As the birth child of the Grand-Am and American Le Mans Series merger, the IMSA sanctioned TUDOR United SportsCar Championship has officially run its first official endurance race, around the famed Daytona International Speedway. The 52nd running of The Rolex 24 at Daytona marked an important transition into modern United States sport car racing, where four different classes of racecars battled alongside one another, for two times around the clock. For more information on the class distinctions, see our previous blog post.
The race was packed with triumph, tears, and victories for some, and as four consecutive Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototypes crossed the finish line (Prototype class), nearly 2,474 miles had been completed through 695 laps. Previously, 2001 was the last time Chevrolet had an overall victory in The Rolex 24. Speaking of Corvettes, two uncloaked GTLM (GT Le Mans) class Corvette Racing C7.Rs also took the green flag for the first time, an inaugural race for the team as well. The Chevrolet Corvette C7.R was debuted at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, alongside its production Z06 counterpart.
The No. 3 Corvette Racing C7.R, driven by Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen, and Ryan Briscoe, had an impressive run. Starting from the back of the field, and in just over six hours, the No. 3 car was the class leader. As with any new racing platform, and especially in a 24-hour long race, obstacles are a given as kinks and malfunctions will make themselves known. With that being said, when Antonio Garcia was behind the wheel, the engine began to overheat. During the driver change to Ryan Briscoe, the Corvette Racing crew tried to diagnose the problem, and with a few more pit stops, the car was driven back to the garage. The No. 3 had to retire, at a time of 12:48:12.269, completing 366 laps.
Not to worry, Corvette Racing had another strong C7.R still running in the race, driven by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Robin Liddell. After a convincing start in the 24-hour race, the No. 4 C7.R began to have transmission problems with only three-hours left. At the time, Tommy Milner was closely following the GTLM leader, in second place. With no choice other than to pit, the team called the No.4 to the garage, and quickly replaced the gearbox in a quick half hour timeframe. The overheating issue was attributed to a transmission bearing failure, but the new gearbox allowed the Corvette to continue. The off-track time put the No. 4 Corvette thirteen laps behind the GTLM leaders by the end of the endurance race, and the team was still able to pull off a respectable fifth-place finish. While still somewhat disappointing, and not what the team or fans hoped for, something can be said for finishing the historic 24-hour endurance race. Valuable data was collected, and rest assured, Corvette Racing will surely be back and ready for battle at Sebring International Raceway, for the Mobile 1 Twelve hours of Sebring. The second race of the TUDOR Championship will go green on March 15th.
On Friday, January 24th, the IMSA sanctioned Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge also had its inaugural race around Daytona for 2014, in the BMW Performance 200. The series consists of production based race-prepped cars, racing against each other in two classes. The slightly slower Street Tuner (ST) class cars race simultaneously with the faster Grand Sport (GS) class cars. A few newcomers showed up, in the form of GS class ready Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.Rs, in the series’ first of twelve races. Closely resembling the 2014 Camaro Z/28 production car, the race prepared rides use the same LS7, powering a total of three entries, by Stevenson Motorsports and CKS Autosport.
One of the Stevenson Motorsports GS entries was the No. 6 Z/28.R, driven by Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis. After a solid start, Davis handed the Camaro over to fellow driver Liddell. Somewhere while exiting Turn 3, the No. 6 suffered a race-ending mechanical failure, and oil could be seen beneath the differential. The other Stevenson Motorsports entry was the No. 9 Z/28.R, driven by Andy Lally and Matt Bell. On the out lap and prior to the green flag, Matt Bell experienced a fuel line issue, requiring an immediate fix. After the repair, Bell was able to rejoin the race, but was already eight laps behind. The No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R would end up finishing in 23rd place.
The CKS Autosport Z/28.R entry, driven by Eric Curran and Lawson Aschenbach, was able to finish on the lead lap, in a respectable eleventh place. The No. 01 completed 54 laps around the 3.56-mile circuit, marking the best finish for the Z/28.R yet. Thanks to all of the valuable data downloaded, all of the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R entries will make necessary improvements, in hopes to have a win at the upcoming race at Sebring International raceway, scheduled for March 14th.
New sports car racing platforms, like the Corvette Racing C7.R or the Stevenson/CKS Camaro Z/28.R, always endure growing pains. Testing will reveal many nuances, and issues can be caught before the green flag is flown. However, even with all of the testing, issues will still arise with a brand-new platform. With that being said, research will go into the faults that arose previously, to ensure the same problem doesn’t present itself during the next endurance race.
Stay tuned for future TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Corvette Racing C7.R and Continental SportsCar Challenge Z/28.R coverage! We’re already looking forward to the next events at Sebring International Raceway.