, Corvette Racing’s Marcel Fässler stopped the No. 4 Corvette between Speedway 1 and 2, where the car proceeded to catch fire.
“During this morning’s practice session at Daytona, the No. 4 Corvette C7.R experienced an issue with a fuel line that allowed fuel to escape, contact a hot surface and ignite,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “The fire was quickly extinguished, and the damage was limited to the engine compartment of the car.”
Fässler received a mandatory ride to the infield care center, where he was quickly evaluated and released by IMSA medical staff. The sister No. 3 car was withdrawn from final practice as well as a precaution, but the team is confident that both cars will be ready to race come the Rolex 24 At Daytona at the end of the month.
It was a case of déjà vu for Corvette Racing, as the No. 4 caught fire during the 2016 Roar. Time will tell if additional history will repeat for the team this year, as well the No. 4 Corvette went on to win Daytona, Sebring, Lime Rock (Corvette Racing’s 100th win), Road America en route to the 2016 WeatherTech Championship GTLM title.
DAYTONA HOSTS LARGEST SCOUT DAYS EVENT, GIRL SCOUTS INSPIRED BY FEMALES IN IMSA: More than 3,000 Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America took part in Scout Days at Daytona International Speedway this weekend, getting to experience the sights and sounds of IMSA racing. The scouts bravely endured a stormy Friday night and Saturday morning, followed by cold temperatures Saturday afternoon into Sunday, but eagerly made the most of the adventure.
Among the activities the Scouts took part in were garage tours, scavenger hunts, geocaching and fishing at Lake Lloyd and earning an Automotive Maintenance Merit Badge at a demonstration by Daytona Toyota on basic vehicle maintenance techniques.
"It was a great weekend hosting thousands of Boy and Girl Scouts from the Southeast for our annual Scout Days during the Roar Before The Rolex 24,” said Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile. “Scouts enjoyed a number of fun activities while IMSA teams participated in testing sessions on track. It's exciting to see Scout Days continue to grow and we look forward to hosting our next event later this month -the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona."
Saturday afternoon, IMSA and Daytona International Speedway hosted a Women in Motorsports Panel with a star-studded lineup encouraging Girl Scouts in attendance to follow their passion regardless of industry.
Shea Adam, IMSA Radio Reporter, moderated the 40-minute session with Ford mechanic Jessica Mace, Acura driver Katherine Legge, and Scuderia Corsa Ferrari defending GTD driver champion Christina Nielsen as guests. While the ladies enjoyed several jokes with each other throughout the talk, they conveyed a message of perseverance and confidence to the girls in the audience.
“You have to learn not to care what others think,” said Legge during the question-and-answer session. “There can be a double standard, so you have to work even harder than everyone else to prove you deserve to be there.”
Added Nielsen, “You can’t give people the reaction they want because it will just add fuel to the fire. We’re here because we worked hard and kept believing, and surrounded ourselves with people that believed in us and didn’t care that we were girls.”