One test down, two more to go for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s preparation for the 55th Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 28-29 at Daytona International Speedway.
This week’s two-day test wrapped up Wednesday; it was the first of three preseason tests for the Rolex 24, IMSA’s season-opening event. Fourteen machines – spread across Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes – were at DIS this week, negotiating the 3.56-mile road course that utilizes both the famed DIS high banks and a twisting infield layout.
The next test is scheduled for Dec. 13-14, with the last test, the “Roar Before the Rolex 24,” set for Jan. 6-8. Both of those tests will showcase the new Daytona Prototype international (DPi) and LM P2 car types competing in the Prototype class in 2017.
The invigorated, production-based GT Daytona (GTD) class had the biggest turnout this week, 10 cars, including the intriguing new No. 86 Acura NSX from Michael Shank Racing, co-driven by Katherine Legge and a former Rolex 24 champion, Ozz Negri, who co-drove a Shank-owned prototype to victory here in 2012.
Legge is a former IndyCar Series regular who in recent years had driven the revolutionary Delta Wing prototype in IMSA competition. With the Delta Wing not competing currently, Legge landed with Shank’s organization which also has accomplished drivers Andy Lally and Jeff Segal in the team’s second NSX entry. Lally has four (2001, ’10, ‘12, ‘16) class victories in the Rolex 24; Segal was a GTD winner in the 2014 Rolex 24.
“We wanted to pick drivers with experience, mostly,” Shank said. “And we wanted to come up with a group that I know get along well, because that’s [the] No. 1 [concern].”
Legge comes off several seasons with the experimental, immensely popular – and mechanically challenged Delta Wing program, which produced many devoted fans but not a single trip to Victory Lane. Shank thinks Legge will now will be able to maximize her road racing skills.
“Our hope is that she’ll now be able to show people what she’s capable of – and she’ll have that opportunity,” Shank said.
“The test has gone really well,” Legge said Wednesday. “It's still early stages in the [team’s] development and we're looking at the Roar and the Rolex 24 looming over us and scrambling trying to do as much as possible in the time given. Everybody is multitasking doing a million things at once. We're trying different things on each car and we're making gains in both drivability and speed. It's been very positive.”
Prior to the next IMSA test, sports cars will return to Daytona International Speedway on Dec. 1-4 for the Ferrari Finali Mondiali, an event being staged in North America for the first time, bringing together competitors from the European, North American and Asia Pacific series of the Ferrari Challenge for a battle for the World Championship in their Ferrari 458 Challenge EVOs. The Ferrari Finali Mondiali has been previously held in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Spain and Italy. The weekend also will include the display and running of historic Formula 1 cars and Ferrari’s exclusive XX Programmes.
Tickets for DIS events are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat (username: DISupdates), and by downloading the Daytona International Speedway mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.