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Exotic sports cars gathered at Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday for a special “Michelin On-Track Opportunity” that facilitated preparations for the 57th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA event weekend, Jan. 26-27 at Daytona International Speedway.
For the Michelin-hosted event, teams competing in the International Motor Sports Association’s marquee series, the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, were joined by teams from the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge. The Rolex 24 is the season-opening event for the WeatherTech Championship. The BMW Endurance Challenge, the four-hour season opener for the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge will be held on Friday, Jan. 25; the IMSA Prototype Challenge starts its season with a three-hour race on Saturday, Jan. 5 during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 (Jan. 4-6) test sessions.
All four WeatherTech Championship classes – Daytona Prototype international, LMP2, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona – were represented Tuesday, including the 2017 Rolex 24-winning Wayne Taylor Racing organization. Orlando-area driver Jordan Taylor will be joined on his team’s Rolex 24 lineup by regular co-driver Renger van der Zande and two very special one-race teammates: former Formula 1 and current FIA World Endurance Championship regular Kamui Kobayashi and two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso. The foursome will share the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Rolex 24.
This will mark a return to the Rolex 24 for Alonso, who made his debut in the event last year, co-driving a United Autosports entry to a 38th-place finish. The 2019 Rolex 24 will be the first event of any kind for Alonso since he recently began a sabbatical from full-time F1 competition. Alonso is a 17-year F1 veteran, the last four with the McLaren organization.
“This is undoubtedly one of the greatest races in American and world motorsport,” Alonso said recently when his Rolex 24 entry was announced. “After an intense year in which I’ve competed in both Formula 1 and the WEC, I’m really looking forward to 2019 and attempting to conquer one of the most important races in the world. I’m brimming with hunger and desire.”
Taylor, one of IMSA’s longtime top regular prototype drivers, welcomes the “one-off” additions of Alonso and Kobayashi. But he also welcomed Tuesday’s opportunity to run laps on the famed 3.56-mile DIS road course.
“Daytona is a very unique track so whenever you can get track time here, you try to make the most of it,” Taylor said. “Getting use to the new Michelin tire is a big deal … as many miles as we can do on Michelin tires and learning what it takes to make that tire perform at its best and prepare for the Rolex 24. It’s our Super Bowl of the year. You want to get the car right for this race.
“We always come out with some spectacular lineup for the Rolex 24. Last year we had former Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay with us and in 2017 when we won, we had Jeff Gordon on the team. Next year we will have Alonso and Kobayashi. For us, Daytona is our biggest race and the one we want to win the most, so we’re putting everything we can into the car. Those are [two] guys with amazing experience and so much knowledge. Maybe they can bring us some different feedback. We wanted them because they want to win races just like we do.”
Tickets for the Roar Before the Rolex 24, the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, the 61st DAYTONA 500 and other Daytona International Speedway events can be purchased 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, and by downloading Daytona International Speedway’s mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.
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