Roar Before the 24 - Final Day Recap
The chart topping Whelen Cadillac DPi on track. Photo Credit: Martin W Spetz
It's over. For the meantime at any rate. It is now completely acceptable for you gearheads to go back into angry hibernation for a few more weeks, until cars take to the track for the 24 hours of Daytona and the full swing of racing season once again descends upon us.
But, in the two weeks before the cars take to the track again, there is much to be garnered from the final day of practice and semi-superfluous round of qualifying that doesn't actually set the starting grid, but does allow for selection of pit boxes and garages.
Nevertheless, here's what happened.
It's officially official. Cadillac is the manufacturer to beat at Daytona. After dominating practice the entire weekend, the GM affiliate, went on to similarly dominate qualifying, securing the top four spots. The Whelen Engineering Racing piloted by Felipe Nasr, Mike Conway, Eric Curran , and Stuart Middleton took top honors, posting a time of 1:35:806.
Felipe Nasr, who set the top time for the Whelen Cadillac, said after the session, "We all felt pretty confident. We felt the car was behaving well." He continued, cautiously playing down the team's dominance, "There are some cars out there that aren’t showing fully what they can do, but I know we are. I’m pretty happy with what we have right now.”
The next non-Cadillac entrants were the two Team Penske Acura DPis, who, after shaking off the cobwebs from earlier in the session, snagged a P5 and P6, albeit more than a second off the pace of the leading Cadillac.
Further down the field, it was the ORECA of Jackie Chan DCR JOTA that lead the LMP2 style prototypes with a time of 01:37.274.
As for Fernando Alonso and his United Autosports team, the best they could manage was a lowly 12th place with a times of 01:37.515.
In the GTLM category, it was a case of North American assertion of dominance, with Ford and Corvette taking the top three spots.
The Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais, and Joey Hand took top honors with a time of 01:43.714.
The fastest driver of the team, Joey Hand, was cautiously optimistic about his team's chances, attributing part of their pace, at least, to ambient temperatures. " We got it closer this morning," he said. "We think maybe it’s the temperature, and we made a change right between the practice and qualifying."
The rest of the GTLM field was made by Porsche in 4th with the second #3 Corvette, and the Risi Competizione following close behind. As always seems to be the case in GT, the top six were incredibly close, with less than a second separating the 1st place Ford from the 6th place Ferrari.
Rahal Letter Lannigan's BMW entries still seem to be floundering around the historic track, as during qualifying and Sunday's practice they were not able to keep pace with their GTLM counterparts and ended up finishing a woeful 2 seconds of the leading Ford's pace.
Other News of Note
Down in the Pro-AM GTD category, a nearly unprecedented thing happened during the course of Saturday's practice.. The stewards at IMSA black flagged two teams for allegedly sandbagging. The #71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes and the #93 Michael Shank Racing Acura were both ordered to stop running following IMSA's allegations that the two teams were sandbagging in order to obtain a more favorable BoP.
With the BoP additions and subtractions IMSA and other endurance series championships employs, sandbagging and allegations of the same are inevitable, but it is clear that for the 2018 season IMSA will not abide by any overt displays of sandbagging.
There have been anti-sandbagging rules on the books for IMSA since 2014.