Podium of Thoughts on 2022 24 Hours at Daytona
1. 61*: No, not the movie. Which is a different sport anyway. And the asterisk isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The Rolex 24 at Daytona had 61 entries. Essentially the maximum. And thus the asterisk -- this before the LMDh class kicks off in 2023, guaranteed to bring in more prototype entries. Couple that with the boom in GTD this year thanks to GTLM converting over to GTD Pro -- and likely even more GTD entries coming in during 2022 -- and you have a problem.
Granted, a problem IMSA loves to have. Obviously, there won't be 61 entries at all races, as the Michelin Endurance Cup events always bring in extras. But, there could be other tracks that will strain to accommodate the increased fields. And certainly Daytona and perhaps Sebring and Road Atlanta may see more than they can handle.
Logically, it could mean LMP3 no longer competes in the premier WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. That would certainly be one way to open up some spots for the increase in factory teams. Beyond that, there's going to have to be a pecking order.
Regardless, this is IMSA's problem. Because it certainly isn't the fans' problem. Just the opposite. Sportscar fans are loving the IMSA renaissance the past few years and looking forward to even more in 2023 and beyond. All while enjoying 2022, which promises to be anything but a stopover year.
The large field at Daytona was hugely entertaining. And I suspect led to many more fans than usual staying up the entire 24 hours. Even if I did wimp out for seven hours...
2. 60: Number 60 won the 60th Rolex 24 at Daytona. It's been quite a year for Meyer Shank Racing. Won the Indianapolis 500 back in May. Took their second Rolex 24 eight months later.
The story has been told many times. But it bears a quick review. It started out as literally a mom and pop operation with Michael Shank and his wife, originally in Formula Atlantic, winning the championship with Sam Hornish, Jr.
They then moved to Grand-Am winning the 24 Hours at Daytona overall in 2012. From there, they went with the merger into the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, taking the GTD titles in 2019 and 2020.
Indy car was next on their radar, entering in 2012. When Jim Meyer, former CEO of SirusXM, joined as an owner, it pushed the team to the next level. And with it, the recent successes.
Now, they have a full time two-car Indy car effort with two excellent veterans, Helio Castoneves (who himself is having an amazing year, winning Indy and Rolex with MSR, along with another Rolex for a different team last year) and Simon Pagenaud.
At this point, the sky is the limit for this team. A team whose enthusiasm and "rags to riches" story makes it so easy to root for.
3. Just This Side of the Line: It was reminiscent of the famed Gilles Villeneuve vs. Rene Arnoux battle for second place at the 1979 French Grand Prix. Mathieu Jaminet and Laurens Vanthoor put on an epic intra-factory battle in the waning laps for the GTD Pro win.
They drove 11/10ths. Nudging. Bumping. Subtle blocking. Not so subtle moves. Squeezing in spaces smaller than their cars. Sliding through every turn. Passing. Repassing. Controlled aggression. Pouring their hearts into it. Even better, Porsche let them go at it, even though it could have led to a Ferrari victory.
And then the ultimate coming together in the
Bus Stop Le Mans chicane. Jaminet kept going. Vanthoor went sideways, quickly threw it into gear, and recovered to salvage third behind that aforementioned Ferrari.
The entire time, just like that glorious F1 battle, they stayed this side of that line which is so easy to cross in racing, especially in cars with fenders. It's what every race fan loves to see -- good hard nosed yet clean racing, even if there is some contact. As long as it's not dirty -- unlike that last lap ending at Sebring a few years back.
Vanthoor himself had nothing but complimentary things to say about the battle even though he was gutted at the results. He was going for a win, at all costs, but fairly.
Let's see more of that in 2022.
Lobotomy of the Race Award: Drivers exiting the pits on cold tires. This year was considered to be the coldest 24 Hours at Daytona. Ergo, exiting the pits on cold tires was going to be a chore.
Every driver talked about how hard it was going to be. Every team reminded their drivers to be careful as they exited the pits.
Yet, there were still drivers who spun the car as soon as they got up to speed merging onto the track. Some more than once.
A lobotomy to you all.
Special Mention: GTP. We applaud loudly IMSA's decision to rename the top prototype class starting in 2023 to GTP.
It makes sense on a practical level. Next year, thanks to an agreement between IMSA and ACO/FIA, both the new IMSA class, LMDh, and the new WEC class, LMH, will be able to compete together for the same overall honors. Thus, to avoid confusion, calling the class by a single name without mentioning either one, was the practical way to go. And a lot less confusing to fans.
It also makes sense on an emotional level. GTP immediately brings up great memories of the last IMSA heyday with great machines, factory support, super drivers, and overall fantastic racing.
It also makes sense on a simplicity level. The prototype class is GTP. The sportscar class is GTD (split between Pro and Amateur). (The only outlier is LMP2. It would be nice if they can change that to another name form the past, GTP Lites. However, I wonder if they are allowed to change the name based on their agreement with the ACO and the LMP2 rules.) Nice and simple.
I love the use of GTP as the new name for the prototype class in IMSA. Kudos!
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