Fifty competitors participated in the three day Roar Before the 24 at Daytona International Speedway January 6-8, 2017. The Corvette Daytona Prototypes that dominated previous Rolex 24 Hour races are no longer eligible to compete in the IMSA Weather Tech series. This is due to their lack of carbon fiber chassis tubs that greatly improve crash safety. For Corvette fans all eyes must be focused on the two Corvette Racing C7.R coupes that compete in the hotly contested GTLM category.
This is a very competitive class for these hi-tech sports cars. Five manufacturers practiced at this year’s Roar, Corvette, Ford, Porsche, BMW and Ferrari. Ford‘s Chip Ganassi Racing went all in with four cars in hopes of toppling Corvette Racing dominance in this class. Ganassi won at Le Mans last year while Corvette enters with a shot at a Rolex 24 three-peat. Unlike last year, Risi Competizione will make the Roar as it has its Ferrari 488 GTE (the lone Ferrari in class), while BMW Team RLL has several new drivers and Porsche GT Team has both new drivers and, more importantly, its new mid-engine normally aspirated 911. This is a radical departure for the rear engine Porsche. The new chassis is based on the million dollars mid-engine Porsche 918 and it looks very odd.
Five practice session took place on Friday and Saturday and in Session 1 Corvette was quickest, Session 2 Ford was one, two and Corvette was third. Session 3 saw Ford first, Corvette 2nd and Porsche 3rd. In session 4 Ford was first, second, third and fifth and Corvette was 6th. In session 5 (night practice) Ford was first, second and third and Corvette was fourth and fifth. Sunday morning was bitter cold and windy at the famous speedway. The final morning practice session 6 began at 10:20 am. High up on the banking Corvette C7.R driver Marcel Fassler got a gigantic scare when the left engine compartment burst into flamed. Marcel quickly brought the Corvette down onto the apron of the track and quickly exited the burning Corvette. Fortunately Marcel escaped without any injuries, but the Corvette was badly damaged. A high pressure fuel line separated inside the engine compartment spewing hot fuel onto the headers and ignited. The car was quickly loaded and headed back to Pratt & Millers headquarters in Michigan to undergo repairs. The team is confident it will be ready for the Rolex 24. Stay tuned.