DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Gibson-powered ORECA 07 proved to be the dominant force of the Prototype Class at the Roar Before the Rolex 24.
Rebellion Racing’s Neel Jani was quickest in four of the first five practice sessions, but couldn’t quite top DragonSpeed hot shoe Ben Hanley on Sunday.
DragonSpeed earned the top time with the No. 81 during Sunday morning’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice. Hanley’s chart-topping 1:38.343 beat Mazda Motorsports’ Jonathan Bomarito by just .02 of a second.
“The driver lineups are impressive, there’s not weak team out there,” said Hanley. “Everything’s new for everybody. It’s a 24-hour race and anything can happen, we know that. We’ve just got to be there at the end and hope we can grab something.”
Hanley is new to Daytona Int’l Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course – as is Jani – and finds that it lives up to its reputation.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “The first impression when you drive close to the place, you see the huge grandstand and you see the banking when you come into the track. It’s a great experience to drive around here. The whole week has been an eye-opener for me and a good first few days racing in America.”
In GT Le Mans (GTLM), the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs would not be beaten at the Roar, with the top three fastest times in class set by Ford drivers. Ganassi’s IndyCar stars Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon were second and third on the charts, but it was 2016 WeatherTech Championship runner-up Ryan Briscoe who was quickest in class for the weekend in the No. 67 Ford GT. He set a 1:44.380 during Sunday morning’s WeatherTech Championship session.
Making up fourth through sixth quickest in GTLM were drivers from BMW, Ferrari and Corvette Racing.
In GT Daytona, Porsche factory driver Sven Muller took the No. 59 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R to the top, with the quickest time of 1:46.810 also set on Sunday morning.
Performance Tech Motorsports went fastest in Prototype Challenge, with James French setting a 1:41.888, just beating out teammate Patricio O’Ward.
During Sunday morning’s practice session, Corvette Racing’s Marcel Fässler stopped the No. 4 Corvette between Speedway turns one and two, where the car proceeded to catch fire.
“During this morning’s practice session at Daytona, the No. 4 Corvette C7.R experienced an issue with a fuel line that allowed fuel to escape, contact a hot surface and ignite,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “The fire was quickly extinguished, and the damage was limited to the engine compartment of the car.”
Fässler received a mandatory ride to the infield care center, where he was quickly evaluated and released by IMSA medical staff. The sister No. 3 car was withdrawn from final practice as well as a precaution, but the team is confident that both cars will be ready to race come the Rolex 24 At Daytona at the end of the month.
It was a case of déjà vu for Corvette Racing, as the No. 4 caught fire during the 2016 Roar. Time will tell if additional history will repeat for the team this year, as the No. 4 Corvette went on to win Daytona, Sebring, Lime Rock (Corvette Racing’s 100th win), Road America en route to the 2016 WeatherTech Championship GTLM title.