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24 Hours At Daytona - Event

We spent 24 hours following the exhausted teams and drivers at the 2012 Grand-Am Rolex endurance race.

We first visited the Daytona 24-hour race in 2010, following BMW specialist Turner Motorsport (TMS) when it debuted in the Grand-Am Rolex GT series with a BMW M6 (et 6/10).

We were back in 2012 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “the 24” but, to be honest, it’s a grueling race to watch. We can’t imagine what it’s like for the teams competing!

Starting at 3pm, we were exhausted by 3am. Ours ears were ringing from the screaming Wankels in the Mazda RX-8s and our eyes sore from the mixture of glaring headlights, brake dust and campfire smoke. And yet the race was only halfway through. The cars must endure a further 12 hours.

The “big race” is supported by the Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge that took place on Friday. More of a production-based touring car series, it saw the debut of Aston Martin’s Vantage GT4 in the GS category, but even this was overshadowed by the arrival of two Audi R8s in the Rolex GT class.

Entries for the Rolex-sponsored 24hr race are divided into Daytona Prototypes (DP) and GT cars. The latter resemble production cars but are allowed tubular chassis, race engines, competition transmissions, etc. Similar to the FIA’s GT3 category in ALMS racing, Audi had developed a specific Grand-Am specification of its R8 customer racecars and two teams had purchased them.

With our friends at APR running one of the cars, we divided our time between the R8 and the two BMW M3s entered by Turner Motorsport. You can read about each team’s adventures over the page and see the videos at youtube.com/eurotuner

We concentrated our efforts on the GT category because these particular cars were entered by the same tuning companies that modify your road car, giving them enormous relevance to what we do on the street.

In a packed 58-car field, it was the 14 DP cars that dominated on the track; the winning Michael Shank Racing BMW Riley set a fastest lap of 1:41.473sec at an average lap speed of 113mph and covering 761 laps, with the pole-sitter recording an average speed of 127mph. Whereas the top-finishing GT car, the Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT3, set a best lap time of 1:48.582 at an average of 108mph and completed 727 laps.

As a result, there’s lots of passing and more than a few crashes involving the faster DPs knocking GTs off the track – this happened to the APR R8 and destroyed both its chance of winning and some expensive suspension components.

Both classes came down to a very close finish. After 24 hours and 49 lead changes, Shank Racing beat the Starworks Ford Riley by 5.198sec. The GT class was similarly close, with the Magnus Porsche beating the TRG 911 GT3 by only 9.412sec.

Shank Racing got two cars on the podium when its second car finished third, on the same laps as the winner. The team owner, Michael Shank, had been seeking a Rolex victory since 2004 and was understandably delighted with the result.

The dream team of Juan-Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Jamie McMurray in the Ganassi Racing BMW Riley could only finish fourth following a broken shifter that took four laps to repair. They finished only one lap down, defeated by the reliability of the top three cars.

Our favorite quote of the day was from Justin Bell – TV presenter, son of legendary Derek Bell and driver of the second Magnus Racing Porsche GT3. When we asked him if the track was slippery causing all the yellow flags, he replied: “No. I don’t know. There’s some f@%king idiots out there though!”

With Speed TV picking up the race coverage, we were disappointed to find them running repeats of game shows during the night, with viewers switching to an online feed to stay connected.

The 15-race Rolex schedule continues until late September, so try to attend one event or watch it on Speed TV. You can find the calendar and results at grand-am.com along with details of the Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge and well as other supporting races.

Continental Racing
Meeting the tire demands of a 24-hour race is a major undertaking, and one that Continental gladly accepted when it became the sole supplier to the Grand-Am Rolex series as well as the Continental-branded Sports Car Challenge.

Bruce Foss, Continental’s Grand-Am manager, explained the weekend’s commitment, which begins with 12000 tires on 17 trucks. This equates to 8000 slicks and 4000 wets, with one front and one rear size for DP cars, but two different fronts and four rear sizes for the GTs.

Each DP car is allocated 32 sets (128 tires) for the weekend, with GT cars allowed 30 sets (120 tires). This number allows the teams to change tires at each pitstop (approx every 45min, dictated by fuel tank size), although the rubber can last three stints or more when required.

Where Bruce typically has a staff of 25 people for a Grand-Am weekend (and 4000 tires), at Daytona he had 86, including 70 service personnel working in shifts on ten tire-changing machines and six balancers plus bead breakers. At full tilt they could change 220 tires an hour – with demand increasing following a yellow flag, for example.

Teams can opt to re-use old tires or have them scrapped. If discarded, the teams are charged a disposal fee and the tires are recycled.

There was concern this year over smaller 20-gallon DP fuel tanks requiring more pitstops and extra tire changes. However, the number of yellow flags meant the tires were lasting longer. Expected rainfall also failed to materialize, simplifying the procedure considerably.

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