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Daytona Pre-Race Notebook

Tony DiZinno’s pre-race notebook for the 54th Rolex 24 at Daytona…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

***ACO President Pierre Fillon and FIA WEC CEO Gerard Neveu are on hand at Daytona for today’s race. The pair will witness the first race of the new-for-2016 GTE-spec cars, the Ford GT’s worldwide debut, the debut of Daytona’s new motorsports stadium complex and an FIA WEC team on the overall pole, in the form of SMP Racing’s BR Engineering BR01 Nissan.

***No major notes emerged from the Saturday morning driver’s meeting. IMSA Race Director Beaux Barfield stressed the importance of proper pitting and blending procedures, and also noted the continuation of Standard versus Short Full-Course Yellow procedures. Standard yellows will be used at all times with the exception of the first 15 minutes following the race start, immediately following a restart of a standard yellow (if another yellow occurs), and within the last 30 minutes of the race.

***The BR01’s engine has been changed and is ready to go for today’s race following a failure during the final practice session on Friday morning. Mikhail Aleshin qualified fastest in the Prototype class and with the reordered grid by class, will start from the overall pole in the No. 37 car he’ll share with Nicolas Minassian, Maurizio Mediani and Kirill Ladygin.

***The No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R, adorned in the Gas Monkey Garage livery, did not turn laps in Friday’s final practice. The team diagnosed a clutch issue and replaced the clutch prior to today’s race. Jeroen Bleekemolen will start the car from sixth place in GT Daytona, and share the car with Ben Keating, Marc Miller and Dominik Farnbacher.

***Both of the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3s were penalized per IMSA’s Attachment 8.3.2, boost control, with the No. 96 car sent to the rear of the 22-car GTD field and the No. 97 car set to start 13th and penalized one lap time. The No. 96 car had initially qualified 16th.

***Following the changes, an updated and official grid is linked here.

***Starworks Motorsport looks to capture an elusive first Rolex 24 win in team principal Peter Baron’s 17th attempt competing in the race. The team’s No. 8 and 88 cars start fifth and sixth in Prototype Challenge.

***Alex Popow, who will share the No. 8 car with Renger van der Zande, Chris Cumming and Jack Hawksworth, is in his first race without his father, who passed away in November. He’s carrying an image of him on his helmet in memory.

***The FIA Women in Motorsport Commission announced it will support Ashley Freiberg, the first U.S. female driver to be supported by the commission. Freiberg makes her Rolex 24 debut in the No. 96 Turner BMW, which as noted above will start at the rear of the field following a technical infraction.

***The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, which moves its headquarters to Daytona from Detroit this year, announced its 2016 inductees on Friday. The group includes Everett Brasher, Richard Childress, Gary Gabelich, Chip Ganassi, Dave McClelland, Sam Posey and Bob Sweikert. “I have to say I’m as humbled as I’ve ever been in my entire life,” Ganassi said at the announcement.

***Seven drivers are racing in the Rolex 24, all in the GTD class, after also racing in yesterday’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race. Marc Miller and Jeroen Bleekemolen ran in GS, while Robin Liddell, Jeff Mosing, Eric Foss, Spencer Pumpelly and Corey Lewis ran in ST.

***Foss and Mosing, incidentally, are the only two drivers with a chance to sweep the weekend in both series. “Jeff has this thing where he feels he has to drive at least two race cars on a weekend! But for me it’s more of a challenge because I also coach. So I’m working to get more engaged with the Viper Exchange team,” Foss told Sportscar365.

***The Foss/Mosing pairing will co-drive with Damien Faulkner, Gar Robinson and Ben Keating in the team’s “Don’t Mess with Texas!” liveried No. 93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R, which won the GTD class last year with a different lineup. Faulkner, incidentally the lone non-Texan of the group, qualified the car fourth for today’s race.

***Keating is among a group of 11 drivers with a chance to defend their 2015 Rolex 24 wins. The others include the overall quartet of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson, along with Tom Kimber-Smith in PC, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia or Ryan Briscoe in GTLM, and Keating and Dominik Farnbacher in GTD. Kuno Wittmer has a shot to win in GTLM after winning in GTD last year.

***Continental Tire has brought 7,000 tires for all series, all classes it competes in this week. Meanwhile to give you an idea of how many miles have been completed over the last five years, the P, PC and GTD classes have raced 529,828 miles during the Rolex 24. It’s a mere 238,855 miles from Earth to the Moon. So the gang could make a trip to the moon and back with 52,118 miles to spare.

***Michelin’s two temperature range versions for the fully dry conditions are set to run today. “Both tire options use a medium compound that has worked well in testing. We have Michelin medium/cool temperature tires designed for cooler temperatures such as during the night and medium/medium temperature tires for warmer track conditions,” said Chris Baker, Michelin motorsport director, North America.

***In a couple partner notes, WeatherTech confirmed it will continue its advertising at the Super Bowl for a third straight year, while Florida Lottery has joined the partner portfolio at Michael Shank Racing for the Rolex 24.

***A.J. Foyt, a two-time Rolex 24 winner (1983 and 1985), will wave the green flag to start today’s race.

***Coverage of today’s Rolex 24 at Daytona begins at 2 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1, and alternates between that, FOX Sports 2 and for the duration of the event. Full details and times can be found via the Continental Tire Keys to the Race, linked here. IMSA Radio will also have live flag-to-flag coverage, as well.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno) is Sportscar365's North American Editor, focusing on coverage of the IMSA-sanctioned championships as well as Pirelli World Challenge. DiZinno also contributes to and other motorsports outlets. Contact Tony


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