The 2017 Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona race was this past January 28-29th and my good friend Chris Wynne was there to photograph it and was kind enough to share the photos here. Sporting a huge camera with a bunch of fancy lenses, he got some amazing shots of the action from the spectator section that rival if not beat anything I’ve seen from the pros. Just look at the glowing brakes and panning action shot above and you’ll see what I mean! If you’re digging the pictures, be sure to check out Chris’s Facebook Page for his own racing effort, FTWynne Motorsports.
At the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona Audi provided the official pace car, an Audi R8 V10 Plus, and all three Audi R8 LMS race cars that participated placed in the top six positions for their class, which was the GTD (GT Daytona) class. While no 24 hour race is ever easy, this years race was exceptionally hard due to 15 hours of rain at near freezing temperatures during an unusual cold spell in (what is normally) sunny Florida. Nonetheless, Audi grabbed second place in car #29 belonging to Land Motorsports, followed by car #57 of Stevenson Motorsports in fourth place and car #23 of Alex Job Racing in sixth. The first place finisher in GTD was a Porsche 911 GT3, so keeping it in the VAG family, and third place was a Mercedes AMG GT3GCGTD for what it’s worth.
The results are especially encouraging for Audi since the new R8 LMS shares more than 50 percent of its part with the standard R8, including the engine and frame. Audi’s goal is to take the “Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday” to the next level by making their race car and the street car largely one in the same. The GTD class that the R8 LMS raced in had everything from its sister car, the Lamborghini Huracan GT3, to the Acura NSX GT3, AMG GT, 911 GT3, Aston Martin Vantage, and so-on so it’s impressive to see Audi hold its own with such a competitive class. For many supercar buyers it’s easy to dismiss the R8 as the more “tame” version of the Huracan, but placing high in competitive racing shows that the R8 isn’t just a Grand Tourer or watered down Lambo, it’s also a race-proven track weapon that can hang with (and beat) pretty much any supercar out there.
It’s also important to note there are two “GT” classes that race in Daytona – GT Le Mans (GTLM) is for professional drivers sponsored by the manufacturer, whereas GT Daytona (GTD) is for amateur drivers who are self-funded or sponsored by third-parties and thus not official manufacturer backed efforts. The Audi Sport customer racing program makes the R8 LMS cars available for the “amateur” race driver, and this program has seen a lot of interest from all of the major powerhouses in racing from GMG to Flying Lizard and so-on. With the fall-out from Dieselgate still looming, the Audi Sport customer racing program allows Audi to continue its long Motorsport heritage without the manufacturer having to dump a ton of money into funding its own race teams, instead letting private race teams buy the factory race car and self fund their program. As many Audiphiles know, Audi also withdrew from the 24 Hours of LeMans this past year due to funding issues related to Dieselgate-related losses, so needless to say without this customer racing program Audi might not be racing at all in events like this.
The other cool thing about this race, besides the variety of cars and drivers, is that it is the only true 24 hour race in North America. It is essentially the American equivalent of the 24 hours of Le Mans, which most Audi fans should know plenty of about after watching the “Truth in 24” documentary series produced by Audi. I’m told the event itself is a blast to attend, as many spectators do their best to stay up all night and into the morning to watch the full race and enjoy tons of parties and even take a ride on the infield Ferris wheel. Daytona is known as a bit of a “Spring Break” destination so when you combine world-class racing with a fantastic tourist destination it’s going to be fun. There is also a separate race that occurs in tandem, a 4 hour race called the Continental Tire Sports Car challenge, that opens the field to a ton of other road cars that are fun to watch for those with shorter attention spans.
After doing a few endurance races (both in a car, and running marathons on foot), I can tell you that endurance racing takes the sport to an entirely new level. Often times just staying on the track for a full 24 hours without a mechanical break down or penalty can make you pretty darn competitive. A 24 hour race is a true test of both the driver’s stamina as well as the car’s endurance. Driving at incredible speeds and pushing the car to the limits for this long makes the risk of a momentary slip up all but inevitable, especially with such a wide variety of cars competing resulting in tons of passing and overtaking occurring every lap. It takes a ton of concentration and focus to succeed in these races, and a race can be over in a split second or one bad judgement call. There are 86,400 seconds in 24 hours, which means there are a lot of chances for things to go sideways.
As always, a big thanks to Chris for supplying the amazing photos here to share here. I’ve included a few more of my favorite shots below, then a link to his gallery on OneDrive for the rest, included the non-Audi cars like the new Ford GT which is pretty nice to look at if you have some more time. You can also check out my past year’s coverage here: 2014 Coverage by Will Patterson, 2013 Coverage by Chris Wynne.
You can view his full album here: