DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - In the second day of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s annual Roar Before the Rolex 24, the newest stars of the show continued to lead the way Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.
The highly anticipated Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class competitive debut paced the practice sessions, with the defending Rolex 24 and season champion team, Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian, tops for the second straight day.
Colin Braun set the fast lap of 1 minute, 35.038 seconds (134.851 mph) in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 in Saturday’s late afternoon practice session. And as with Friday’s opening day on the 3.56-mile road course, the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport Acura was next quickest, Brendon Hartley’s best lap a slight 0.118 second off.
The No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura has been fastest in all four Roar sessions thus far, with only a night practice remaining Saturday before Rolex 24 At Daytona qualifying takes place Sunday.
The two BMW M Team RLL entries were third and fourth fastest with Philipp Eng in the No. 24 BMW M Hybrid V8 (1:35.372) and Nick Yelloly in the No. 25 BMW M Hybrid V8 (1:35.458).
The nine-car GTP class, turning its first official laps of practice, was more than two seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Three cars – the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 and the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac V-LMDh from Action Express Racing – each exceeded 30 laps in the afternoon session. Several teams conducted important longer runs to see how their cars fared over a stint.
“Obviously, really proud of the team,” Braun said. “I know everyone says that, but more than ever in this era of GTP cars, it’s such a big effort by the Meyer Shank team and the HPD (Honda Performance Development) and Acura guys – a lot of work in the offseason. It’s been leaps and bounds better, better and better.”
With the Rolex 24 looming just a week away, every time on track takes on added importance.
“Really pretty darn happy with the car right now,” Braun said. “We have good speed and we’re just working through our program and just trying to continue to check boxes as we close down on the amount of time we have to get ready for the big race.’’
Of the team’s impressive practice “sweep” and showing to date, Braun called it “super smooth,” conceding, “I don’t think we expected that, given where everyone’s at and all the different programs OEMs have been on to get to this point. I think we really were unsure where everything would shake out, so we’re super pleased with it. If we’re going to have (practice) sessions, you might as well be the fastest one.’’
Ben Hanley, the 2020 Rolex 24 winner in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class, put the No. 04 Crowdstrike Racing by APR ORECA LMP2 07 atop the LMP2 speed chart with a best lap of 1:38.633 in the Saturday afternoon session. Dakota Dickerson’s lap of 1:42.653 in the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier JS P320 from Saturday morning held up to lead the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class prior to the night practice.
Schandorff Puts Inception Racing McLaren At Head Of GT Classes
Frederik Schandorff set the pace among Grand Touring entries in the No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 from the GT Daytona (GTD) class, with a Saturday morning lap of 1:46.842 (119.953 mph). It was 0.162 seconds better than the one posted Friday morning by Andy Lally (No. 44 Magnus Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3).
“It was definitely a pretty good lap,” Schandorff remarked. “We were testing some (qualifying) sims because we would like to have a good starting position for the (Rolex) 24 Hours. The first half hour of the race quite often has incidents that we want to stay away from. I believe other teams are probably holding something back and focusing on long runs. But we have been through a lot of stuff with our running plan, and everything is going well so far.
“It’s taken a lot of preparation from the whole team and all of the drivers,” he added. “The car feels already really good for the Roar weekend, so I’m really happy with the team effort. But one lap is not everything in this race. At least the car feels good, and I think we have good spirit to have a chance for next weekend.”
In the GTD PRO class, Ben Barnicoat’s 1:47.040 lap clocked Friday afternoon remained the best through the four sessions. The GT classes represent more than half the 61-car Rolex 24 field, with a total of nine manufacturers supplying nine GTD PRO entries and 24 in GTD.
The No. 70 is the only McLaren in the field, with Schandorff and Brendan Iribe set to run the entire 2023 season after Iribe and Jordan Pepper claimed the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup GTD title in 2022 despite not winning a race. Schandorff and Iribe are joined by Marvin Kirchhofer and McLaren factory driver Ollie Millroy at the Rolex 24.
Rolex 24 qualifying is slated for 1:20 p.m. ET Sunday.