Rolex 24 Hours: a guide to the car classes

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Rolex24HoursThe Rolex 24 Hour race at Daytona is underway as I type, with a field of 67 cars wowing those tuning into sports car racing for the first time.

Thus race is itself a first, too: the inaugural Tudor United SportsCar Championship.

In blending ALMS and Grand-Am, two multi-class series have been combined. There’s thus been some vigorous blending, in creating four classes for the new series (and no little confusion, as Autoweek explains). It’s created a fascinating grid and, thus far, an intriguing race.

In its simplest form, there are two basic car types – Prototype and GT – with two classes within each – ‘pro’ and ‘pro-am’. Pro cars are marked with red flashes on the door mirrors, rear wing end plates, windscreen strips and leader lights; pro-am with blue flashes.

Once you clock all this, it’s thus easy to tech which class a car’s running in at a glance.

Here’s how it works.

P: Prototype (pro)

What do they look like?

These are proper racing cars. The sort of far-removed-from-the-road machines you associate with motorsports: they include Daytona Prototypes (which are more powerful and, in practice, have been faster, although they’re heavier on their tyres), LMP2 cars and the DeltaWing. They’re the quickest machines in the field and a Prototype is almost certain to win the Rolex 24 Hours.

What’s their top speed on the Daytona bowl?

190mph

Can you give me any examples of Prototype racers?

The pole-sitting Corvette DP started by Alex Gurney is a Prototype, as is the oh-so distinctive DeltaWing DWC13, the Wirth Research-developed HPD ARX-03b, Mazda’s barely-finished Skyactiv-D cars (the only diesels in the field) and the Riley-Ford DP that’s leading as I type.

How many Prototype racers are competing at Daytona Rolex 24 Hours?

18

What are the star drivers racing in the Prototype class?

Alex Gurney, Marino Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Sebastian Bourdais, Christian Fittipaldi, Brendan Hartley, Katherine Legge

PC: Prototype Challenge (pro-am)

What do they look like?

These are open-top racers all based on an ORECA chassis using a Chevrolet LS3 V8 engine. With plentiful use of carbon fibre, they’re the lightest and most agile racers in the field, albeit the slowest on the bowl (thanks to a control rear wing to keep them off the pace of the Prototypes).

What’s their top speed on the Daytona bowl?

175mph

Can you give me any examples of Prototype Challenge racers?

They’re all ORECA FLM09 cars.

How many Prototype Challenge racers are competing at Rolex 24 Hours?

8

What are the star drivers racing in the Prototype Challenge class?

Bruno Junqueira, Sam Bird, Rob Huff 

GT: GT Le Mans (pro)

GTLM cars are the full-fat GT racers; based on production cars such as Porsche 911s and Corvettes, but boasting a full suite of aero devices. They are basically the old GTE Class from ALMS – the names of some of the cars is the giveaway here…

What’s their top speed on the Daytona bowl?

180mph

Can you give me any examples of GT Le Mans racers?

These are the moutwatering elite of the GT field: Porsche 911 RSR (as driven by Brit Nick Tandy wearing the number ‘911’…), Ferrari F458 Italia, Corvette C7.R, Aston Martin Vantage V8, SRT Viper GTS-R, BMW Z4 GTE

How many GT Le Mans racers are competing at Daytona Rolex 24 Hours?

9

What are the star drivers racing in the GT Le Mans class?

Nick Tandy, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Oliver Gavin, Peter Dumbreck, Andy Priaulx, Darren Turner, Oliver Jarvis

GTD: GT Daytona (pro-am)

GTD cars are GT racers that are a bit more stock than the exotic GTLM cars. They can’t have as much aero trickery and their engines aren’t as fast (it’s a 450hp cap, instad of a 500hp limit).

What’s their top speed on the Daytona bowl?

180mph

Can you give me any examples of GT Daytona racers?

Here’s where you need to be sharp: the cars are the same as the GTLM models… but look a bit more ‘road car ready’. The field includes the Aston Martin Vantage V12, the pole-sitting Audi R8 LMS (Audi’s only racing in GTLM, so you know which class it’s in if you spot one), Porsche 911 GT America, Ferrari F458 Italia.

How many GT Le Mans racers are competing at Daytona Rolex 24 Hours?

28

What are the star drivers racing in the GT Daytona class?

Mika Salo, Patrick Dempsey

That’s a whistlestop guide. RennSport has something much more in-depth, and is also running a live blog. As it’s Saturday night, be sure to grab a beer and key into all the action on Twitter with the hashtag #Rolex24.

Oh, and which way does the circuit go? A bit like this…

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