This past weekend, IMSA kicked off its 2023 season with its most grueling race, the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.
The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona ran its 61st race and kicked off the American racing calendar at the iconic Daytona International Speedway. This year’s Rolex was one of the most hotly anticipated in recent memory with the debut of the LMDh formula and new GTP class leading the field to green after years of development.
After 24 hours of racing, there are a lot of talking points dominating the conversations. From BoP to reliability, this year’s Rolex will keep IMSA fans talking during the month and a half between now and the next race at Sebring in March.
1 – The Acuras did not miss a beat
Last season the Acura DPi machines were on another level from the first race of the season, all the way to Petite Le Mans. Going into the new formula in the top class, it was uncertain who would rise to the top. But after the Rolex, it’s clear that the Acura machines are the most well-rounded cars in the class.
While they may not have been the best in any given aspect. They were able to stay out of the garage more than any other manufacturer and neither of their cars had any major hybrid system issues throughout the race.
The team struggled with a persistent gearbox issue, however. They were forced to make frequent stops to top off on fluid and the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura had to go behind the wall to flush its oil and top it off. This put them three laps down during the night, and put their sister car, the #60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura, far in the lead going into the morning.
Each team has a lot to learn and quite a bit of room to grow leaving Daytona. But the Acuras are in the best spot going into the rest of the season, and as development continues, will truly be a force to be reckoned with.
2 – GT drivers continue to shine
Last year the season ended with a mega five-car, five-manufacture battle in the final hours of the 10-hour race at Petie Le Mans. This year that close, tight-knit pack racing was able to continue, and it gave us the most compelling fight of the race in the final two hours.
As the race came to a close, the #27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin had a decisive lead over the rest of the GT ranks, but the fight for the top of GTD PRO was tooth and nail not four seconds behind the #27 at any given moment. The #3 Corvette, #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus and #79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes went at it for almost two hours for class lead, giving us some of the best racing of the 24 hours in the process.
The #79 won out in the end and Cooper McNeil leaves the team on a high note by finally claiming the long-elusive Rolex for himself and the team.
3 – Porsche has a weekend to forget across the board
Going into the Rolex, the Porsche Penske GTP program was a heavy favorite for overall victory. They had done more testing than every other GTP ream by a significant margin and in terms of reliability they were believed to be the most robust of the new cars.
In the race, all that testing seemed to go out the window. The #7 was in and out of the garage all race and the #6 seemed to always be trying to climb its way back on the lead lap. The final nail in the coffin was a total ICE failure for the #6 in the last few hours of the race as Nick Tandy tried to bring it back onto the lead lap.
The GT ranks the Porsche customer teams were made almost obsolete by a heavy Balance of Performance cut from IMSA, allowing the Mercedes and Aston Martin GT3 machines to run ahead and claim the class and overall GT victories.
#ICYMI Here is a recap of the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona.#IMSA | @Rolex24Hours pic.twitter.com/39KTiwYgOw
— #IMSA (@IMSA) January 30, 2023
4 – Colin Braun and Tom Blomqvist are dangerous
Tom Blomqvist has burst onto the IMSA scene over the last two years after leading the #60 Meyer Shank Racing DPi team to the final DPi championship in 2022. Over the off-season CORE Autosport and LMP3 mainstay, Colin Braun was able to win the seat at the Ohio-based outfit left vacant by Oliver Jarvis after the 2022 season.
Braun made his presence known early by making some incredibly aggressive moves for the lead early in the race. After a great setup from Blomqvist, Braun capitalized and set the #60 team in a great spot as night fell. With help from Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, the #60 won a second Rolex 24 in a row and the season looks very bright for them. Blomqvist and Braun both have something to prove and 2023 may be the year both once again come out swinging and make their mark in the IMSA history books.
5 – All eyes are on IMSA
The 61st running of the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona was the highest-attended Rolex 24 in its history. The infields were chocked full of RVs, tents, and some brave individuals sleeping in their vans. While the grandstand was very well-packed for the start of the race and throughout the event.
Increased interest in motorsport in the states has certainly found its way to the Sportscar world. The record turnout at Daytona is hopefully the start of a bigger trend around IMSA in 2023.