The 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona is officially in the rear view…camera(?) and with that, American professional touring series racing is off and running. A rough estimate is telling me that I watched around 18 of the 24 hours live streaming on TV and I have to say- after the checkered flag fell and the #5 Cadillac DPi entry crept across the finish line, I was ready for another 24 hours of racing.
Between the star power, strategy, attrition, reliability issues, and of course the side by side racing, the action at Daytona was captivating at every turn and the only way to top it as a spectator would have been to be there in person. From the moment the broadcast started, there was action to follow and in terms of driver talent on hand, the turnout was amazing.
While Fernando Alonso’s star power essentially out shined the rest of the field, viewers on TV and at the track got the chance to see a mix of Formula 1, Indycar, NASCAR, and Professional GT drivers all racing for Daytona lore. From a new viewers perspective, it was really easy to turn on the broadcast and see a few names that I recognized within the first few minutes of watching. What blew my mind were the names that showed up on the leader board that I hadn’t seen racing in a while like Mike Conway; hadn’t heard his name in at least two years and he was racing for the overall win up until the final stint when he had reached his driving limit. At the end of the day the joke’s on me because the broadcast explained about the success he’s had racing WEC for Toyota over the last few years, so good for him, but he sure as hell showed his talents on Saturday and Sunday in the Daytona Prototype.
The #5 Mustang Sampling Action Express Prototype team took the overall win in their Cadillac DPi, literally limping to the finish and squeaking their engine across the finish line while keeping an eye on every single piece of telemetry data that could have indicated an upcoming failure in the car. The last 15 minutes were as intense as you’ll see short of side by side racing on the last lap. Filipe Albuquerque was losing between 5 and 6 seconds per lap while Stuart Middleton wrestled the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi in hopes of catching Albuquerque on the last lap of the 24 hour race. The win for the Action Express squad was a way of exercising demons from their loss on the final restart at Daytona in 2017.
I’m gonna go ahead and say that the GTLM race was the most boring race of the whole 24 hours as Ganassi’s #67 Ford GT took the win after trading off the lead with its #66 Ford GT teammate for most of the race. Jan Magnussen and the #3 Corvette started on pole in the class but surprisingly I heard about his team on the race broadcast as much as I heard them mention the fact that his son is an F1 driver: not once. After bringing the Ford GT back to proper sports car racing, the Chip Ganassi teams finally have a stranglehold on the rest of the field. They’ll be a force in the series all season and their talented and consistent driver lineup will only add fuel to their fire.
Fielding the most cars of all 3 classes racing at Daytona, the GTD class was a bit of a wild card and there was always something to watch on track. In the end it was the #11 Lamborghini that prevailed, which was weird to me because I’ve always seen Lamborghinis racing in the IMSA circuit but today was the first time I had actually seen them in victory lane. Probably way off with that perspective but maybe it highlights how little I know. Katherine Legge, AJ Allmendinger, Alvaro Parente, and Trent Hindman brought the fan favorite #86 Michael Shank Racing Acura home on the second step of the podium after Katherine made the save of the day after being shoved off the track by an errant Prototype car.
While we’re on the subject of Katherine Legge I absolutely have to point out how awesome of an interview she gave with the FOX broadcast crew. Around 10:30pm on Saturday night, she gave a live interview where FOX had asked her thoughts on the changes in class throughout the IMSA grid. Her response was so intriguing that it literally made me stand up off the couch and move closer to the TV to hear it more clear. She essentially went in-depth to describe the dilution of the Prototype class due to the dissolving of the Prototype Challenge between 2017 and 2018. This same increase in car count/downshift in talent also lead to incidents on track where her and her GTD classmates were having to avoid the Prototype cars. I’m not tech savvy enough to make the YouTube video myself but if someone is so kind as to post it, it’ll certainly do her more justice than my lame description.
Overall I thought the FOX broadcast teams did an exceptional job. I can’t even imagine how hard it is to find 24 hours’ worth of filler content but they kept me intrigued. It’s a simple concept in my mind too, as simple as not having someone talking for 100% of the airtime and cycling in plenty of broadcasters, guests, and call-in commentators. Even more than that, my absolute favorite part of the broadcast was that they showed severely extended on-board shots during the later hours of the night. On normal broadcasts, they show onboard shots of the drivers at work for about 30 seconds at a time, but last night they were showing them for 2 and 3 minutes at a time. It was a perfect way to, in a really weird way, drift off into a trace and really connect with what was going on at Daytona. I can’t wait to hear Matt’s eyewitness account of the weekend at the 24. Full results on the IMSA website here.
The next race for the IMSA series will run March 17th at the 12 Hours of Sebring.