The ROLEX 24 at Daytona marks the beginning of the American racing season. Their are 49 official entries across 5 classes. The BMW Endurance Challenge, set for Friday (January 29) features 42 entries. With all of these cars, a world-wide list of manufacturers and a who’s who tag on world class drivers, it is often difficult to follow.
To help, Andy Blackmore Design offers a top notch showcase of the cars and the drivers. The ROLEX 24 / BMW Spotter Guide for IMSA is a must have to follow along. The art is detailed, colorful and informative. The Blackmore Spotter Guides have been a premiere display for quite a while and available online at spotterguides.com.
We can focus on details of Balance Of Performance or which body style favors aerodynamics or if Jimmie Johnson will drive a Cadillac faster than Chase Elliott or how fast AJ Allmendinger can run from the driver door to the broadcast booth… But why…? For many, none of that matters. Watching some good racing and having an idea of what is going on is much more important.
The Spotter Guide helps. All of us are not caught up with every spec and every driver’s family tree. Watching some sexy cars make turns and getting a little drama out of the personalities is just fine with us.
Its a week away from the ROLEX 24 and what do we know…? If the qualifying run in the Motul Pole Award 100 was any indication we’re in for some good racing to officially open the IMSA season book for 2021.
We’ve seen Jimmie Johnson wrestle with the ALLY #48 Cadillac. With NASCAR in his rear view and some INDY action on the horizon Johnson is using the ROLEX to get some wheel time variety. He’ll have some experience sharing the driver seat with Kamui Kobayashi, Simon Pagenaud, Mike Rockenfeller. All have 24 hour Daytona experience and multiple series history for road racing. The off track conversation should also be fun with Japan, France, Germany and USA mixing accents.
Action Express is backing the ALLY #48 but also have 2020 NASCAR Champion Chase Elliott in another Cadillac, the Whelen Engineering #31. He’ll be joined by Action team drivers bringing lots of experience to keep Chase on track. Pipo Derani, Felipe Nasr and Mike Conway have years combined to push the competition.
Meyer Shank Racing will be putting commentator and driver A.J. Allmendinger on track with previous ROLEX 24 winner Juan Pablo Montoya. Beyond Montoya’s multiple series skill set, the Sirius XM / AutoNation #60 Acura will seat Dane Cameron and Olivier Pla.
What else…? INDYCAR is well represented for the ROLEX. There are very talented female drivers sharing the seat of the #88 GTD Team Hardpoint Porsche. Katherine Legge and Christina Nielsen share the car with Rob Ferriol and Earl Bamber. The GTD class is also the most crowded with 19 cars in the field.
The LMP3 class is being added to the main event for 2021 making five series running in the ROLEX 24. Previously, LMP3 had run with a Prototype Challenge event. All five classes ran practice in the Roar Before the 24 and the Motul Pole Award 100, which is also a new qualifying segment for 2021.
For the pole, Action Express #31 came across on top after starting at the rear of the DPi class. A weight penalty put them back. The advance to the front in the short order of the qualifying race shows the strength of the #31 team as a preview of the ROLEX 24.
Racing has rules… And etiquette. Much of this is communicated to the drivers with flags at safety stations located at key areas around a race course. You’ve seen them… waving different flags as the cars go by. This is not about the flags or what they mean. This is about one of the men who is in charge of those flags.
Bill Tyree is one of those fellows. The gentleman enforcers of the racing etiquette and safety. Bill has been seen by practically every driver of every event at Virginia International Raceway for several years. Granted, it’s in a flash of speed with a glance of the eye. Even under caution with yellow flag in hand, the drivers see the color and concentrate on their job. His job is to keep the yellow visible until the track is safe and the green flag is in hand to go racing again. There is, however, much more to Mr. Tyree than the flags at VIR. As serious as he is about the responsibility and the pride he has in his association with that race track, there is more.
Sunbeam Auto Restorations. A dedicated and going concern which, over time and circumstance, has remained as a loving hobby. The focus is on British roadsters and similar species. The origin was the love of the Sunbeam Alpine and Sunbeam Tiger. The style of which was bred into so many to follow, including the MG roadsters currently taking residence in his garage. One is his own, restored from a less than glamorous example. The other, a friendly client’s golden color 1973 model in for some upgrades on maintenance.
Bill is quite knowledgeable of the British lineage of automobile. It’s an early passion that originated a business, and was also instrumental in the interest at Virginia International Raceway. VIR hosts several events, many of which draw car enthusiasts of all kinds. It was one of these events that drew Bill to the flag stand.
It is the love of the car that keeps it all wide open. It even includes the 1939 Chevy Sedan being given a road ready boost so it can be enjoyed as close to original as possible. It is the same for the British roadster… Enjoy as it is, not compared to fuel injection and driver assist and computers under the hood but as a bit of forward motion engineered for enthusiasm.
The Pontiac…? It’s an anniversary edition Daytona 500 Trans Am that was dropped into his hands and, like all of his projects, brought up to condition with the attention to detail that gave Sunbeam Auto a quality reputation. It’s a daily driver now…
Bill Tyree has many interests. The association with racing at Virginia International Raceway, the enthusiasm of the automobile, the hands on love of classic British style are key ingredients. Sunbeam Auto remains as a hobby to assist fellow enthusiasts. It’s as much a mechanical thing as it is a social thing.
He’s also a gracious host. At a recent, but small and covid aware event at his garage, the discussion ranged from MG upgrades to pre-WWII Chevy water pumps to leaky BMW valve cover gaskets….
I’m afraid I owe him a biscuit for that Bimmer info…
Racing is back. Amidst the further menace of covid and the stress of restriction and uncertainty… Racing is back. Changes are many. Some class changes with entry numbers. A new addition of the LMP3 class. Among these is Core Autosport with their new #54 LMP3. The Porsche support of their previous entries (#911 & #912) ended at the end of 2020. The Porsche badge is not totally gone in GTLM, as WeatherTech Racing has put their wheel in the Porsche RSR #79 moving up from the GTD class which they ran with the #63 Ferarri.
The NASCAR season open is rapidly approaching. First, however, is all eyes on the curves and variety of the ROLEX 24. The prelude, of course, is the “Roar Before The 24”. There will be a good turn of entries practicing at “The Roar” with teams in new equipment to burn in and some even running limited schedules. Daytona is the focus of motorsport in the United States for the next month. A new President is in Washington. The decisions made will echo from the White House and into all facets of life in general, especially for covid and any further restrictions along with it. The grease is ready for the wheels but the caution flag is still waving. For fans…? Well… It’s a good thing televisions are cheap. Restrictions will limit fans on site for the ROLEX 24 and the Daytona 500. Vaccines are out but progress is still being measured in laps rather than total victories. It’s going to be a while further… For now… if you’re one of the few that will be on site, be gracious and follow the rules so the rest of us can follow later on. For the rest, on the couches across the country… Let’s go racing!