Nothing would be sweeter than having a Rolex 24 victory as the next feather in its cap. Chevrolet power last won the twice-around-the-clock classic in 2003.
The months of waiting are nearly over for Corvette Daytona Prototype teams. A new age dawns this weekend with the 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona and the first round of the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Six Corvette DPs are on the entry list for one of America’s premier endurance races set for Jan. 25-26 at Daytona International Speedway.
The contingent of Corvette DPs returns to Daytona off its second straight GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series DP Engine Manufacturer’s championship and eight race victories in 2013. Nothing would be sweeter than having a Rolex 24 victory as the next feather in its cap. Chevrolet power last won the twice-around-the-clock classic in 2003.
Plenty has changed since then. This year’s Rolex 24 officially begins the TUDOR Championship – a merger of the Rolex Series and the American Le Mans Series.
"This year's Rolex 24 At Daytona will be a monumental event, and one where we expect to contend for an overall victory," said Mark Kent, Chevrolet's Director of Racing. "Our partner teams have put in a lot of hours preparing for this new era of North American sports car racing. There are a number of unique elements that go into a race like Daytona, and that is magnified by new classes and new competitors. However, we are confident that our Corvette DP teams have the speed and reliability needed to win this great race."
As a result, the Corvette-powered DPs have about 50 more horsepower this season compared to last but mandated aerodynamic features means the cars will create more drag around the circuit.
The lineup of Corvette DPs is unchanged from the Roar Before the 24 test days earlier this month: Wayne Taylor Racing, Spirit of Daytona Racing, Action Express Racing (with two Corvette DPs), GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and newcomer Marsh Racing – stepping up from running a GT Corvette to the Corvette DP.
Action Express’ Christian Fittipaldi set the fastest time of the test weekend in the No. 5 Corvette DP at 1:38.630 (129.940 mph). In all, Corvette DPs held five of the first six positions on the time sheets. But as with any long-distance race, speed doesn’t always equal results.
"With the merger of GRAND-AM and ALMS, this year's Rolex 24 provides a set of unique challenges for all the Corvette DP teams," said Jim Lutz, Chevrolet's Program Manager for Daytona Prototypes. "It's an unprecedented situation for those teams who are familiar with GRAND-AM. The pit lane and pit stop rules are different. The rules were changing as late as last weekend. We have more power and more aerodynamic drag, so it's likely our teams will pit more often than in the past. There is a different mix of classes, and the dynamics of how they will interact with different speeds and capabilities is unknown. So the race becomes very much a challenge of adaption. The teams that do their homework and are the most flexible will be in the best shape."
Chevrolet ended Rolex Series competition with 20 Daytona Prototype victories – 16 by Corvette DPs since it debuted in 2011 – and nine in GT. The Bowtie also captured engine manufacturer championships for DP in both 2012 and 2013, plus the 2011 GT title.
Chevrolet also will be well represented in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge’s GS class with the new Camaro Z/28.R production car. Stevenson Motorsports and CKS Autosport each are entered for Friday’s two-and-a-half-hour race.
"This year's DAYTONA Rising 200 presents exciting possibilities for our Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R teams," said Lisa Talarico, Chevrolet's Program Manager for the IMSA Continental Sports Car Challenge. "This will be a great test of the new Camaro for the rest of the season with a full field of cars and a track that has a mix of long, fast straights but also a tight infield section. We understand there may be challenges with racing a new car for the first time but at the same time we are confident in our teams and engineers."