It was a flying start for the 49th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona at Daytona International Speedway. Forty-eight Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototypes and GTs took the green flag in near-perfect Florida weather. Pole sitter JORG BERGMEISTER.No.45 Flying Lizards Porsche Riley Daytona Prototype took off and away they all went.
One car withdrew prior to the race – No.11 TPN Racing/Blackforest Ford Mustang GT hit the wall Friday and damaged the right rear wheel. Possibly additional mechanical problems could have prompted the withdrawal – the team isn’t on site to ask. Canadian veteran driver, DAVID EMPRINGHAM qualified the car which was slated for a P40 start in the race. The co-drivers were SCOTT MAXWELL, and TOM NASTASI.
The first caution came five minutes into the race – RANDY POBST/No.86 Mitchum Motorsports Porsche GT3 hit the wall and suffered mostly cosmetic damage, which was repaired in the garage. Returning to the track, the car was P47 at the end of the first hour.
Later in the first hour both Chip Ganassi BMW Riley’s were uncharacteristically in the pits. SCOTT PRUETT in No.01 was experiencing gear problems, and the gear cluster was changed. SCOTT DIXON in No.02 lost pressure in right rear tire and limped into the pits. There was no driver change as the course was under caution. He went out and came back in so DARIO FRANCHITTI could get in. All drivers will be pulling one stint before the rotation begins again. Dixon commented that he wasn’t used to only one stint at the start.
Dixon said his mindset is its better to get over the problems early. He was confident that the team could catch up once the tires had 30 laps on them, as that’s when the tire wear got good for them, while other cars fell away. When the engine cools his car goes better. His No.02 car would probably change gears during the night.
Dixon admitted he fumbled at the start, but caught up. He did comment that the Fords and Chevy’s had more front-line speed than his BMW
In walking the grid prior to the race, I noticed the difference in windscreen tear-off shields on the cars. One car, No.70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 had seven, No.40 had four and No.43 Team Sahlen had three.
One car had its own interior in-car camera which the team said would take about an hour of video before running out.
Dempsey Racing No.40 Mazda RX-8 has two in-car cameras – the traditional roof-mounted camera, and also one in the right corner of the windscreen, pointed at the driver.
At the end of the first hour, the leaders were: Pruett/No.01 DP and Magnus Racing No.44 Porsche GT3.