IMSA's new era comes to life with Rolex 24 testing
January 02, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com
Test sessions for 'Roar Before the Rolex 24' run from Friday to Sunday
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A new era of sports car racing in North America will be unveiled this weekend, with 66 cars set to begin testing for the Jan. 25-26 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the inaugural race for the IMSA-sanctioned TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
The annual "Roar Before the Rolex 24" test sessions run through Sunday on the 3.56-mile DIS road course, showcasing cars in four classes -- Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona. The first-year TUDOR Championship is the result of the merger of the American Le Mans Series and the GRAND-AM Rolex Series.
This year marks the 52nd running of the Rolex 24, which for years opened the IMSA season. That ended with a split of the North American sports car pie between the ALMS and GRAND-AM that lasted 14 years, with IMSA sanctioning aligning with the ALMS. With the merger, IMSA and Daytona are together again.
As are many of the world's premier sports car competitors; the Rolex 24 typically is the ultimate all-star race, with drivers from a variety of racing disciplines gathered for very special "one-off" appearances. This year should again attract a number of major names from other series; announcements to that effect are expected to begin later this week.
An immediate area of interest is the headlining Prototype class, featuring the respective all-time victory record holders from the ALMS and Rolex Series, Lucas Luhr and Scott Pruett. Luhr will co-drive an ORECA prototype for Pickett Racing with Klaus Graf. Pruett and Memo Rojas will team in the No. 01 Ford/Riley DP for Chip Ganassi Racing. Luhr won 49 races in the ALMS while Pruett won 41 in the Rolex Series.
"I absolutely consider the Rolex 24 to be an incredible event," said Pruett, who scored his fifth overall Daytona victory in 2013, which tied Hurley Haywood's all-time mark. "It's got international flair, and it kicks off all racing for the year. It's a big event for us at Ganassi and for me personally; this test is very important to ensure we're good to go when we return in three weeks for the race."
In addition to the TUDOR Championship, 41 teams are entered for the "Roar" weekend in the production-based IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, IMSA's top developmental series.
Testing runs 9 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday (6:30-8); and 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on Sunday.