Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Impressions of Daytona - Sweet Sixteen?

For the second year running, there were sixteen caution periods during the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Despite an interruption that accounted for 1h 25m, during which time the race was actually stopped with the red flag, the time spent under full course caution this year was actually less than during the 2013 edition of the race.

Last year, you will remember, we had heavy fog in the early morning, which led to a full course caution of 1h 45m, so at the end of the race, the total time spent actually racing was seven-and-a-half minutes longer this year than last. With the cars stationery for around an hour while the rescue workers did their jobs following the Gidley/Malucelli incident, it was never going to be a record distance: in the end, the Corvette DP of Bourdais/Fittipaldi/Barbosa completed 695 laps, fourteen fewer than in 2013.

By the way, for the purposes of timing the race, I am assuming that the time spent stopped was actually part of the full course caution: but the “lap time” for the stoppage lap was just over an hour.

Had the cars been running behind the safety car for that period, they would certainly have been able to complete more laps than in 2013; but they weren’t, so they didn’t. In the end, the race distance (695 laps) was the same as in 2008, when there were 22 caution periods for 122 non-racing laps. I always struggle to count the number of laps under caution, what with wave-bys and what-not, but by my reckoning, the race winner passed the start/finish line 95 times while the yellows were waving.

I’ll confess here to not having followed the race itself very closely, as I had no professional involvement this year and too many other things to do at home on the domestic front. But from what I did see, it didn’t feel to have much of the American Le Mans Series about it and it did feel to have a lot of Grand-Am about it. I’m not really surprised by that, of course, as the United SportsCar Championship has clearly been a takeover rather than a merger, despite all assurances to the contrary.

From the data that has been forthcoming from the timekeepers, though, I have managed to extract the total time spent in the pits for the first three finishers, and it looks like this:

No. Car No. of stops Total Time in Pit Lane
5 Action Express Millenium 29 36m 59.915s
10 Velocity Wayne Taylor 30 40m 29.334s
9 Action Express 29 38m 23.274s

Note that, as regular readers will be aware, the time spent in the pit lane includes the time taken driving down the pit lane, and the pit exit point at Daytona is just round turn 1. By my calculation, the time taken for this without stopping is around 49s, at the mandatory speed limit of 60kph, so the actual time spent working on all three of these cars indicates the high reliability factor of the Corvette DP.

It is worth making the point that time lost in the pits during the Daytona 24 hours is not as significant as at other endurance races, though, since so much time can be recovered under the caution periods. Speed on the track (particularly in the last eight minutes), is all-important.

No analysis from me would be complete without looking at average lap times; even though a hard-earned few seconds gained on the track can be wiped out by someone else's front bumper lying on the track and causing another full course caution. Let's look at the fastest 100 laps of each of the top three finishers:

No. Car Average Lap Time
5 Action Express Millenium 1m 40.485s
10 Velocity Wayne Taylor 1m 40.196s
9 Action Express 1m 40.981s

For comparison, the average lap time over the same distance by last year’s winners, the Chip Ganassi Riley-BMW, was 1m 41.996s - an indication of the changed regulations as much as of technical progress, I fear.

Interestingly, the average of the no. 6 Muscle Milk Oreca-Nissan for its best 100 laps was 1m 41.653s, so maybe the organisers' performance balancing of DP and P2 could have been fairer. We'll see at Sebring - where again I will have no professional interest, unless someone reading this has any bright ideas!


  1. Paul if there was a way I could hire you to do this on every race, I would. This is an excellent analyst of the race just from the data you were able to get.

    I agree that the DP's needed to be sped up, the P2's should have been left alone. If the Oak Racing P2 hadn't been delayed by alt change I think you would have seen them be a factor in the final podium finishing order.

    This makes Sebring especially interesting because Daytona was very much former Grand Am teams turf, Sebring is very much former ALMS teams turf; they know where all secrets of speed are around there...

  2. Paul, you are one of the reasons I follow sports car racing. Your analysis and comment is exemplary. I hope I can buy you a beer at Le Mans this year. Andy Lloyd