This weekend begins the Roar Before the Rolex 24 in preparation for the showdown of January 25-26 with the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. For the first time in more than a decade, American classics Corvette Racing and SRT Viper are squaring off, making this 52nd running of the Rolex 24 one to see.
In last Saturday’s session, Jan Magnussen for the GT Le Mans class led the way with a lap of 1:46:010 / 120.894 mph in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R. This doesn’t mean other competitors should be counted out, cautions Antonio Garcia – winner of the 2009 Rolex 24 and the car’s co-driver this year.
“It’s not only Corvette and Viper,” Garcia said. “I think everybody else will be there – with BMW, Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin. We can’t forget about any of the factories here. We are all very strong, as we showed last year in the ALMS. I think the completion will be real hard this year in the TUDOR Championship.”
Taking that, we see second place was indeed not the SRT, but instead the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage at 1:46:157 (120.727 mph) with another C7.R bringing up third (No. 4).
Not since Rolex 24 in 2000 have the Corvette and Viper teams faced off in this race, however, making this one something special for many fans. This is the first time the SRT team has been there in the Viper GTS-R.
Another first-timer will be the BMW Team RLL with two drivers who are some of the best you can get for a race like this, Graham Rahal (2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona winner) and team owner Bobby Rahal (Graham’s father and 1981 Rolex 24 winner). The younger Rahal will be competing in the BMW Z4.
Porsche cannot be ignored either, however, with the GT Daytona category including the No. 58 Snow Racing Porsche 911 GT America with a 1:48.228 (118.417 mph) run last weekend. Park Place Motorsports and Alex Job Racing will vie for the win against Snow in their own Porsche 911 GT America racers.
The final Roar Before the Rolex 24 happens this next weekend with both Saturday and Sunday Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge sessions.