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Daytona 24 hours: the story so far
As darkness falls on the Rolex 24, the Ford GT and DeltaWing are the talking points
The Daytona 24 hours - the Rolex 24 in official speak - is a race that relates to and differs from Le Mans in equal measure.
It begins with similar pomp and ceremony, but here that’s brought about by the American national anthem getting the crowd all giddy as an eagle flies above their heads. Really.
The circuit is also much shorter, Daytona’s 3.56 miles translating to a fast lap time of around 1:40 - half that of La Sarthe. As such, action happens at a rate far quicker than we can do justice. And there’s free live coverage of the race online anyway. So instead, some observations that ought not to date too quickly.
Ford’s flustered first outing
First off, the Ford GT has been having teething problems. On its first ever competitive appearance, you might forgive it that. Both cars - number 66 and 67 - have had issues in the first few hours of the race, the former with brake and electronic gremlins, the latter pitting and spending time in the garage to fix a gearbox problem. Approaching the five-hour mark, they trailed the ‘GT LM’ class leader by 32 and 15 laps respectively.
“We started the race and everything was great and I was like ‘man, this is awesome. Let’s go and just look after it’,” said Ryan Briscoe, of car 67. “We’ve been catching a few surprises and we’ll learn from them and move on.”
“It’s one of those things,” added Joey Hand, of car 66. “We have to get a 24-hour under our belt, just to learn what we have to watch out for.”
Up at the business end of things, the DeltaWing spent much of the first few hours leading the Rolex 24, pleasing fans of weirdness. Katherine Legge led for 27 laps, and after emerging from the car, was pleased to report it seemed to be over its infamous gremlins, and even used the phrase “cool beans” to describe its behaviour.
And then with typical DeltaWing luck, it, um, crashed. A stranded car was stationary on track and without yellow flags slowing down the whole circuit, Andy Meyrick - who’d replaced fellow Brit Legge at the wheel - whacked into it, removing the Deltawing’s frontal area. Not ideal for a car favouring aero over power.
The ‘Wing is being fixed as we type, but it’s naturally dropped right down the standings.
You no doubt also care about sound, and while the Prototype-class cars all thunder with a brutal, mechanical edge, the most interesting cocktail of noises comes from the wildly eclectic GT car classes.
The Porsche 911 RSRs, still using natural aspiration, absolutely howl and wail. Good. The Ford GT plays the vocal six-cylinder tune well, though its sound is a little alien, simply because its shape suggests, like its predecessor, it will have a loopy, big-lunged V8 at its heart.
The BMW M6 GT3 is nothing like as aurally delightful as the Z4 it supersedes. This is sad: the V8-engined Z4 GT3 is among the more surprisingly loveable racers of recent times, so the seemingly hushed tones of its replacement have us shedding a small tear. The Corvettes, though, are still as ear-bleedingly loud as ever, and stop us dwelling on things too long.
TG’s ‘Most Wonderfully Obscene Noise’ award, though, must go to the Huracan GT3 cars hanging around in the GTD class. They will not win the race, but they will win the hearts of anyone with working lugs.