ick your chops, everyone. Traditional sports car powers
Porsche, BMW, Chevrolet and Mazda go head to head with
new additions Ferrari and Audi at this year’s Daytona
24-hour race. And that’s just in the GT class.
Add in fresh new bodywork to the Grand-Am Rolex Series’
marquee Daytona Prototype category and the celebrations
surrounding the 50th anniversary since the first major sports car
race at Daytona, and suddenly this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona
isn’t just another race; it has the proper recipe for a classic.
Here are some of the ingredients:
THE NEW(-ISH) PROTOTYPES
Previous generation Daytona Prototypes ran the gamut of
largely unflattering opinions about their appearance, so when
Corvette premiered its new DP last November, that sound you
heard was observers collectively dropping their jaws at the
most attractive prototype in the series’ nine-year history.
It’s a Corvette in name, largely for marketing, but not
necessarily in construction. GM engineers worked with
existing chassis builders (Riley, Dallara and Coyote) for its
partner teams (Sun Trust, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing,
Spirit of Daytona and Action Express) to produce a Corvette-badged bodykit that is then bolted onto a chassis and powered
by a 530hp V8 engine.
Both the new Corvette and Bill Riley-built third-gen DPs feature a much
smaller greenhouse and sleeker sidepods.
Michael Shank Racing premiered the new
Riley on track roughly a month after the
Corvette. Dave Spitzer, Grand-Am vice
president of competition, explains the
reasoning behind the new look.
“Without sugarcoating it, we needed
a different proportion for the body,”
Spitzer says. “The changeover from the
current gen to the new gen comprised only
two principal changes: the roll cage and
the body. From there down, it’s the same,
to preserve the spares.”
Spitzer estimates the conversion cost
the teams $150,000, plus an additional
investment for spare bodywork and says
the new shapes shouldn’t impact the
traditionally close competition that has
featured throughout the DP’s history,
because so many of the other elements
– similar horsepower, a spec tire and steel
brakes – remain the same.
Incidentally, grandfathered DPs will
be accepted for the 2012 season, but are
doubtful beyond that.
LIFE AT 50 FOR THE D24
While 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of
the Rolex 24 at Daytona, this year’s race
itself isn’t the 50th 24-hour running. The
first four were either three or 12 hours
long, while 1972 featured a one-off
six-hour event and the 1974 race was