Daytona. Racing under the lights


During the weekend of the Roar before the Rolex 24, teams have the opportunity to look at their car’s behaviour in the coolness of the evening in preparation for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

It also gives a chances for drivers to get used to driving in low light even though the track is all lit up, especially the oval of the Daytona International Speedway.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona is an endurance race that sees the longest part of the race being in darkness as the race starts at 2:35 in the afternoon. Being winter time, the sun sets just before 6pm to rise at about 7:15am the next day. This represents just over 13 hours of racing in darker and cooler conditions.

Compared to, let’s say, the 24 Hours of Le Mans where darkness lasts about 8 hours. The sun setting around 10pm and rising around 6am.

The session on Saturday evening took place after the dinner break from 6:45pm to 8pm.

For a good hour, the track had been quiet as teams were preparing for the fifth session of the weekend.

As soon as the green flag dropped though, the noise level was astounding. The track came alive in a way I have never experienced before. Not sure if it was the air density or simply my eardrums that suddenly felt the decibels level going through the roof.

Chills were running down my spine as drivers took to the track like they were on a one lap qualifying attempt, finding a way to better their lap times by pushing their braking point to the latest possible while adapting to the available visibility they had.

Brakes glowing in red, front and rear, every lap made it a spectacle the crowd enjoyed very much. Because the infield of Daytona International Speedway had been crowded all day Saturday during daytime. It was no different for the evening sessions as the infield grandstands and camping area were packed with race fans supporting their favourite team and driver(s).

At one point, I simply dropped my camera and stood in one spot and simply watched the cars speeding up onto the banking through corner one and two. Exiting corner two with the speed they carried and heading towards the bus stop on the backstretch was amazing. Then returning onto the oval for turns three and four at full speed to the start/finish line.

Closing your eyes, you can actually hear the different engine sound of the Porsche, Mazda, Cadillac, Corvette and Acura and know exactly where they are on the track.

When the checkered flag was thrown at 8pm, ending the session and the track went back to quietness, it left me wanting more.

Looking at the time sheets, and respective of the categories, the DPi, LMP2 and GTLM were separated by only 1.5 seconds. The top 15 GTD were within one second. The lap times as fast as the daytime sessions.

Can’t wait to experience the race at night at the Rolex 24 at Daytona… Counting the days…

Images: PMstills Photography

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