In 2017, the Cadillacs from Action Express Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing won 70% of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship events, accomplishing it with a 6.2-liter V8 powerplant. With that kind of success, there was really no reason to change anything, right?
The brand, which has added a fourth car for 2018 (Spirit of Daytona), switched to smaller 5.5-liter engines in order to improve drivability and decrease potential Balance of Performance adjustments from IMSA. While the new smaller engines have less torque, they are more in line with the other cars in the field and are less apt to draw scrutiny. The balancing measures IMSA took in 2017 to reign in the Cadillac cars made them more difficult to drive and were often a source of exasperation for drivers.
Heading into the first-ever qualifying sessions at The Roar Before the 24 at Daytona in early January, curiosity was piqued; how would the new engines perform? How does a dominant 1-2-3-4 finish grab you? Qualifying first was the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing car (driven by Felipe Nasr) and a 1:35:806 time, followed by the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing car (Tristan Vautier; 1:36.037), the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing car (Filipe Albuquerque; 1:36.135), and the defending champion No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac (Renger Van Der Zande; 1:36.481). The results guarantee that all four Cadillac teams will be placed up front in pit lane and the garage area for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Needless to say, this places the Cadillac DPi cars as heavy favorites heading in to the Rolex 24, but endurance races have a tendency offer up unexpected results due to hundreds of different factors. While temperatures at Daytona will be hovering around a very comfortable 70 degrees, there is currently a high probability of rain showers on Sunday morning and afternoon, conditions that could complicate track conditions and further level the playing field.
Be sure to join YouRulz at the Rolex 24 at Daytona this weekend, where drivers from 25 countries and 6 continents will compete to outlast their competitors and kick off what is sure to be a fantastic 2018 racing season.