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GTLM Drivers Expecting “More Flat-Out” Daytona Contest

This weekend’s Rolex 24 GTLM race will be a more eventful affair, according to the drivers…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Several GT Le Mans drivers are expecting the class battle in this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona to be much closer than last year.

The previous edition of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener saw just four safety car periods which resulted in fewer positional changes.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing went on to record a commanding 1-2 result, with the pair of Ford GTs finishing two laps ahead of the third-placed Corvette C7.R.

Porsche factory driver Earl Bamber told Sportscar365 that he thinks the racing will be more “flat-out” this time around after the surprisingly low incident count in 2018. 

“The biggest talking point this weekend is the start of the race because last year caught everyone by surprise with having less yellows than Le Mans,” he said.

“Now I think you’re going to see more of a flat-out race where people are just going to go for it.

“Last year everyone cruised and found themselves a lap down because there were just no yellows coming. I think now you can’t expect to cruise around. You can’t expect the race to stay green.”

Bamber thinks this weekend’s Rolex 24 will buck the trend of incident-free races, which he says has become a “trait” of the WeatherTech series in recent seasons.

The Porsche driver’s sentiments were echoed by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Joey Hand, who suggested the standard of driving has changed the flow of races including Daytona.

“Last year having [few] yellows was the big surprise,” said Hand.

“We kind of had a string of that last year, even into the year before where we had a lot of races that went all green, even the sprint races.

“The talent level is pretty high in the series and it seems like there are less mistakes happening.”

Bamber added: “It’s been a trait of IMSA races in the last couple of years that there are less yellows.

“But that might change when everyone starts to sprint. When everyone cruises nothing happens, but when everyone goes flat out everything happens.”

Jesse Krohn, who is driving for BMW Team RLL, also believes this year’s GTLM race will be tighter than 2018.

The German manufacturer struggled for pace in its first appearance with the BMW M8 GTE last year but Krohn feels confident that the package can now join the battle up front.

“In many ways, it’s going to be a lot tighter, at least we’re going to be in the mix,” he said.

“Last year we were quite far away pace-wise, but this year has been a completely different start to the Daytona event. The Roar was a lot more successful so we’re not on the back foot going into the race.

“We have a package that we can be in the mix with and hopefully there aren’t going to be any surprises with sandbagging, so it’s going to be an even field.”

John Dagys contributed to this report.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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