CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If the Grand-Am’s Rolex season opening 24 Hour at Daytona was a Ford show, round two at Barber Motorsport Park just outside of Birmingham, Alabama, was a Corvette Daytona Prototype benefit.
Leading a one-two DP Corvette sweep were Antonio Garcia and Richard Westbrook, who were followed home cross the line by the similar Gainsco entry of Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney.
More important, perhaps, was the fact that the only car able to challenge, and them with no real hopes of moving past the GM twosome, was the Telmex BMW Riley of reigning Rolex titlists Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett. Indeed, had not Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli taken themselves out of contention because of penalties, their SunTrust back DP Corvette most likely would have been in the mix for the victory rather than finishing fifth.
So what changed?
Were the Corvettes, which underneath the bodywork and their Chevy V-8’s used three different chassis (Coyote, Riley and Dallara), that much better? Or was it just luck that the highest placing Ford was the Starworks Riley of Enzo Potolicchio and Ryan Dalziel, who at Daytona were second in the similar one-two sweep stage by Ford there?
The short answer is a bit of both. Over its more than decade existence, the Rolex tour has prided itself on close, exciting racing, something it has achieved through what is commonly referred to as “performance balancing.” In short, the Rolex like many other series around the world, manipulates its rules to keep things equal.
Purists may complain. But it has and continues to make the racing better for the fans, both in attendance and watching at home on television. Sometimes, though, one has to wonder whether or not sanctioning bodies are too quick to act in regard to revising their regulations.
At Daytona, the Fords were successful in more than just a little measure because of the ill fortunes which struck their Chevrolet rivals. The reversal of fortunes between the “Bow Tie” and “Blue Oval” encampments at Barber, while stunning, could be the result of the fact that Barber puts more of premium on handling, than does Daytona, rather than anything else.
However, at Barber, the Fords asked for and were denied the additional of downforce adding nose tabs, which did little to improve their handling. Yet, again, a Riley is a Riley, and the Telmex Riley of Mess Rojas and Pruett moved up two spots on the final lap to claim the show position on the podium.
Even so, it was clear in Alabama at the Porsche 250 that the Corvette Daytona Prototypes currently have the edge. It will be interesting to se what if anything the Grand-Am does about that.
Meanwhile, in the equally competitive GT production world the Mazda RX8 of Jonathon Bomarito and Sylvain Tremblay gave the rotary community hope with their first place performance.
However, neither the Mazda folks nor their Porsche counterparts, who included the third place Brumos GT3 of 2012 crown winners Andrew Davis and Leh Keen, should be resting easy.
The reason can be found in the second place effort of Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal, who this year are running a new Ferrari 458 Italia especially configured to the Grand-Am’s Rolex rules.
The presence of the mid-engined Ferrari and that of the Audi R8 coupe, likewise with its powerplant located behind the driver, but ahead of the rear axle, represents a new era for the Grand-Am, which heretofore as ignored the international community, but now seems to be embracing it with a new association with the people running the German Touring Car championship.
Where this expanded interest will take the Grand-Am is yet to be known. However, in a time when the regulations for sports car racing’s future are being formulated, the face of the Rolex tour could be changing.
Still, even if it does, the vision of tight competitive entertainment and how to achieve probably will not. And, that could be a good thing even if the Corvette prototypes have a temporary advantage.BREAKING NEWS: SPEED SPORT is back in print with a new monthly format! Subscribe for just $24.95. Special offer for former subscribers.