The Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge ... a 4 hour enduro race on the Friday afternoon


1981 Lancia Beta Monte Carlo s/n 1009

1981 Lancia Beta Monte Carlo s/n 1009

 

Daytona, 5 February, 2017

The Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge series provided the support race for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, billed as the BMW Endurance Challenge race, which this year was a greater challenge for competitors as it was a 4 hour enduro race on the Friday afternoon preceding the main event. The rules were slightly different for the 2017 season, in that IMSA now permit cars built to global GT4 specifications to run in the GS (Grand Sport) class, and this attracted a batch of GT4 Porsche Caymans, which had already a dispensation to run in the class, along with a trio of Aston Martin Vantage GT4s and a sextet of GT4 McLarens to do battle with the Ford Mustangs that won the 2016 Championship. There were a total of 40 cars in the entry list, 20 in the GS class and 20 in the ST (Street Tuner) class for less highly modified cars, with Porsche Caymans being dominant in numbers in both classes, 10 GT4 examples in the GS class and 9 “standard” examples in the ST class.

In the Thursday afternoon qualifying sessions, Dean Martin put the # 59 Ford Mustang that he was sharing with Jack Roush Jr. and Cameron Maugeri in pole position with a time of 1min 55.754secs, a scant 0.034sec ahead of the similar # 15 car of Jade Buford and Scott Maxwell in the Multimatic Motorsports entry, the 2016 Championship winning team. The # 76 360R entered McLaren GT4 of Paul Holton and Matt Plumb was next quickest, 0.606sec off the pole position time. In the ST class it was the # 18 Porsche Cayman entered by RS1 of Strauss / Bloum / Longhi that claimed the class pole position by a fraction under half a second from the # 75 360R entered Audi S3 of Block / Kleinubing.

Come the race and there were two non starters, one from each class, which still made for a pretty crowded track for the first few laps until things settled down. From the start the # 15 Mustang jumped the # 59 example in the run to Turn 1, and these two then proceeded to gradually ease away from their pursuers. However, as is so often the case in endurance racing, speed isn’t everything, and the # 59 car suffered with transmission problems, which saw it drop to 28th place, 16 laps adrift, by the end of the race, whilst the # 15 car was gradually overtaken by a quartet of Cayman GT4s, probably through a combination of better fuel consumption and race strategy, finishing 5th, but having the honour of the fastest race lap, a new class record, in 1min 55.752secs.

The race win went to the # 12 Porsche Cayman GT4 entered by Bodymotion Racing and driven by Trent Hindman and Cameron Cassels, the former had raced twice before in the series at Daytona, but this was his first win, and the latter had never raced at Daytona before, so maybe it was a case of third time lucky and beginner’s luck! The similar # 33 example entered by CJ Wilson Racing driven by Marc Miller and Till Bechtolsheimer finished 2nd only 0.577secs in arrears, with the same team’s # 35 car driven by Russell Ward and Damien Faulkner taking the final podium spot. The ST class victory was a first for the Mini JCW Team in the series, when their # 73 car of Mat Pombo and Derek Jones took the honours, finishing 1.568secs ahead of the # 56 Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman of Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss, with another Cayman, the # 17 RS1 entry of Spencer Pumpelly and Nick Galante only 0.090sec behind in 3rd place. It was quite a pleasant surprise for the Mini team, as it is nowhere near as aerodynamically efficient as the Caymans, especially on a high speed track like Daytona, but they managed to get the job done. The only incident of real consequence during the race occurred when the # 77 McLaren GT4 began leaking fluid on the track, causing numerous cars to spin on its deposit as it limped to a safe place to pull-off the track. This caused a lengthy caution period, whilst the marshals cleaned up the track to make it safe for racing again.

Although this was the only support race on the programme, there were plenty of other activities within the infield to entertain attendees through the course of the weekend, including the always popular autograph session, manufacturer displays, and a varied selection of cars that had raced in the 24 Hours over the years on display in the Fan Zone adjacent to the pit garages.

Keith Bluemel         
02/2017