Big, loud, fast, and cold. Those are the words come to mind when I think of my first trip to the Rolex 24 at Daytona on the last weekend in January. I expected some level of each before I arrived, but not to the extent that I actually experienced.
Daytona is Big! The grandstands are four levels high and stretch along the entire straight from one corner to the other. The legendary banked turns look impressive from the infield, but take a hot lap with Matt Mullins or Mike Renner in one of the BMW Performance Center M3s, and you’ll see them from an entirely different perspective—fast and leaning to your left.
I spent much of the race close to the action, right along the track fence. The cars come by fast and loud, and viewing for spectators was fantastic. Up in the grandstands, you could see the entire track from one location. Night is my favorite time to watch a race and there’s plenty of it in a 24-hour race. Many of the cars have beautiful lighting and the glow of rotors heating up before a turn at night is a sight to behold.
This year was the coldest Rolex 24 ever—and it sure felt like it! Even in the bright Florida sun, actual temperatures were in the 30s during the days and we saw wind-chill temps in the twenties. It was manageable, but I’m glad I brought my warm clothes on this trip.
Overall, how was my first trip to the Rolex24? In a word, fantastic! The experience of being at this world-famous track, seeing the American debut of the new BMW M4 GT3, hanging out with friends from the BMW CCA and the BMW Performance Center, seeing and hearing these tremendous cars racing for 24 hours and, yes, even the unique-to-Florida cold weather made this a weekend to remember.—Doug Verner, M Chapter