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Rolex 24 Preview

JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca LMP2. [Photo by Jack Webster]

JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca LMP2. [Photo by Jack Webster]

By Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

The pre-race testing is complete, the Roar before the 24 is history. Coming up next week is the event that race fans have been waiting for all winter: the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

It promises to be an outstanding race, as the quality of the entry list shows. There are 50 entries in the three classes. There are 20 prototype entries, 9 GTLM class cars and 21 GTD cars.

One has to go back to 1988 to find an entry list with more prototypes entered (22). That year was the height of GTP competition. Going all the way back to 1970, the Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512 era, there were 29 prototype entries, but beyond the top factory entries many of those prototypes did not stand much of a chance of the overall victory.

This year, however, you would be hard pressed to find a weak entry anywhere in the prototype ranks. With outstanding entries from the likes of Cadillac, Acura, Mazda, Nissan plus great LMP2 cars from Europe it would be difficult to find a better grid of cars anywhere in the world.

The race will see the debut of the Penske Acura team and the newly formed Mazda Team Joest. Those are a couple of organizations that know how to win. Also, Fernando Alonso will be making his Daytona debut driving a Ligier LMP2 for United Autosports. In all, 70 world class drivers will be sharing driving duties in the prototype class at Daytona.

And think about it. This is only the second year of IMSA’s new prototype class. With such an outstanding field for the first race of the season, what can we expect to see the rest of this year and beyond? Looks like the sky is the limit for IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Next Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of the Rolex 24 we will see a winner who will have certainly earned the victory. It is going to be a fast and close contest and likely there will be quite a few of the 20 entered prototypes vying for the overall win in the closing stages of the race.

This one is shaping up to be a classic, and if you can possibly make it to Daytona, you should go. They are going to be talking about this race for quite some time to come.

In addition to the outstanding prototype entry, the cars entered in the two GT classes (GTLM and GTD) are top notch as well.

In GTLM things will start up right where they left off last season with BMW, Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette and Ford fighting for the win. Of the GTLM manufacturers, all return with improved cars for 2018 with BMW fielding a pair of brand new M8 models.

In GTD, 21 cars will compete for class honors and as usual with this class, the victory could go to just about any of them. Strong cars from Audi, Lexus, Lamborghini, Mercedes-AMG, Acura, BMW and Porsche will do battle for the 24 hours. It looks to be anybody’s race to win, or lose.

The 2018 Rolex 24 is shaping up to be a true classic endurance contest. A total of 50 cars in three classes will take part. This race is going to be awesome.

We can’t wait for it to start.

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Jack Webster has been shooting motorsports since the early 1970’s, covering Formula One, CanAm, F5000, TransAm, GrandAm and American Le Mans races, among others. In addition to his photography, he has also worked on racing teams, both in IMSA and IndyCar, so has a complete knowledge of the inner workings of motorsport. Both his photography and writing can be seen here on racingnation.com. Eddie LePine has been involved in motorsports for over 30 years as photographer, columnist, and driver. Eddie also is now a retired racer (well, retired unless a good ride pops up). You can usually find Eddie in the paddock area, deep in conversation with a driver.