Rolex 24 Hours: Great Weather (2020)

It’s the race that’s twice around the clock (well the one in the United States). Pushing both man and machine to the absolute limit. One of the greatest things about experiencing the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, is hearing that if you get to that last hour it just takes one small action to ruin the race. If last year’s race (read that recap HERE) suffered rain, this race was won by sunshine. Of course the year I’m not there the race has absolutely gorgeous weather and, spoiler alert, breaks all types of records. Telling the story of a twenty-four race is pretty hard, so instead you’re getting “The Good”, “The Bad”, and “The Immortal”.

The Good

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Hooray to Ben Hanley and the rest of the DragonSpeed crew! For the second year in a row the team clenched a win in the LMP2 category. What makes this an even more unique win is that, the 2020 winners were completely different then the 2019 winners. This year is a bit special as it included INDYCAR driver, and someone I love to cheer for, Ben Hanley. DragonSpeed had an uneventful race, this is what you want in a twenty-four hour race. No noticeable time-wasting issues with the car, no penalties, a good battle with the other LMP2 cars. Kicking off a season of both WEC and INDYCAR races for DragonSpeed, a class win is a great way to start the season.

Mazda gets a shout-out for not catching on fire this year. It’s obvious Mazda really took the heart their reliability issues from the past endurance races and went to fix it. None of the cars caught fire, sure they had some issues throughout the race – but they finished! One more manufacture to get a shout-out: Porsche. At the end of the race they gave no team orders. The cars raced like there were no team orders. Unfortunately they didn’t win the GTLM class. I’m firmly against team orders and for letting drivers race. Doing it at approximately twenty-three hours and thirty-minutes is peak racing for me.

Also a big hooray to a race that only had five cars retire. Five out of the whole field. It should again be repeated that the weather was perfection.

The Bad

Team Penske, how you break my heart. The #6 car had mechanical issues, but the #7 car had one of those races all drivers would soon forget. It started with Ricky Taylor absolutely smashing the car up during qualifications. The car didn’t fare any better during the race. The #55 Mazda (driven by Harry Ticknell) drove right into the car at the bus stop. Barely four hours had transpired. The #7 found itself laps and laps behind the rest of the field. It gave us the greatest Helio Castroneves interview in quite some years (check it out here and you’re welcome). They never fully recovered and finished approximately twenty-two laps down from the winner. The Acuras just had issues the whole race. There were tire issues they’d been dealing with the whole weekend and ride height issues. This makes the first time I’ve officially used the term “ride height”. It means the distance between the racetrack and the bottom of the car’s tub. If it’s too low the drivers are going to feel every bump. The bottom of the car, and bet the suspension, is going to get more and more beat up as the race went on. Hopefully the Penske boys fair better next year.

GEAR

I’d just really want the all-female racing team to finish the race with a strong car. Last year mechanical issues plagued them all race. This year there were some initial issues, and then during the 20th hour – the car caught on fire. Not a small fire – fully engulfed in flames. Christina Nielsen managed to get the car pulled over, got out, and tried to suppress the fire with the internal controls. Last I knew, they didn’t have a clue what started the fire, it was a bit tough to figure out with the back of the car nearly unrecognizable. The picture below is not the screen blacked out due to connectivity issues. That’s what the view looked like for Christina right before she got out of the car.

Ending on a note of just personal preference. Dear Corvette, I’m happy you have a new overhaul, I truly am. Just don’t call your new car the C8.R and have the moniker “CAR”.

The Immortal

Ben Keeting is a man of immortal stamina. A twenty-four hour race is tough enough if you’re just driving in one car. Keeting decided in 2020 to do the twenty-four hours race in two different cars. The idea alone, he also has just a logistical nightmare. IMSA requires the drivers have a minimum time they must spend outside of the car following a stint. I appreciate Keeting having one watch just dedicated to keeping that time requirement. Drivers have to have a minimum of four-hours in the car…and Keeting hit that minimum for both cars. Eight hours at least, you have to have about two hours outside of the car between stints, I can’t do the math but that’s not enough sleep time. The one drawback of his story is neither car one. It would have been great if one car won, it would have been epic if both cars won.

Black Swan, the car was destroyed in Thursday practice. To the point, it didn’t seem like they’d make it to the race. With some help from other teams, the car was rebuilt. Per IMSA you have to use as many original pieces on the car, so that was done. The team also had to get waivers since, due to the crash, some drivers did not get the mandatory night time practice. This counts as one of the few times IMSA made great decisions (looking at you BOP). Black Swan ended the race in 4th in the GTD class, not too shabby if you didn’t really think the race was going to happen.

Briscoe

I’ve created a new religion. Ryan Briscoe is our lord and savior. The man first ended up having to serve a stop-and-hold penalty when the car was in first place. Not just any stop-and-hold, sixty seconds. Sixty seconds for missing a red light on pit lane. The light is to help the cars not blend out right in the middle of traffic. I get this, but if you look at the film that light turned red just as he hit the line (some of us tend to speed up at that moment to make the yellow). A sixty second hold put the car a lap down. He turned around to drive the hell out of the #10 to not only get the lap back, but beat the #77 out of the pit and got first place. The car went on to win, and I now only follow the teachings of Ryan Briscoe. Just no one tell my mom.

It was just a race weekend to remember. The race broke the longest green flag racing streak and the most laps ran in the race. Plus again, FCFG pulled a Penske. I think next year we should call it the Penske 24 Hour challenge – thoughts?

-Molly

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