Roar Before the 24 Results
Last time out we looked at the Prototype results from the roar, and the conclusion was that we didn’t learn a huge amount. Cadillac are fast, Acura are kinda fast, Nissan are odd and Mazda are still developing.
Now we’ll have a look at the GTLM and GTD classes and see how they performed.
First obvious one is the Ford GT did rather well. Down to two factory cars for the Rolex 24 at Daytona this year, but lost none of the speed. Ford topped two out of the seven practice sessions, and set the fastest time during qualifying. Two of the practice sessions were a Ford 1-2, and one of the practice sessions that they didn’t finish top of the pile was the final practice, which they didn’t take part in.
The GTs also cranked out the laps without a stumble. They ran reliability, consistently and racked up the laps. What more can you ask for in a test weekend?
If Ford were the most impressive, then second must be Porsche. The German brand was the only other GTLM entry to top a practice session. They managed it twice, and both sessions were a Porsche 1-2.
The surprise from Porsche was the decision not to qualify the #911. Whilst the #912 set a lap which put it fourth fastest, the #911 never left the garage.
Corvette had a typically Corvette test session. They never looked particularly fast, but they ran a massive amount of laps and looked to be there or thereabouts. It’s become a bit of a Corvette trademark, where they look too slow to be in contention, and then suddenly there’s 5 laps to go and Corvette are leading.
The Roar was no exception. They never looked like they would top the times, they stuck to the usual Corvette plan. Ford may look the most impressive on paper, but perhaps Pratt & Miller’s usual tricks actually make Corvette slight favourites?
The iron man of the weekend was Alessandro Pier Guidi in the Risi Competizioni Ferrari 488. The Ferrari factory driver was the sole driver for Risi for the entire weekend and completed 146 laps on his own.
Alessandro was having none of this ‘pack up early and skip the final session’ nonsense either. Risi completed the full session, racking up 22 laps in the process. Reliability clearly isn’t in question for the 488, and there were good bursts of speed too – Pier Guidi managed to stick the car in the top two multiple times during the weekend.
Toni Vilander and James Calado will join Pier Guidi for the main event, and there’s no reason they can’t win this. Some may even be supporting the idea of a Risi win if it’ll help get them on the grid for more events in 2018.
Not really sure where to start with BMW. Let’s be completely honest up front – GTLM is a BoP class, and BMW have a history of gaming BoP systems to quite extreme levels. In VLN a couple of years ago, the M6 GT3 ran to deltas to get a favourable BoP for the Nurburgring 24 Hour. Unfortunately for BMW an error was made and the car accidentally posted an impressive lap time. The cat was out of the bag and BMW were penalised. So, are they up to the same again?
Well BMW were firmly stuck on the bottom of the time sheets, but there’s more to it than just pure speed. The #24 was plagued with problems all weekend. It missed four complete sessions, and a only did minimal running in a fifth. Even if you’re gaming the BoP, you don’t park in the garage all weekend.
Meanwhile the #25 was churning out the laps, but they were nowhere near the pace. IMSA was running software to detect BoP Gaming, and even parked a few cars for abusing it. The BMWs were never picked up.
That leaves us with 3 possibilities. The BMWs are gaming the BoP, but in a way that IMSA couldn’t detect. They are having genuine problems. Or, most likely, they were running to a program and the car is still under development. I’d like to think the car would be pretty sorted by the time the Rolex 24 comes around, but it appears as though it’s still a working in progress.
GRT Grasser Racing and Paul Miller Motorsports are both running the Huracan GT3, and both had a pretty good time at the Roar. Paul Miller bounced in and out of the top ten for most of the weekend, but chose not to qualify the car and settled for one of the old garages.
GRT Grasser Racing had a car in the top three in every session, and the second car was never far away. The #11, driven by Bortolotti, was fastest during qualifying as well. GRT must be one of the favorites for the Rolex 24 GTD class victory.
Magnus Racing and Montaplast by Land-Motorsport are running the Audi R8 LMS this year. Again, these were cars which never far off the pace throughout the weekend.
Unlike the Lamborghini runners, the Audi teams were a bit more quiet about their running. After the season Land-Motorsport had in 2017, they can’t be counted out.
Three Porsches this year – Park Place, Manthey and Wright Motorsports. The pleasant surprise was the strong performance of Wright Motorsports in their first GTD run with the car. Wright may have an outside chance of a win this year.
Manthey made the odd choice of not qualiftying the car, which relegates them to one of the old garages.
A bit of a mixed bag for Acura. This is the first year of Acura and Lexus having to run with no factory backing, so it was always going to be interesting to see how the cars preformed.
The weekend started in on a downer, with both Michael Shank Racing and HART at the bottom of the table. MSR soon improved, but had a car parked by IMSA for what IMSA claim was trying to game the BoP.
For NAEC entries HART, qualifying was the big surprise. The team never really broke into the top 10, and then when the times counted they qualified 5th. Like everyone else, HART will be running through a program, but they seemed to be able to deliver when required.
Four Ferraris – Scuderia Corsa (x2), Risi Competizione and Spirit of Race. We shouldn’t expect too much from the Risi entry. Although it has Ferrari factory driver Molina in the car, there are 4 other amateur drivers. This is what the entry is really about. It’ll be a good car to follow because it’s Risi, but it’s unlikely to feature in the battle for class honours.
Dalla Lana, Lamy, Lauda and Serra are driving the Spirit of Race Ferrari. Yeah, you read that correctly – the Aston Martin GTE-Am squad is in a Ferrari. Spirit of Race is, of course, an AF Corse entry. You could say the team under performed at the Roar, but it’s more likely they’re still getting settled into the new 488.
Scuderia Corsa looked like they were ‘doing a Corvette’. Running around, not fussed about times, and getting lots of laps. It would be wise not to under-estimate them.
3GT are back, officially without Lexus Factory backing for 2018. Driver lineups have only recently been confirmed – David Heinemeier Hansson joins Hawksworth, Farnbacher and Pruett in the #15. After an outstanding WEC LMP2 season in 2017, DHH will be no doubt be looking to challenge for the GTD title. For Scott Pruett, Daytona will be his final race. Hi to Scott’s family at home!
The lineup for #14 came together even later than #15, but Bruno Junqueira, Kyle Marcelli and Blancpain GT Champion Dominik Baumann is a great driver line-up to secure, especially for a last minute situation.
The #14 did well to top a practice session, but in general the cars were all over the timing sheets. We”ll need to wait until the Rolex to learn where they stand.
Three Mercedes – SunEnergy1, P1 Motorsports and Riley. The Mercedes AMG GT3 has never really managed to replicate the performance they’ve shown in Europe over in the US. The cars certainly appear to have less factory backing than the European squads, and perhaps the BoP isn’t as favourable.
But what is favourable is the driver line-up of Keating, Bleekemolen, Christodoulou and Stolz in the Riley entry. That’s the kind of line-up that wins 24 hour races. The SunEnergy1 car did well to qualify barely three-hundredths of a second behind Bleekemolen, both just outside the top 10. The P1 Motorsports car was, perhaps ironically, routed to the bottom of the timesheets in 19th, a full second away from the next slowest car.
Unfortunately for BMW fans, the M6 GT3 isn’t represented in large numbers in IMSA. Turner Motorsports are the only BMW runner, and there are questions about the long term plans for the team.
Despite this, Klingmann, Yount and Kvamme were at Daytona in an all black M6. The performance wasn’t really there, but you get the impression that wasn’t the focus of the Roar test weekend.
So what did we actually learn?
We know Ford are fast, but that’s almost a given at this point. Corvette however may look the most impressive, simply by looking unimpressive. They ran a very Corvette style weekend and looked comfortable. When Corvette look comfortable, they tend to do very well.
BMW are a mystery at the moment. The M8 was off the pace, and had problems. IMSA were running software to detect if anyone was trying to game the BoP, and BMW weren’t picked up on it. So either BMW have fooled the IMSA system, or they’re currently in a bit of trouble. Whatever the case, we’ll find out quickly come race week.
In GTD, things are a bit more shuffled. Lamborghini are by far the most obvious choice for a victory but there are stand-out entries for almost every manufacturer. GTD qualifying was stunningly close, with 18 of the 19 qualifiers covered by under one second.