The 55th running of the Rolex 24 Hour endurance race at Daytona International Speedway saw 54 entries for the 2017 race. Each of the four class winners were awarded Rolex watches. Those four classes are Prototype (P), Prototype Challenge (PC), Grand Touring Le Mans (GTLM) and Grand Touring Daytona (GTD). Five manufacturers competed in GTLM (Ford, Porsche, BMW, Ferrari and Corvette). Three brought their new or revised mid-engine racecars (Ford, Porsche and Ferrari) to the Rolex. This leaves Corvette and BMW with front engine racecars. Why is placing the engine in the middle of the chassis so beneficial in a racing car? Because putting the engine mass between the front and rear wheels allows the car to turn into the corner much quicker. They also exit the corner faster because the weight is more evenly distributed on the tires. Front engine racers like Corvette tend to understeer (go straight in the corner) or rear engine cars like Porsche oversteer (the back end swings out in a corner).
Ford and Ferrari are pure mid-engine designed racing cars. Porsche on the other hand pulled a fast one by rotating the engine from behind the axle to the front of the axle. The rules state that if the factory places the engine in front of the driver that is where it must remain. If the engine is behind the driver the same applies. After rotating the Porsche engine, it is still located behind the driver! Clever reading of the rules by Porsche now makes the classic 911 a mid-engine racecar. So how did this drive for mid-engine madness impact qualifying? Six mid-engine cars qualified in front of the fastest Corvette. Ford (1-3), Ferrari (4th), Porsche (5th), Ford (6th). Fourteenth fastest overall and first in GTLM was a Ford GT with a time of 1:43.473. The fastest Corvette (No. 03) qualified with a time of 1:44.359, almost one second slower.
As we noted in our earlier Roar story the Corvette Daytona Prototypes are no longer eligible to compete in this series. In their place is a new class called Daytona Prototype International (Dpi). Cadillac returned to prototype racing after leaving in 2002 with three Dpi V.R entries. They are powered by 6.2 liter V8’s similar to what is found in Corvettes and Cadillac products. Two were entered by Action Express and they qualified 1st and 2nd overall. The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac captured the pole position with a time of 1:36.903. The Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac was 4th fastest and featured Jeff Gordon as one of their drivers.
The green flag fell at 2:30 pm under cloudy skies and the Ford GT’s took the GTLM lead. Pit stops were taking place every 50 minutes and Corvette Racing made up positions by getting in and out of their pit box quicker than the competition. During the early part of the race both Corvettes ran in the top five GTLM positions. This continued until drama hit the No. 04 Corvette with Marcel Fassler driving. Marcel reported that he lost the rear view camera and then the entire car’s electrical system shut down on the back straight. The Corvette was brought to the pits and repaired. After it returned to the race it was involved in an incident with another GTLM competitor that broke the right rear lower control arm. By the 7th hour the No. 04 was 21 laps behind the leading Ford GTLM class leader.
Rain began pelting the circuit at 8:10 pm and continued until around 9 am Sunday morning. Mike Rockenfeller driving the No. 03 Corvette reported, “When I jumped into the car, it started to drizzle. We were on slicks. The rain increased and I thought we could stay on slicks, but before we lost a lap we changed to rains. We are lacking a little bit of pace, but the team is doing an awesome job keeping us close to the front.” This support continued to pay off as the slightly slower Corvette was able to stay in striking distance of the class leaders. When the checkered flag fell Sunday at 2:30 pm, The Wayne Taylor Racing No. 10 Cadillac took the overall victory. Four GTLM cars crossed the finish line in a parade together. It was Ford, Porsche, Ferrari and Corvette. The No. 03 C7.R finished 4.593 seconds behind the winner. The No. 04 Corvette finished 16th overall and 9th in GTLM, sixteen laps behind the winning Ford GT. No. 03 driver Antonio Garcia summed up his race with these comments, “What can you say about our pit stops? We made up so many positions and came out first so many times. When you have all that and don’t have the pace to keep it is a shame. We gave everything we had and we congratulate the winners.” Hopefully the much rumored mid-engine Zora Corvette will be released to the Corvette Racing team in the near future to allow Corvette to leave the others behind once again. Stay Tuned.
Rolex 24 Corvette Corral
Exclusive fenced off area provides secure parking for Corvette owners at Daytona’s Rolex 24 race
If you own a Corvette and enjoy watching the Rolex 24 we recommend buying a Corvette Corral ticket package. The corral includes a parking pass that allows you entrance into the speedway and parking your Corvette in a fenced off guarded area. A large climate controlled enclosure is available for seating to keep you out of the weather. Also included is food along with coffee, water and soft drinks. Closed circuit television played throughout the race inside the enclosure. The Speedway invited one hundred corral Corvette owners to drive their cars around the Speedway on Friday morning.
Corvette Program Manager Doug Fehan made a lively presentation to all of the guests and kept everyone entertained for well over an hour. Five of the six Corvette Racing drivers visited, answered questions and signed memorabilia. It was a great way to spend time with fellow Corvette owners and enthusiasts and if you are planning on going to a race in the future check to see if a Corvette Corral is being offered. It is a great way to watch a race with your favorite car.