Beneath the Florida skies, the 62nd edition of the 24 Hours at Daytona is set to unfold this weekend. It marks the inaugural round of the IMSA SportsCar Championship and the commencement of the Endurance Cup. The Maranello manufacturer will field five Ferrari 296 GT3s and seven official drivers competing in the two classes reserved for series-derived cars. By the end of qualifying, held as part of the Roar Before the 24, Daniel Serra at the wheel of the Risi Competizione-run Ferrari had set the fifth fastest time in the GTD Pro class, while Albert Costa in the Conquest Racing car registered the sixth fastest time in GTD. The race gets underway on Saturday, 27 January at 1.40 p.m. (local time).
The race. Fifty-nine crews will take part in the 24 Hours at Daytona, divided between the GTP (10) and LMP2 (13) class prototypes – where the Richard Mille AF Corse team will compete with Ferrari official drivers Nicklas Nielsen and Lilou Wadoux, alongside Luis Perez Companc and Matthieu Vaxiviere. In the series-derived car category, there will be 12 entries in the GTD Pro class and 24 entries in the GTD class.
GTD Pro. Risi Competizione entrusts its number 62 Ferrari 296 GT3 to official drivers Daniel Serra, Davide Rigon, Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado who set the fifth fastest class time in qualifying, with the Brazilian at the steering wheel, notching up a 1'44"831 marker, to claim 12th overall.
GTD. The fastest time of the Ferraris in qualifying was produced by the number 34 296 GT3 with Albert Costa (1'44"722) at the wheel of the Conquest Racing-managed car shared with Manny Franco, Alessandro Balzan and Cédric Sbirrazzuoli, enough to seal sixth spot in the class, eighth overall.
Next were Cetilar Racing featuring Antonio Fuoco, Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto and Eddie Cheever III; Triarsi Competizione with Alessio Rovera, Onofrio Triarsi, Charles Scardina and Riccardo Agostini; and AF Corse with Miguel Molina, Simon Mann, François Heriau and Kei Cozzolino, respectively seventh, eighth and eleventh in the class featuring crews made up of professional and gentlemen drivers (10th, 13th and 17th overall).
The track. The Daytona International Speedway was opened in 1959. Defining the track are the renowned elevated banked curves which can achieve an inclination of 31°. The layout used for the 24 Hours – which largely uses the tri-oval – has a length of 3.56 miles (5.73 kilometres) and includes 12 turns.
The history. The facility has been the a main venue – like Sebring, both in Florida – for US endurance racing since 1962. Daytona’s roll of honour includes five overall and sixteen class victories for the Prancing Horse. Memorable successes include the class win of the Ferrari 250 GT produced by Stirling Moss (1962), and the overall victory of the Ferrari 330 P3/P4 of Lorenzo Bandini and Chris Amon (1967) who triumphed in the edition – ending with the parade finish – rounded out by the second and third places respectively for the 330 P4 of Mike Parkes and Ludovico Scarfiotti, and the 412 P belonging to Pedro Rodriguez and Jean Guichet.
The most recent victory came in 2014 when Pier Guidi and American drivers Tucker-Sweedler-Bell-Segal clinched the GTD class in a 458 Italia GT3 courtesy of Level Five Motorsport.
The championship. The IMSA SportsCar Championship, as mentioned, gets the campaign underway with the only 24-hour race in the season’s calendar. The Endurance Cup will thus include the 12 Hours of Sebring (13-16 March), the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen (20-23 June), the 6 Hours of Indianapolis (20-22 September) which is the new addition to the 2024 calendar, and the Petit Le Mans over the 10 Hours distance at Road Atlanta (9-12 October).
The programme. On Thursday 25 Januarythere will be the first free practice session open to all classes, from 10.05 a.m; the second from 2.10 p.m. and 2.25 p.m. for GTD and GTD Pro respectively; and finally a third session for all entrants, from 6.35 p.m. On Friday 26 the programme includes a fourth free practice session from 11.20 a.m. The 24 Hours gets the green light on Saturday, 27 January at 1.40 p.m. (times indicated are local).