(image credit: Morgan Rhodes)
A new era of IMSA racing is finally here. Since the merger of ALMS and Grand Am was announced in September of 2012, this is the season we have all looked towards and the series heads have pointed to. It’s clearly working. 20 prototypes (half being DPi), 9 GTLMs and 21 GTDs took the grid for a whopping 808 laps and only 4 cautions for the 56th running of the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. It was the perfect way to kickoff the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and a refreshing look at what top level sportscar racing should be.
The lead paragraph pretty much says it all. 808 laps completed with only 4 cautions. It was a clean, fun race and in the traditional style of endurance racing, a race of attrition that had a little bit of everything mixed it: extreme pace, reliability issues due to said extreme pace, rain and drama with the tires. And those tires are probably the biggest speaking point. Ligier experienced two right-rear punctures during practice, other teams during the race (which were suspected to be caused by tire pressures not in-line with Continental’s recommendations), but Wayne Taylor Racing had five (5!) during the race, despite being within Continental’s window. WTR would withdraw the car with about 6 hours remaining. Hopefully these tire issues are a one-time thing and don’t rear it’s ugly head in about 43 days at Sebring.
There’s also the issue of Land Motorsport’s refueling BoP penalty. The team was gaining about 5-8 seconds in the pits during refueling compared to the class average. The refueling rig and restrictor met IMSA regs and the car passed post-race tech inspection. The team was still, however, given a 5 minute stop and hold penalty while in the lead. This pretty much ended their race, though they were able to get back up to 7th position. It seems hard to penalize with the data that’s been given. Maybe IMSA knows more than they are telling the general public, but more information should be coming to light in the near future and I’ll be very curious to find the actual explanation.
As a whole it was a fantastic weekend with very little, if anything, to complain about. The 2018 season-opener went about as well as IMSA could have hoped for and has clearlty re-energized fans, teams and drivers, showing the great potential the series has going forward.