The IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship gave fans at the track and around the world an exciting premiere for its new era of racing. Acura left the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona triumphant after securing a 1-2 finish in the first race for IMSA’s revived GTP class. A record crowd was on hand at Daytona International Speedway to see the new racing cars produced by Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche.
The No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-06 won the 61st running of the 24-hour classic. The GTP driven by Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud crossed the finish line 4.19 seconds ahead of the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-06. The No. 01 Cadillac V-LMDh finished third.
As expected with any new endurance racing class, reliability played a massive role in this year’s Rolex 24. The BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDhs had near-constant technical issues on top of their uncompetitive pace. Despite having more test milage than any other manufacturer, neither Penske Porsche 963 finished on the lead lap. The No. 7 had issues with its spec hybrid system, and the No. 6 had its spec gearbox fail in the race’s closing stages.
However, the Acuras ran into issues despite showing great pace on track. The ARX-06s’ engine oil system had to be repeatedly flushed during pit stops to avoid a critical failure. Meyer Shank Racing even prepared an entire replacement rear end for the No. 60, just in case.
The LMP2 class might not have flashy new cars, but it arguably had the best finish of the entire race. James Allen in the No. 55 Proton Oreca was able to pass the No. 04 Crowdstrike Oreca on the run to the finish line. The margin of victory was 0.016 seconds. The production-based GTD classes had their own shock. The Pro-Am No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage beat out the all-professional GTD Pro entry to be the highest-finishing GTD entry. Second to the Vantage by 2.363 seconds was the No. 79 WeatherTech Mercedes-AMG GT3 GTD Pro entry.
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With the next IMSA event being the 12 Hours of Sebring in mid-March, the teams have plenty of time to prepare for the most grueling circuit on the schedule. It will be interesting to see how the LMDh prototypes handle the bumpy runways and perform compared to the WEC’s Hypercars in terms of lap time.