This weekend’s 60th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona will have many special initiatives to start the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. This year marks a finale for the prototype, DPi class, with both Acura and Chevrolet hungry to close the era atop the standings by the time the series reaches its finale at Motul Petit Le Mans on the Michelin Road Atlanta road course.
But the most important race is the one in front of the combatants, and this year’s Rolex 24 is extraordinary for many reasons. For starters, this is the 60th such race held on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway (DIS) road course, one that uses part of the oval track made famous by NASCAR. There are 61 entries for this winter-time twice-around-the-clock enduro, the most since IMSA’s 2014 classic.
There are five classes competing in this race. The premier DPi category has seven competitors (five Cadillac DPi-VRs and a brace of Acura ARX-05s). A total of ten LMP2 combatants are on the grounds, including winning entries from the United States and overseas. Nine LMP3 prototypes are entered, including last year’s champions; there are two chassis to follow: Duqueine D08 and Ligier JS P320.
The GTD Pro class succeeds GTLM with 13 professional entries from Porsche, Corvette, Lexus, Mercedes-AMG, Aston Martin, BMW, Lamborghini and Ferrari. In the 22-car GTD class that’s made up of both professionals and amateur racers driving Acuras, Aston Martins, Mercedes-AMGs, Porsches, Lamborghinis, McLaren, Ferraris and a sole Lexus.
Even more enticing is the pre-race activity that features not one, not two, but six honorary grand marshals for this race’s Saturday afternoon 1:40PM green flags to set the field off for their challenging runs. This year IMSA and DIS, acknowledged as the center of racing in Florida, have assembled a stellar crew to celebrate the race’s diamond anniversary. All are winners of this contest and return to Daytona to recall their own successes and to cheer on those that are trying to join them in owning the rare Rolex watches given only to Rolex 24 winners.
Both Hurley Haywood and Scott Pruett have amassed five victories and watches over the years. Haywood of course, was the first to take five Rolex 24 premier-class victories (his final win came in 1991) and he also has three 24 Hours of Le Mans victories. Pruett achieved his five a bit later, earning his first in 1994 and his final victory in 2013. Pruett owns 60 total IMSA victories and is a six-time IMSA champion.
Mario Andretti is being feted for his wins in the 1972 Rolex 24 (which was actually a six-hour race), his 1969 Indianapolis 500 victories, three-time 12 Hours of Sebring wins, being a four-time INDYCAR champion and his 1978 Formula One world championship. Bobby Rahal won the 1981 Rolex 24 as a driver, the 1987 Sebring 12-hour race, and is a two-time Rolex 24 winning team owner (2019-2020). Rahal is a three-time INDYCAR champion, the 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and has brought two drivers to the Indy 500 title and been a two-time IMSA championship team owner.
Jack Roush is the owner of more Rolex winning team owner watches than any other team owner in the previous 59 runnings of this race. Roush has 10 consecutive wins in this race, to go with his 24 championships and 119 IMSA and SCCA victories. He’s also an eight-time NASCAR championship-winning team owner and a member of NASCAR’s Hall of Fame.
When those 61 cars take the green flags early Friday afternoon, Wayne Taylor will watch his No. 10 Acura team lead the field at the start. He owns two Rolex 24 championships as a driver and is a four-time championship team owner of this race, including the three most recent runnings, so he’s looking to extend that steak. Wayne Taylor is a three-time sports car champion, has won the Sebring 12-hour race as well as taken victory at Le Mans. Taylor’s self-named team won the IMSA WetherTech SportsCar championship twice (so far).
The field for the race was set last weekend during the Roar before the Rolex 24, which included several practices, a qualifying session and the qualifying race that set the start order. At this time the forecasters are calling for chilly but clear weather for this 60th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. With six true luminaries to kick off the action, this race should be one for the ages.
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