Updated: Jul 5, 2018
The first weekend in January 2017 was a milestone for many. Not that long ago at Daytona International Speedway (DIS), this weekend was considered a “test” running for race teams returning later in the month for the Rolex 24 race event. Years later, the weekend has developed into the “ROAR before the 24” with the attendance steadily growing. I applaud DIS for allowing fans to attend ROAR for free if a Rolex 24 weekend event ticket was purchased. The ROAR is a great way to meet drivers on a little more relaxed weekend schedule compared to the busy timetable of Rolex 24 weekend.
The ROAR is similar to the first day of school for race car drivers who have never been to DIS or raced in the IMSA series. Many are returning but with a new team or new manufacturer. Drivers learn their new home room location (garage), find their locker (hauler), find the new class room (pit box), and meet new class mates (team and crew). I think the 2017 ROAR has seen more changes than any year previous. Last year, the ROAR was combined with the Ferrari Challenge event but with the Ferrari Finali Mondiali “World Final” was held at DIS in early December. The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) teams had the facility and track to themselves, except for the Boy Scouts, who camp at the track and make it a special outing weekend.
Representing IMSA were both series WeatherTech Sportscar Championship (WTSC) and Continental Tire Sports Car Championship (CTSCC). WTSC is divided into four classes: Prototype (P), Prototype Challenge (PC), GT Le Mans (GTLM), and GT Daytona (GTD). Don’t get me started on the PC class. You can find out more about the classes here. The CTSCC series is divided into two classes: Grand Sport (GS) and Street Turner (ST). You can find out more about the classes here.
Now onto my recap of the ROAR weekend! The Roar event started Thursday with the IMSA version of a hauler parade as each team brings one or two (some with three) truck haulers into the garage paddock area to unload the car and the equipment ready to set up “shop” for the three day on track practice. Once the haulers are parked and the garages officially open at 1pm, each team’s crew become the busiest people at the track and won’t stop until reloading the trucks late Sunday. With Thursday being the only day the cars are not on track, this leaves time for the arriving drivers to meet with media and series photographers. Drivers with their new fire suits have several pictures taken with or without helmet by the series and team photographers. Race fans will see the photos used by IMSA during the season long promotional campaigns.
If you review the weekend schedule here, you will notice several “on track media session activities”. These sessions are used for teams, manufactures, and the racing series to have access to the pit road and start/finish line for prime photo opportunities. Also with the cars following behind a van full of video staff and equipment, film on the high banks of DIS will become the promotional commercials of the future. Thursday is also the last time the drivers can “relax” before the first on-track sessions on Friday. If you are a regular reading of my articles or follow me on Twitter, you know I attend many World Endurance Championship (WEC) races. Working with Prescott Motorsports, I was fortunate enough to interview WEC drivers who are racing in the IMSA Rolex 24 event. These interviews can all be found here.
I noticed during the photo times in the media meeting room, many drivers “introducing” themselves. Many drivers have either raced with others but never “officially” met or heard of the other driver and, again, never met. While, I have been to over 100 races, there are several I met for the first time at the Roar this year. Friday started with both series CTSCC and WTSC drivers and team managers attending mandatory meetings before the first laps are taken at DIS. During this meeting, IMSA track leaders review the rules of the road including instructions regarding pit road entrance, pit road speed, and pit road exit from Beau Barfield, IMSA race director.
During the Roar weekend, CTSCC held six practice sessions while WTSC was on the track for seven sessions and holding the only night session on Saturday. After the first laps on the track, I caught up with three of the drivers I previously interviewed, who all had one common theme….as Neel Jani said, “…the steep banking is impressive.”
To find the session track times and other technical data for both CTSCC and WTSC series, please check out http://results.imsa.com/
Next up is the main event, the Rolex 24 at Daytona! For me the 55th running Rolex 24 is leading up to be the most diverse and most anticipated way to kick off the 2017 IMSA racing season. With so many new manufactures with engines which have not run 24 hours, who will see the finish line and, sadly, who will be a DNF.
What about the DPi’s (Daytona Prototype International) who are new this year with no DP’s running? Who will you be watching? During the race, I find walking through the paddock and garages from 10pm to 2am an experience to see which teams are just working on a short stop to find a couple more seconds or sadly struggling to just return to the track. Which car can take the endurance of pit stops, yellow flag slow down, fast speeds around the high banks, the curbing of the bus stop and finish the race and hopefully win? Not to mention the weather which the teams experienced a little of everything during Roar….rain, sun, heat, and cold! I know many fans “complained” about the cold of Saturday and Sunday, but this was a good test of the possible weather during Rolex weekend. Remember the fog delay of 2013?
If you follow teams and drivers on social media, many mentioned the colder temperatures on Saturday and Sunday. But what effect does the weather change have on the cars? The Roar was a perfect time for weather testing, too. On a sad note and as a 12 year Michael Shank Racing fan, the Rolex 24 always reminds me how much I miss Justin Wilson.
To prepare for Rolex 24 please use the below links for information from DIS regarding tickets, fan schedule, parking click here. And from IMSA regarding entry list, detailed track schedule click here.
If you have any questions regarding the Rolex 24 event, feel free to contact me. If you are attending, please say hello. I love to meet other race fans! Good luck and safe racing to all teams.
Thank you all for reading and we welcome your comments. Please feel free to follow and tweet Vickie @Viclovesracing