The Daytona International Speedway kicked off its 2016 WeatherTech Sports Car Championship season with the Roar Before the 24. The January 8-10 Roar provides teams with the opportunity to test their machinery before the grueling January 30-31 Rolex 24 Hour race. The test, which is open to the public, saw a total of 54 entries. They were divided into four classes, 13 Prototypes (P), 8 Prototype Challenge (PC), 11 Grand Touring Le Mans (GTLM) and 22 Grand Touring Daytona (GTD). Three of these four classes have entries powered by Chevrolet engines. They include the following; Prototype (four), Prototype Challenge (eight) and GTLM (two). Only the GTD class has no Chevrolet powered entries, most notable is the absence of the Callaway Competition C7-R GT3 Corvette. The PC class is a spec series that use the same rolling chassis built by ORECA in France and powered by Chevrolet 430 hp LS3 engines.
Four Chevrolet powered Corvette DP prototypes tested during the weekend: two from Action Express (Car No. 05 and 31), one from Wayne Taylor Racing (Car No. 10) and one from Visit Florida.com (Car No. 90). The Action Express Corvette won the 24 Hour race in 2014 and the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette was victorious in 2015. Five-time Rolex 24 Hour winner Scott Pruett left Ganassi Racing and will co-drive the No. 5 Corvette DP with Christian Fittipaldi, Joäo Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque. This will be a winning combination to watch. While all thirteen competitors were within 1.5 seconds of each other, seven non-Corvettes were quicker (2 Ligiers, 2 Madzas, a DeltaWing and a BR01). This was the result of a Balance of Performance Adjustment (BOP) for cars that compete at Le Mans in the LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2) class. Perhaps another BOP adjustment will close Corvette’s performance gap before the 24 race. The Corvette prototype teams provided the officials with plenty of data. For example, the Whelen No. 31 Corvette completed 314 laps during the test and its best time was a 1:40.011. This Corvette completed the fourth highest number of total test laps during the Roar.
The Corvette DP’s are powered with 5.0-liter, direct-injected Chevrolet engines and feature bodies with styling features found on the current C7 production car. The No. 10 Corvette DP from Wayne Taylor Racing was the fastest with a 1:39.973. It was closely followed by the No. 5 Corvette DP from Action Express with a 1:39.973. This compares to the quickest prototype time of 1:39.249 set by the No. 2 Ligier, powered Honda. Hopefully the Corvette’s reliability will outlast the sometimes fragile LMP2 entries during the 24 hour event. Each Corvette prototype features a revised body with a smaller rear window and new C7 taillights. The rest of the body has only undergone minor changes, but still retains the look of a production C7 Corvette. This will be the last year for the Corvette DP’s in their current form. In 2017 the revised rules will require cars to have carbon fiber tubs instead of Corvette’s aluminum structure. Teams are hoping to find a way to adapt the current bodies to these new chassis. Only time will tell if they will be successful.
The highly competitive GTLM category has three new racecars this year; a BMW M6, Ferrari 488 and the Ford GT. Porsche will race its 2015 championship winning 911 RSR. Returning for the third year is the very popular Corvette C7.R from Corvette Racing. The competition rules have been slightly revised to allow cars to have more downforce with a slight increase in horsepower. The C7.R has a larger front splitter, rear diffuser, larger side skirts and a repositioned wing. At the Roar the No. 4 driven by Gavin/Milner/Fassler turned a best lap of 1:45.106. This was the second fastest GTLM time of the weekend. Garcia/Magnussen/ Rockenfeller driving Corvette No. 3 was fourth fastest with a time of 1:45.124.
Remember this is a test, not an all-out qualifying attempt. We are confident times will drop during the official Rolex 24 Hour qualifying session. As a point of comparison, in 2015, the No. 4 Corvette driven by Gavin/Milner/Pagenaud won the GTLM pole position with a time of 1:43.488. Their No. 3 team car driven by Magnussen/Garcia/Briscoe captured the GTLM overall class victory. Expect times to drop when qualifying for the 2016 race begins. The Roar Before the 24 is a great way to closely inspect your favorite Corvettes and talk with drivers and crewmembers. Be sure to check out the dates for the 2017 Roar event. Stay tuned, VETTE will bring you extensive coverage of the upcoming 2016 Rolex 24 Hour race at Daytona.