The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season just ended in mid-October, but most of the teams that plan on racing in 2024 were at Daytona last week for testing, including the three BMW teams that are regulars in the series.
The IMSA test days at Daytona were held for two purposes. One was to set the balance of performance (BoP) for the upcoming Rolex 24 at Daytona race in late January. Since the Daytona circuit is so much different than any other track the series races on, with much of the lap done on the superspeedway oval, the BoP for Daytona is set differently than for other races.
The second primary purpose for the IMSA test was so the GTD Pro and GTD teams could get more experience with the new Michelin Pilot Sport Pro GT H1 tire that is new to those classes for 2024. The inspiration for that tire came from the confidential tires that were used in the GTE class in the FIA World Endurance Championship last season and makes advancements in performance and sustainability. Several teams tested the tire at Watkins Glen after the race there in June but got more time with it at Daytona. “One thing we do in GT racing here in the U.S. is use one tire for the entire season,” said Michelins Taylor Jenkins in an interview on Sportscar365.com. “If you think about what that means, it’s track temperatures in the middle of the night at Daytona at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, all the way to what we see at Watkins Glen, 130 degrees, which sometimes we see in the middle of the summer. We’ve focused on warmup but not giving up any performance. I think that was something we’ve certainly saw in the testing at Watkins Glen this summer.”
Both BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8 prototypes were at Daytona for the test days, with Jesse Krohn and Augusto Farfus handling the driving in the #24 car and Connor De Phillippi and Maxime Martin driving the #25. BMW has yet to announce the driver lineups for those cars for 2024, but we shouldn’t read into it too much. I think it’s unlikely we’ll see Farfus and Eng back together for the full season in the #24 car, but Nick Yelloly (who drove with De Phillippi in the #25 car in 2023) was competing in the Gulf 12 Hours with BMW M Team WRT during the Daytona tests, so couldn’t make it. We do know most of the drivers who will be in the cars for the Rolex 24, as IMSA has already released preliminary entry lists. The #24 car will be driven by Jesse Krohn, Augusto Farfus, Dries Vanthoor and a still to be announced fourth driver. The #25 will be driven by Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly, Maxime Martin, and a still to be announced fourth driver.
In the GT ranks, the Paul Miller Racing team was at Daytona with their #1 M4 GT3 driven by Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow. The 2024 season will be the first year that Paul Miller Racing will be competing in GTD PRO, and Sellers and Snow will be joined at the Rolex 24 by works drivers Neil Verhagen and Sheldon van der Linde. Verhagen will also be with Sellers and Snow for the four other Endurance Cup races at Sebring, Watkins Glen, Indianapolis, and Road Atlanta.
Turner Motorsport was also at the Daytona tests with their #96 M4 GT3 driven by Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher, who shared the car in the 2023 season. They’ll be joined at Daytona by works driver Jens Klingmann as well as seventeen-year-old Jake Walker, who will also join Foley and Gallagher for all the Endurance Cup races. Walker impressed in the ST Racing M4 GT3 in the Indy 8 Hour back in October and also has experience racing in Lamborghini Super Trofeo.
The IMSA teams will be back at Daytona for “Roar Before the 24” testing on January 19th-21st, followed by the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 24th-28th. —David Haueter
[Photo courtesy LAT Images]