Race Weekend Central

IMSA Holds Annual Roar Before the 24 Open Test

On Sunday, IMSA wrapped up the Roar Before the 24, a three-day open test at Daytona International Speedway for teams in both the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.  While 54 cars were officially entered in the session, Risi Competizione chose not to compete due to their brand-new Ferrari 488 GTE not being ready yet.

Regardless, there was still a lot of brand-new or revamped on track being put through their paces.  SMP Racing‘s BR01 chassis made its American debut during the session after competing mainly in Europe.  Mazda had their two MZ2.0T-powered prototypes on-track as well (the two-liter turbocharged engine replaces the diesel engines that the team has used for the last two years).  However, it was a familar chassis that topped the charts.

During the seventh and final testing session of the weekend, Tequila Patron ESM’s Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani set the fastest time of the weekend with a lap of 99.249 seconds (129.130 mph) in the No. 2 Tequila Patron-sponsored Ligier JS P2-Honda.  Of note, this is not one of the Ligiers that the team raced last season in the FIA World Endurance Championship, but another Ligier JS P2 acquired from OAK Racing.

Similar to last year, Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian set the pace early on.  Recently announced Ford GT factory driver (in the WEC) Olivier Pla turned in the fastest lap on Friday at 99.445 seconds (128.875 mph).  Sunday saw Pla better that with a lap of 99.438 seconds (128.884 mph), good for second overall for the weekend.

To many observers, one of the biggest surprises in the test was the pace of Panoz DeltaWing Racing.  Running a new patriotic paint scheme reminiscent of the scheme Panoz ran on their LMP-01 Evos of 2002 and 2003 in the American Le Mans Series, Katherine Legge steered the nimble coupe to the top of the sheets in the first session on Saturday morning and ended up sixth overall for the weekend with a lap of 99.955 seconds (128.218 mph).  However, outright pace shouldn’t be so surprising from the DeltaWing.  Last year, outright speed wasn’t the problem for the team.  The transmission was.  In the race, Andy Meyrick haunted the fastest Prototypes early before breaking the transmission in the second hour, forcing a retirement.

Ultimately, the top eight Prototypes all turned laps in the 99-second bracket during the test.  Given the sandbagging that has been rife in previous Roars, it is a little unclear as to how everyone truly stacks up, but it appears that the race for the overall win should be quite competitive.

Like last year, only eight cars were entered in Prototype Challenge.  The spec-prototypes are scheduled to receive significant updates this year, but those updates will not be ready until Sebring.  For now, the teams will have to make do with last year’s package.  During the opening session on Friday, Core autosport‘s Colin Braun set the pace with a lap of 102.423 seconds (125.128 mph).  That lap held up for nearly the entire weekend as the No. 54 was on top for three sessions.

However, in the final session of the weekend, Verizon IndyCar Series regular Jack Hawksworth turned in a lap at 102.118 seconds (125.502 mph) to take the fastest PC time of the weekend in Starworks Motorsport‘s No. 8.  Core autosport was second, followed by Starworks’ No. 88.  During the final session, Felix Rosenqvist turned in a lap of 102.458 seconds (125.085 mph) that was good enough to round out the podium.  The class also saw a number of teams stop on course during the weekend, resulting in red flags for retrieval

The GT-Le Mans class saw both Scuderia Corsa and SMP Racing test their new 488 GTE’s, while Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and BMW Team RLL had their new cars on-site.

For 2016, BMW Team RLL is racing a modified version of the M6 GT3 that is only eligible to race in IMSA’s GT-Le Mans class.  So far, the decision to not develop a full-fledged GTE car was a good decision.  In the opening session on Friday, Lucas Luhr turned in a lap of 105.088 seconds (121.955 mph) to top the charts in the No. 100 M6 (the No. 100 is being used to help celebrate BMW’s 100th anniversary).  That time held up to be the fastest GT-Le Mans time of the weekend.  In the second session, Augusto Farfus turned in what turned out to be the third fastest GT-Le Mans lap of the weekend, less than four-hundredths of a second slower than Luhr.

Corvette Racing and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing both topped sessions in the class, but also had their problems.  The No. 4 Corvette C7.R caught fire on Friday due to a fuel splash issue.  According to SportsCar365.com, fuel splashed past the check valve while Tommy Milner was driving, then got hot and ignited.  Milner was ok, but the car was done for Friday.  Later on in the weekend, the team managed the second fastest lap of the weekend in the class.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing had an accident on Sunday morning when Dirk Müller spun the No. 66 Ford GT and nosed into the wall in the infield.  The car was damaged, but returned for the final session with a new nose.

The competition appears to be very close between the various manufacturers.  Porsche, BMW, Chevrolet and Ford will likely battle hard for the class victory in the race.

With the GT-Daytona now running to full GT3 rules, most of the class has brand new equipment.  Five Lamborghini Huracan GT3’s were on-site, in addition to a number of new-for-2016 Audi R8’s, Porsche 911 GT3-R’s and more.

The new cars showed their pace early and often.  Black Swan Racing team owner Tim Pappas headed up the opening session in his Porsche 911 GT3-R.  Konrad Motorsport showed their pace early on, heading up the sheets on Saturday.  Spirit of Race, fielding their older Ferrari 458 Italia, was fastest in the second session.

On Sunday, Alex Job Racing‘s Leh Keen set the fastest GT-Daytona lap of the weekend with a lap of 107.852 seconds (118.830 mph) in his No. 22 Porsche 911 GT3-R.  That lap was only three-hundredths of a second faster than Paul Miller Racing‘s No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 driven by Mirko BortolottiStevenson Motorsport‘s No. 6 Audi R8 LMS was third fastest, followed by Riley Motorsports‘ No. 93 Dodge Viper GT3-R and debutante Frikadelli Racing‘s Porsche 911 GT3-R.  The top 5 teams in the class were separated by just over a tenth of a second.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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