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A beginner’s guide to the 24 Hours at Daytona

A beginner’s guide to the 24 Hours at Daytona

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A beginner’s guide to the 24 Hours at Daytona

A beginner’s guide to the 24 Hours at Daytona

The 24 Hours at Daytona takes place across this weekend as the beginning of the American professional motorsports season gets underway.

Renowned as the jewel in the crown of the International Motor Sports Association [IMSA], the event is being held for the 55th time.

Former Formula 1 driver Felipe Nasr is on pole for the event in the Action Express Cadillac, partnering Pipo Derani, Toyota's Le Mans victor Mike Conway and Nascar champion Chase Elliott.

With Kevin Magnussen fresh out of F1 and into the Chip Ganassi-run Cadillac for his first sportscar race amongst a host of other famous faces, here is a beginner's guide to the 24 Hours at Daytona.

The Race

Much like Le Mans, or indeed the Indianapolis 500, the 24 Hours at Daytona attracts one-off entries, as is its standing in American motorsport.

The occasion may not be as grand nor as prestigious as its French counterpart but do not be fooled into thinking this race pales by comparison.

The race is seen as the traditional opener to the American season, soon followed by the famous Daytona 500 Nascar race.

With the first iteration held in 1966 - the heart of the Ford versus Ferrari war - a lot was riding on the race as an indicator for the car manufacturers as to who had the most development work to do before heading to France.

The inaugural race was won by Ford courtesy of Lloyd Ruby and Briton Ken Miles, but Ferrari hit straight back a year later with a 1-2-3 formation finish. The backstory was set then for a continuous 24-hour event on American soil.

The track is, unlike Le Mans, entirely within the speedway setting at Daytona, meaning no public roads are raced on during the event.

The layout is akin to the grand prix circuit at Indianapolis, where the track is etched into the infield section adjoined to the banking of the more traditional oval.

With 12 corners, the three-and-a-half mile layout is by no means simple to navigate, with the most distinctive feature being the transitions between road course and oval.

The race was once aligned perfectly with the Le Mans Series. Indeed, it was once part of the World Sportscar Championship until being dropped by the series in 1982.

When the Daytona Prototype (DPi) class was introduced in 2002, the regulations between the IMSA series and Le Mans Series diverged from each other, meaning teams would not, therefore, compete in both 24-hour races.

But with the new LMDh rules entering the World Endurance Championship, the regulations are again-converging, meaning Le Mans machinery will take part in this weekend's event.

The car classes involved are the DPi, Le Mans Prototype (LMP) 2 and 3, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona.

The DPi class will feature seven teams of three-or-four professional drivers, as will the GTLM class, whereas all other classes will have teams featuring a silver or bronze-class driver. This means an amateur or over-55 professional must be included in the team line-up.

Qualifying took place last weekend with a one hour and 40-minute race, with two drivers from each team competing for optimal grid position ahead of Saturday's start.

Nasr and Derani secured pole, with Magnussen and Renger van der Zande qualifying seventh and last in class.

Although rain fell last weekend at the venue, the weather forecast for the race this weekend is scheduled to be dry.

Who to watch out for?

The race has previously seen active F1 drivers participate in the race, most recently Fernando Alonso when he partnered then-McLaren junior driver Lando Norris at Zak Brown's United Autosport's team.

Although no active drivers are there this weekend, there are multiple former F1 drivers involved this weekend.

Aside from Magnussen and former Sauber man Nasr, the DPi class also includes ex-Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Buemi, Alexander Rossi, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kamui Kobayashi, who partners seven-time NASCAR champion, Jimmie Johnson.

Alfa Romeo reserve driver Robert Kubica will drive for High Class Racing in LMP2, whilst Giedo Van der Garde lines up in the Racing Team Nederland entry.

In the GTLM class, BMW will field former Jordan, Toyota and Virgin driver Timo Glock whilst ex-Minardi man and endurance racing stalwart Gianmaria Bruni will drive for the Proton-run Porsche.

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