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Rolex 24

Excitement is building ahead of the 2020 Rolex 24 Hours

The 2019 IMSA season came to a close just last month at Road Atlanta, but already the teams and drivers are hard at work ahead of January’s Rolex 24 Hours, which kicks off the 2020 IMSA campaign.

Last season was full of twists and turns, with spectacular racing throughout the calendar year. It was a fitting tribute to IMSA, which celebrated its 50th anniversary, and Scott Atherton, IMSA’s President who retired at the end of the year after a 34-year career in the sport. Thus, IMSA’s 51st season next year feels like it will mark the start of a new era.

Rolex 24
Rolex 24

It would be easy to overlook next year, because DPi 2.0 (which will debut in 2022) is closing in, the new regulations currently being discussed by teams and manufacturers alike to shape the future of the WeatherTech Championship’s top class. But John Doonan, the former head of Mazda Motorsport who has moved in to take over as President has other plans. He’s hard at work to ensure that we have a huge grid packed with world-class teams and drivers to watch come January. There is still plenty more news to come, but thus far it looks like all four classes will be backed with storylines to follow.

In DPi, Mazda and Acura will return, both marques full of confidence that they can challenge for wins at the big races and titles after they took huge strides in 2019. The big turnaround was clearly in the Mazda camp. Further development work during the winter ahead of the season paid off.

After a slow start to the season, with another round of disappointing trips to Daytona and Sebring things began to pick up and the team took three straight wins from Watkins Glen onwards to break their duck. The breakthrough at ‘The Glen’ proved many things, that the team could work a good strategy and that the RT-24P was capable of being both fast and reliable in an endurance race. It was one of the most memorable races since the turn of the century in IMSA, which provided a hugely popular result in and around the paddock.

The target therefore, is a victory at Daytona. We know from testing and qualifying at Daytona this year that the RT24-P suits the circuit – it broke the all-time lap record. Now, if the drivers keep it clean and the car stays reliable, then they have as good a chance as anyone in the field. Penske Team Acura meanwhile, will return to Daytona for a third time with the same set of drivers, and a pair of ARX-05s that have been put through a huge test programme at the Floridian circuit since the end of the 2019 season. Roger Penske will be frustrated that wins at Sebring and Daytona has eluded his team in the first two years of its DPi programme. His track record shows that he can turn things around. If he does then that would break Cadillac’s streak of DPi victories at the Rolex 24.

Rolex 24
Rolex 24

What does Cadillac’s effort look like in 2020? That’s still forming. But 2019 Rolex 24 winner Wayne Taylor Racing returns with a fresh line-up, former Ford GTLM factory driver Ryan Briscoe joins returnee Renger van der Zande for the full season, the duo joined by Toyota WEC star Kamui Kobayashi and another ex-Ford driver Scott Dixon for the big 24 Hour to start the season. Action Express is concentrating on a single Cadillac this season, but it is going to run with a formidable line up once again.

Elsewhere, the other classes have seen boosts.

The GTLM category will be in the spotlight at Daytona when Corvette Racing debuts its hotly-anticipated C8.R. The new, mid-engined V8, will sound rather different to its predecessors, but it will still be loud, and stand out in the huge field that looks to be assembling.

GTD too will see many returning teams and drivers across a slew of manufacturers. Like NASCAR? Well the 24 will be treated to an appearance from Kyle Busch, a superstar in his own right, who has scored a Lexus GTD drive with Aim Vasser Sullivan. He joins a long list of stockcar stars that have taken on the Rolex 24 over the years. Jeff Gordon won the race overall just two years ago, will Busch, who is likely to bring a horde of supporters with him, be another NASCAR talent to leave Florida with a ‘watch’?

The biggest surprise is LMP2. Last year just four cars raced at Daytona and just two saw out the season. But a change to the category’s calendar (which is shorter than before) has sparked a surge in interest. Right now, PR1, Performance Tech, Era Motorsport, DragonSpeed and Rick Ware Racing have all confirmed entries, and better still, more announcements are expected.

Still not sold? From experience, I can say that the Rolex 24 has to be seen to be believed. It is a sportscar event, that like the Nürburgring 24, Le Mans 24, and Sebring 12 Hours, has its own character. It feels box office, it feels like you’re witnessing history. Standing in the infield under the floodlights, with fireworks going off overhead, surrounded by some of the most hallowed strips of race track in North America, filling your ears with sound of the sound of 50+ sportscars, is something you don’t get elsewhere. Sitting atop the collosal grandstand on the pit straight, with a view of the entire circuit, is also something that should be on every motorsport fan’s bucket list.

Rolex 24
Rolex 24

For 11 months a year, Daytona International Speedway is a NASCAR cathedral, visited by people from all over the world for its association with stock car racing. But in January, it’s a temple of endurance. You can shrug it off as ‘just an oval’, but you’d be wrong. There’s a whole lot more to it than that when IMSA’s trucks take over the paddock in January.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

You can join us at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January. We have limited availability, so be quick! Please call our reservations team to reserve your place track-side.

LMP1

Game on in LMP1

After Rebellion’s Win In China, It’s Game On In LMP1

After the (new-for-Season 8) success handicap system produced a couple of exciting laps at Fuji back in October, the package of restrictions on the pair of Toyotas reached their maximum levels in Shanghai and delivered a remarkable result; a win for Rebellion Racing.

The two all-conquering TS050 HYBRIDs ran with less hybrid boost, more weight, and a restriction in the pits to offset their advantage in the speed in which they can pull out of their pit box (between 1-2 seconds faster than the privateer cars), the field finally looked more balanced, and it produced the best racing the class has seen since Porsche’s exit in 2017.

As early as practice on Friday, it looked like Toyota would be in trouble, its cars were seconds slower than the single Rebellion R-13 and pair of Team LNT Ginettas. Then in Qualifying, with low fuel and fresh tyres, the Rebellion took pole and the Ginettas slotted in second and third, with their Japanese-flagged rival settling for fourth and fifth on the grid.

The Shanghai circuit, with its lengthy straights, was always going to play into the hands of the privateer LMP1s, which are significantly faster in the top speed department. Toyota and its band of drivers made it clear on Day 1 to the media that it would struggle in Qualifying, but have enough pace during full stints in the race to see off the competition again and make it three wins in a row to start the season.

The inherent advantage that Toyota has with hybrid boost, which gives it extra punch through traffic and through corners has always caused the privateer runners, with their non-hybrid combustion engines to fade fast during the race, despite having single-lap pace to match up against the Toyotas. Not this time though!

At the start of the race it looked like the Swiss-flagged team’s hopes of winning met an early end. The #1 Rebellion R-13, with Norman Nato at the wheel, was swallowed up by the field and fell to sixth. After starting from pole he was jumped at the line by the Ginettas and #7 Toyota, before struggling with tyre temperature in the opening laps. Thus the Team LNT Ginettas stormed off into the lead, with the Toyotas chasing.

LMP1

The two Ginettas drove away from the field, Charlie Robertson in the #6 G60-LT-P1 turning heads out front, setting the fastest lap of the race on Lap 2, some 1.3 seconds faster than the fastest lap by anything other than a Ginetta.

The pair led until the first set of stops, the #6 continuing to lead at the hour mark, before both cars dived into the pits to serve a penalty for jumping the start. The #7 Toyota was also handed a drive-through, the valuable time lost by all three proving costly by the end of the race. It effectively dropped the trio behind the Rebellion and the #8 Toyota, with a deficit that they would not recover from. Notably, the Ginettas suffered perhaps a little more than the other LMP1s too, all of which lost a chunk of pace to a track that became littered with tyre marbles, which meant any move off-line to overtake caused a severe loss of grip.

This left the #1 Rebellion and the #8 Toyota, both of which had a clean, faultless race, to battle it out for the win. The recovering Rebellion climbed the order after its slow start, and through sheer grit and determination from Bruno Senna and Gustavo Menezes and it should be noted, a clear performance advantage, went toe-to-toe with the Toyotas in a way they were unable to before.

While Sebastien Buemi vented his frustration after the race about the Toyotas’ inability to keep up with any of the prototypes (LMP2 cars included) down the straights, Brendon Hartley, his teammate, said he was encouraged by the racing the new rules had created. The difference in the way that the hybrid and non-hybrid cars produce lap times has never been more apparent.

The Toyotas looked visibly faster through traffic, and the R-13 and G60s looked staggeringly quick down the straights. It made for some entertaining on-track battles, all five cars at various points involved in door-to-door tussles, in which the drivers were forced to take advantage of the strengths of their cars to make up positions. “It was the best racing we’ve seen in the LMP1 class of the WEC for a long long time,” Menezes said after the race. “This championship needed this.”

LMP1

As the race wore on, the fear that the Rebellion crew had about a disparity in tyre degradation and fuel consumption compared to the Toyotas, proved groundless. The advantage in pace was consistent throughout, the #1 eventually lapping one of the Toyotas en route to victory. It was the first for Rebellion since Silverstone last year when both TS050 HYBRIDs lost their 1-2 finish to a post-race disqualification, and ended Toyota’s eight-race winning streak. It was also the first-ever privateer win in the WEC ‘on the road’ and the first, non-hybrid victory (the result at Silverstone last year aside) since the very first WEC race at Sebring in 2012 when Audi’s TDI-powered R18s still held sway before the imminent introduction of the hybrid-powered e-Tron Quattros.

Looking ahead at the rest of the season, it is clear that the form book in LMP1 is likely to be topsy-turvy, with all five cars set to be dealt different sets of cards as the season progresses. Remember though, that the ‘Success Handicap’ does not apply for the season-closing Le Mans 24 Hours, in order to prevent teams from gaming the system. A different set of values will apply, however, the rule-makers now have a clearer picture than ever before of the level of restriction on the Toytas require to make a meaningful difference in their performance relative to their competition. The Game is on.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

You can join us at various FIA WEC Rounds this season. Currently we have availability for Sebring, Spa and of course Le Mans. Please call our reservations team to reserve your place track-side.

Speed Chills

Speed Chills joins the Travel Destinations family

Travel Destinations Ltd is pleased to confirm that the Speed Chills brand will be returning to Le Mans as part of the Travel Destinations family.

Speed Chills

Speed Chills was set up by Directors Neil Matthews & Chris Daynes to look after race fans at Le Mans, offering a comprehensive service of travel, tickets and camping offers. In recent months Neil’s work commitments away from the company, meant he was unable to devote the time he would like to Speed Chills & its customers.


Neil Matthews said “With Speed Chills, our aim was always to put the customer at the heart of everything we did and then to surround them with rock-solid administration and the best team of like-minded people we could muster to deliver a great experience. So, when the time came to pass on the baton, there was only one organisation to work with; the team at Travel Destinations. I am confident that our customers will be extremely well looked after and the spirit in which we developed the brand will be upheld.”


Richard Webb, Director at Travel Destinations, added “We have always kept good relations with Neil and the Speed Chills team, so we were delighted when Neil approached us to continue the Speed Chills brand. We see Speed Chills as a very good fit with Travel Destinations & we look forward to welcoming Speed Chills customers to Le Mans and our other events.”

Travel Destinations

Initially Speed Chills customers will notice a face-lift to the Speed Chills website in the coming days and then all Speed Chills registered subscribers will receive a further update in the next week.

Your questions answered:

  • We usually book for Le Mans now, when can we book for Le Mans 2020? We are open and on sale now for the Le Mans 24 Hours & the Le Mans Classic. Initial bookings are best made by telephone by calling 01707 329988. If you have already lodged a booking request with Speed Chills, that information has been passed to Travel Destinations and we will be in touch
  • Can I still contact Speed Chills?
    The Speed Chills brand will now be owned by Travel Destinations. Initially the Speed Chills phone number will be diverted to the Travel Destinations reservations team, who will be happy to assist.
  • I normally buy just my tickets through Speed Chills; can I still do this? Of course, you can still call to purchase your tickets, ultimately these will be processed via www.tickets-2-u.com, another member of the Travel Destinations family.
  • Will the Speed Chills private camping areas resume?
    Speed Chills last offered private camping at Le Mans in 2018. Travel Destinations were actually the first company to offer private camping and continue to offer private camping at Porsche Curves. We hope that Speed Chills customers will enjoy their new home there. Travel Destinations also offers glamping and our Flexotel Village cabins, which will also be available to Speed Chills customers.
  • Were Speed Chills in financial difficulties?
    No. Speed Chills were always successful, but Neil recognised that his time was being spent away from the business. By transferring the brand to Travel Destinations, Speed Chills customers will continue to receive a knowledgeable & experienced customer service.
  • In the past we travelled with Speed Chills to Daytona and hoped to return.
    This is also no problem; Travel Destinations already have 2 very similar offers available for the Daytona 24 Hours & the Daytona Classic. We also have offers for Sebring & Bathurst. All Travel Destinations offers are available now on www.traveldestinations.co.uk and will also be available to Speed Chills customers
  • We booked through Speed Chills because they were members of ABTA so we knew our money was safe.
    Travel Destinations are also ABTA bonded. We are also members of AITO and hold an ATOL license, so you can book with confidence through Travel Destinations.

For further information or to make a booking for Le Mans or any of the other Travel Destinations packages, please call Travel Destinations directly on +44 01707 329988.

www.traveldestinations.co.uk
www.lemansrace.com
www.speedchills.com
www.tickets-2-u.com

FIA WEC

FIA WEC at Silverstone; The start of the race to Le Mans

GTE Pro is back with a vengeance

Last weekend’s World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) / European Le Mans Series (ELMS) double-header at Silverstone, in racing terms, was a huge success. Both series four-hour races were exciting from start to finish and included changeable weather conditions and class wins being decided in the closing laps.

Arguably the most intriguing battle of them all came in the GTE Pro class in Sunday’s FIA WEC race. Aston Martin, Porsche and Ferrari were all in contention for the class win until the final hour of the race.

FIA WEC

On the newly-resurfaced Silverstone circuit, the racing was fast and frantic. Across the weekend all WEC class Qualifying and Race lap records were shattered and drivers and teams alike gave positive feedback. In the GTE Pro class this change to the circuit threw up an interesting variable in race strategy. Heading into the weekend AF Corse selected soft and medium compound Michelin tyres, while Porsche and Aston Martin opted for the medium and hard selections. In practice this kept the race close and created a game of cat and mouse.

Once the wet weather had passed by the halfway mark, it was down to the drivers in with a chance to push as hard as possible to score the first victory of the season. AF Corse changed its tyres at each stop, while Porsche and Aston Martin were able to double stint. This meant that at each round of stops they gained a time advantage, and spent each stint trying to fend off the sole remaining hard-charging No.51 488 GTE EVO of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi which was on fresher rubber.

There were plenty of door-to-door battles, but on this occasion, AF Corse lost out to a safety car infringement which forced the organisers to dish out a drive-through penalty to the No.51 car. This meant that AF Corse dropped from the lead, to fourth in class, and was unable to rely on its second car (which retired after a collision with a Team LNT Ginetta) to pick up the pieces. This gifted Porsche a 1-2 finish to start the season, with Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni in the No.91 911 RSR 19 leading home the No.92 example. It was a dream debut for Porsche’s new chassis, which has been tasked with defending the marque’s FIA World GTE Manufacturer’s crown this season.

FIA WEC

Aston Martin completed the podium and seemed far more competitive on home soil with the Vantage AMR than it did last season. While it wasn’t quite the home-town success some in the garage had hoped for, a third place finish to kick off its second campaign with the current-spec Vantage is far from disappointing.

All this proved that, in metaphorical terms, you only need two cars to make a race. Losing Ford and BMW was a blow to WEC, financially in particular, but right there, in the opening race of the season, we saw a far more entertaining ‘battle of the brands’ than we did at any point during the ‘Super Season’. With fewer cars it’s easier to manage Balance of Performance, and with all three marques more eager than ever to collect wins and triumph at Le Mans, this season has all the makings of a classic between three sportscar giants, that will tide us over before the cavalry arrives in the top class next season.

Speaking of the top class, Toyota scored a 1-2, but the privateers were closer than ever before over the course of a race. All four challengers finished off the lead lap, but mainly down to errors and minor mechanical issues. Rebellion’s third-place-finishing No.3 R-13 was on the lead lap until late on, and Team LNT’s Ginetta’s were able to muster up-front-running pace at times. Once the ‘Success Handicap’ comes into play, it will only get closer, and that starts with Fuji, where the other classes, LMP2 and GTE Am included, promise to provide plenty of action in the WEC’s first six-hour race of the season.

Which of the many storylines in the paddock will make the headline next time out? At this point it’s impossible to tell, which is exactly what the FIA WEC needs.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

Join us at the FIA World Endurance Championship rounds at Sebring, Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans in 2020. Take a look at our exclusive offers and join us track-side.

Le Mans 2020

Le Mans 2020: On Sale Now

Plan now for Le Mans 2020

The dust has barely settled from the Le Mans 24 Hours 2019 that also marked the end of the FIA World Endurance Championship “Super Season”. Another remarkable race and a fitting end to the season. Already our thoughts are turning to Le Mans 2020 and we would love you to join us track-side. This year 252,000 spectators watched the race in person, taking in the sights, sounds and unique atmosphere around the famous Le Mans circuit. Travel Destinations are an official ticket agency for the Le Mans 24 Hours and we provide unique options enabling you to stay track-side and enjoy the best of Le Mans 2020. Most importantly we are on sale now! So you can book your Le Mans 2020 experience with us today!

Travel Destinations at Porsche Curves
Our legendary track-side campsite provides the perfect location from which to enjoy Le Mans 2020. Travel Destinations were the first people to introduce a private campsite at Le Mans exclusive for our guests and our campsite is so popular it sells out every year. The campsite’s track-side location is legendary; it is mentioned on the race commentary every year as the cars pass by. We are fortunate to be able to offer the only private viewing bank at Le Mans. The campsite provides 24 hours security, fully serviced shower/toilet facilities and a friendly cafe and bar on-site. Read more about the Travel Destinations campsite at the Porsche Curves
Le Mans 2020
Travel Destinations Event Tents
We brought glamping to Le Mans five years ago and our Event Tents area has gone from strength to strength each year. Located on the infield close to our Porsche Curves campsite, our Event Tents provide pre-erected bell-tents, with carpet, mattresses and all bed linen. For those that want a comfortable, no-hassle way to enjoy Le Mans 2020, then our Event Tents can provide the solution. Located in their own secure area, the Event Tents have serviced shower & toilet blocks as well as their own hospitality marquee with cafe and bar. In addition all Event Tent guests will also have access to our private viewing bank overlooking the Porsche Curves. Read more about the Travel Destinations Event Tents
Le Mans 2020

Travel Destinations Flexotel Village
The Flexotel Village is our exclusive “pop-up hotel” located in the centre of the circuit. Each Flexotel cabin provides a private, lockable bedroom with two proper beds and all bed-linen. Located at Antares, the Flexotel Village is a short walk from the start/finsh line, Tertre Rouge Corner and the circuit tram terminus. The Flexotel Village is located in its own, secure, tree-lined paddock providing an area of calm inside the hectic circuit. There are fully-serviced showers and toilets as well as a hospitality marquee on-site where the barbecue is always going. For those not wanting to camp, or for those just desiring an exclusive experience the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village will be perfect for Le Mans 2020. Read more about the Travel Destinations Flexotel Village
Le Mans 2020

Circuit-run camping
Camping has long been a tradition at Le Mans and the circuit provide a number of camping areas where you can pitch your tent. Providing a festival-style vibe at Le Mans 2020, these camping areas provide basic facilities for international race fans. These areas are great for groups and experienced Le Mans attendees. They provide an economical alternative with a party-like atmosphere. Read more about the circuit-run campsites.
Le Mans 2020
Travel Destinations staff can assist you with making the right choice for Le Mans 2020. They can also advise on grandstand seats and hospitality offers.

To book your place at Le Mans 2020, please call Travel Destinations (during office hours) on +44 (0)1707 329988.

 

Toyota at Le Mans 2017

Le Mans 2017 Entry List Revealed

After much anticipation the provisional entry list for the Le Mans 24 Hours 2017 & the FIA World Endurance Championship was announced today. Le Mans 2017 will be the first season without Audi so the initial look of the grid is very different from previous years.

You can download a full copy of the entry list here: Entry List 2017

LMP1 Class
Not only is this class missing the headline act of Audi, but with Rebellion switching classes, the field was always going to be a little light this year. Just six cars will be making up the top tier at Le Mans 2017 with more teams promised to bolster the ranks in 2018. However, for 2017 Toyota have chosen to add a third car to their FIA WEC cars giving them the numerical advantage. The reigning champions Porsche will be fighting to retain the Le Mans trophy with 2 cars. The class is made up by the single privateer in ByKolles, with Robert Kubica their lead driver. They will be looking for a better performance than last year, but realistically they would be more than happy with a sixth place finish behind the big guns. LMP1 may not be what it was, but if Porsche and Toyota give us a finish like last year, nobody will be complaining about the missing Audis.

LMP2 Class
The biggest field by far is here with 25 entries. Most of these cars are stepping up from the European Le Mans Series and there are only 9 competing in the FIA WEC this year. It is new start for the regulations in LMP2 so this is a healthy number to see on the list. The split between Europe and the USA is clear to see with only Ben Keating making the entry list from the IMSA stable. With such a large field it will certainly be difficult to predict the outcome, which will make things exciting for everyone involved.

GTE Pro Class
Some of the most anticipated racing will no doubt be from this class. 13 cars and 5 manufacturers could actually make this class the headline act in 2017. Ford look like they could be the ones to beat, with a 4 car entry on the back of an impressive performance last week in Daytona. Porsche could be the challengers after returning to the fray with the new 911 RSRs. Aston Martin, Corvette and Ferrari won’t just be making up the numbers either, so this could well be a fight right to the finish.

GTE Am Class
There is a good mix of cars in the GTE AM class as well as good numbers. 16 cars have been invited with a spread across the FIA WEC, European Le Mans Series, Asian Le Mans Series and IMSA. From a British perspective it is great to see the experienced JMW Motorsports team back after missing out last year & the Gulf Racing team Porsche makes a welcome return after an underrated turn in 2017. Aston Martin will also be flying the flag for the UK with 3 cars, but Ferrari has the numbers again with 8 cars in the field. Last mention in the class should go to Labre Competition’s sole Corvette, that has new Rolex 24 at Daytona winner Ricky Taylor named as lead driver.

So there you have it with 2 cars in reserve, could this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours prove the doom mongers wrong and actually turn out to be a classic. Certainly the potential is there, so all you need to do is be at Le Mans 2017. If you haven’t already booked then time is running out, call Travel Destinations now to book your place.

Written by Richard Webb