USCC: Roar Before 24 Report
The 2014 season kicked off over the weekend (January 3rd-5th) at the Daytona International Speedway, with the annual "Roar before the 24." The test also marks the final preparation for teams ahead of the newly formed United Sports Car Championship (USCC). Six Corvette Daytona Prototypes (DP) were represented by a total of 5 teams.
During the three day test The Corvette DPs topped several sessions, including local team Spirirt of Daytona Racing (four in total). The Daytona team has recovered from setbacks caused at the end of 2013 during winter testing, which saw the introduction of a brand new chassis. “We’re really happy with the test, especially after the accident here in November,” Westbrook said. “That was the worst possible start for our 2014 campaign. Ironically, it’s helped turn everything around. Now, we’ve got a brand new car, the guys are on top of it." The team also saw an injection of new drivers to join their stable for 2014, including Michael Valiante and Mike Rockenfeller. "I’ve got two great teammates", explained Westbrook. "It’s still early, but we had a fantastic, trouble-free test and a nice car. Daytona is a fantastic place to drive when you have a nice car. I’m ready to race now, but now the team has to work on a lot of the boring stuff, working on all the details to make sure we’re up front at 2:30 [p.m.] on Sunday, Jan. 26.”
The Action Express Corvette DPs also had productive test, with driver Christian Fittipaldi setting the fastest time for the three-day test. "We applied everything that we learned in the sessions we had prior to today – once in November and twice in the beginning of December," said Fittipaldi. "The car felt pretty good. I think that the track conditions were a little bit strange (with the changing weather). We need to make the best of it because when it comes down to race time, maybe we are going to have exactly the same stuff out there. I have raced here before where we have had even colder weather. So we pretty much need to be prepared for all kinds of stuff out there."
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, and drivers Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, Darren Law and Memo Gidley completed their test with positive results, ahead of their 24 Hour appearance later this month. “The test went really well,” driver Darren Law said. “I feel pretty comfortable with our program. It’s the same group of guys from last year, the same team, and the car is good. There have been a lot of changes to the Daytona Prototypes this year, so this test involved a lot of data collection. Overall the car is fast, we are really comfortable with it, and I think we have a good shot.” Working through some of the new components and figuring out the nuances of the enhanced Corvette were the primary focus of the weekend for the team. “We have worked a lot on our race setup, trying to figure out what is going to break on the car,” Gurney said. “We have had a lot of little electrical issues that we are sorting through but I think we have it mainly under control now. It will be a busy few weeks until the race and with some luck we should be in good shape.”
Looking at Wayne Taylor Racing, the Corvette DP team reunites owner Wayne Taylor back into the drivers seat for this years Rolex 24 alongside both of his sons. Team owner Wayne Taylor was overall happy with his teams test. “There was an awful lot of stuff that we had to get through, with the change in rules and specs, so the team systematically went through them. We had some issues early on, but we can leave feeling somewhat happy. We think we know what we have as a package. There certainly is no question regarding drivers. We know we have the best lineup. The special part of the weekend has been the whole family affair.
"It’s a great opportunity for me and the kids and Max, all never having driven together. For me, not having driven a racecar competitively since 2010, it’s very difficult to get into these cars and go fast. And, I’ll have to say that until the night session last night, I was seriously considering that maybe this was not the right thing to do. But then, with some more laps, I started better understanding the car and its limits and, most importantly, began feeling comfortable. I don’t think I’m competitive enough to the point where I always used to be as a driver. But this situation is different. I’m not here to play a lead role. I’m here just to be here and lucky enough to be put in the car at some point. I think we can do it.”
"It has been a very productive three days at Daytona for the Corvette Daytona Prototype teams in preparation for the Rolex 24 Hour race, said Jim Lutz, Chevrolet TUDOR Championship Daytona Prototype Program Manager. "All of the teams had the opportunity to work with the latest technical regulations IMSA has put in place thus far for the class. Every driver for each of the teams was able to get ample seat time throughout the three-day test. "Additionally, the varying weather conditions have allowed the teams to work on setup for the numerous scenarios that can occur during the race. We know we will have to adjust to the final set of regulations prior to the race, but our Chevrolet teams made great progress during the weekend, and we feel like we have the reliability and preparation necessary for the race."
The Rolex 24 Hours kicks off the 2014 United Sports Car season later this month on the 25th-26th of January.