The eEuroparts.com Racing team participated in the Roar Before the 24 last week at Daytona International Speedway, and while the weather was a bit chilly for Florida, we collected vital data that will be applied for the upcoming race weekend January 27-28. The event is the kickoff to the IMSA road racing season and summons all the top teams that will be competing in 2018. Showcasing all of the new equipment for 2018 for both Prototype, Weathertech (GT3), and Continental, it was an atmosphere to behold. For the Weathertech Prototype, GT Daytona, and GT Le Mans teams, it was qualifying for pit stall assignments for the Rolex 24 Hours. For the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge field (in which we are running the new TCR class) it was vital practice and setup.
From a TCR perspective, there were 8 cars fielded by 7 teams. At the start of the weekend, the official car count was seven Audi RS 3 LMS, and one VW GTI TCR. This mix will certainly change, but Audi is undoubtedly scheduled to dominate the field at Daytona. Audi continued this trend moving up through the rest of the paddock.
They rolled out the new Audi R8 LMS GT4 cars in the Continential SportsCar Challenge field, and had two Audi R8 LMS GT3’s enrolled in the GT Daytona class for the Weathertech SportsCar Championship. That makes Audi the only manufacturer to be represented across all of the potential FIA homologations in IMSA: TCR, GT4, and GT3. Certainly a great start for Audi Sport here in the USA this year!
For the eEuroparts.com Racing team, the Roar Before The 24 was valuable weekend of practice. It’s rare throughout a racing season where you get a full weekend of practice at a track that you’re about to race on in a few weeks, and we didn’t want to waste this opportunity for both our drivers and our crew to get some experience with the new regulations and hardware changes.
We’re a new team for the IMSA Continental Sports Car Challenge, and although we’ve been training for driver changes and fuel stops by our experience in American Endurance Racing, adding tire changing to the mix is going to be a complicated new wrinkle. Our lack of experience will certainly lead to hiccups throughout the season that only time and practice can completely eliminate.
The Roar Before The 24 started off very frustrating as we chased a vibration around for the first two plus practices. Curiously, it ended up being something nobody expected, a broken stay on the front splitter that inspected fine stationary, but at speed caused an aerodynamic oscillation as it separated. After we eventually sorted that out, it was on to full-speed running for the remainder of the weekend. Speeds crept up and times fell as our setup improved and the comfort levels of the team increased.
We moved forward practicing on what was to eventually be our racing setup towards the end of the weekend. We finished this weekend being able to put the car away in the trailer saying we’re (almost) ready to go in three weeks. Of course we’re not completely ready to go, as our endurance fueling kit isn’t yet installed on the car, but we’re very close.
When we return to Daytona in advance of the 4-hour BMW Endurance Challenge, the season will begin in full force. There are two short practice sessions heading into our first qualifier of the season and then we race for four straight hours! I don’t expect the field to change much in shape between now and then, so it is likely to be an Audi dominated race. We will see how it ends up, hopefully the racing gods will imbue us with some good luck! Don’t miss it streaming online at IMSA.tv starting January 26th at 1 PM. If you will be in town for the race, stop-in and say hi to the team and drivers, and you never know you may leave with some free gear.