Rolex 24 at Daytona: How to watch the race and understand the car classifications
Before the Daytona 500 takes center stage next month, Daytona International Speedway hosts one of the world's premier sports car races on its road course.
The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona is a 24-hour endurance race featuring the top drivers from IMSA as well as some hugely familiar IndyCar stars — among them, series champions Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud; four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves; and rising stars, including Colton Herta and Scott McLaughlin — plus one current NASCAR Cup Series driver — Austin Cindric, the reigning Daytona 500 champion.
The Rolex 24, which kicks off the 2023 season of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, begins Saturday afternoon and ends Sunday afternoon. Drivers compete on teams and take various shifts throughout the race so the action never stops. There are five classifications of cars that compete amongst each other during the race as well as for top honors in their respective classes.
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Here is what you need to know for the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona:
What is the schedule for the Rolex 24?
The Rolex 24 is set to start at 1:40 p.m. Saturday, January 28 and end at 1:40 p.m. Sunday, January 29.
Where can I watch the Rolex 24on TV?
1:30-2:30 p.m. Saturday: NBC
2:30-8 p.m. Saturday: USA Network
10 p.m.-midnight Saturday: USA Network
6 a.m.-noon Sunday: USA Network
Noon-2 p.m. Sunday: NBC
How can I watch Rolex 24 on streaming?
Peacock (7-day free trial) and IMSA.tv
How each of the Rolex 24's five classifications measures up
From the futuristic prototypes running in the GTP, LMP2 and LMP3 classes to the near-street-car, GT3 entries in the GTD Pro and GTD classes, the differences between the vehicles competing in this week's Rolex 24 can be both stark and subtle.
In terms of speed, the nine LMDh entries that make up the GTP class will be at the top of the charts with each class separated by a few miles per hour and a few seconds in lap time.
Distinguishing a GT3 from an LMDh is rather easy. Trying to figure out if a car is an LMP2 or an LMP3? That becomes a bit more difficult.
Top speed: 202 mph
Weight: 2,266 pounds
Length: Maximum 200 inches
Width: Maximum 79 inches
Wheelbase: 124 inches
Engine: Varies by manufacturer
Cars: Cadillac V-LMDh, Porsche 963, Acura ARX-06, BMW M Hybrid V8
Fuel: VP R80
Cost: Around $2.9 million
The story of the week is likely the premier class of car with the GTP Class replacing the DPi Class this season.
The new LMDh cars are the result of years of research and development spawned from a 2020 announcement that the new class would satisfy both IMSA and World Endurance Championship (WEC) regulations, thus allowing the same entries to compete in both the Rolex 24 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time.
Boasting a hybrid V-8 engine, many believe the prototypes point to the future of auto racing. A total of nine cars will compete in the GTP Class this weekend.
Top speed: 186 mph
Weight: 2,090 pounds
Length: Maximum 187 inches
Width: 71-75 inches
Engine: Gibson 4.2 liter V8
Cars: Oreca LMP2 07
Designated by blue trim on mirrors, rear-wing endplates and class plates, a total of 10 entries will compete in this weekend’s LMP2 Class, all in ORECA 07s.
While visually similar to its LMP3 counterparts, the LMP2s are slightly longer, more powerful and on average, around five seconds per lap faster.
The LMP2s have been slowed by rule changes in the last few weeks with a weight increase of 22 pounds and a reduction in RPMs from 8,700 to 8,000 because of an air restrictor.
Top speed: 180 mph
Weight: 2,090 pounds
Length: Maximum 183 inches
Width: Maximum 75 inches
Engine: Oreca VK56 5.6 liter V8
Cars: Duqueine D08, Ligier JS P320
The LMP3 prototypes are built with cost efficiency in mind.
Identifiable by orange trim, the LMP3s differ from the LMP2s are less than half the price ($250,000 compared to $506,000) and get there in part by utilizing steel brake rotors as opposed to carbon and a steel tubular roll cage into a composite chassis.
Nine entries will compete in the LMP3 Class at the Rolex 24.
Top speed: 175 mph
Weight: 2,915 pounds
Cars: Corvette C8.R, Porsche 911 R, Lexus RC F, Aston Martin Vantage, Ferrari 296, Lamborghini Huracan EVO2, Mercedes AMG, BMW M4, Acura NSX, McLaren 720S
It’s the man or woman behind the wheel, not the GT3-spec machines that makes the difference in these two classifications.
GTD Pro entries consist of all professional drivers while amateurs are in the mix in the GTD Class. More technically speaking, GTD Pro outfits use only drivers with Platinum or Gold ratings according to the FIA. Some such drivers also compete in the GTD Class but silver- and bronze-level drivers are permitted to compete as well.
The cars piloted by the drivers are the same and much more similar to the manufacturers’ street cars than the cutting-edge prototypes that make up the event’s highest three classes. GTD Pro entries are trimmed in red with GTD cars edged with green.
Contributing: Ellen J. Horrow, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Rolex 24 at Daytona: How to watch race, understand car classifications