Daytona International Speedway is well known for NASCAR but to sports car fans it’s known for the 24 Hours held every January, currently called the Rolex 24 thanks to Rolex’s long term partnership. This weekend however we ventured to the Florida speedway to race in the World Racing League’s “Concorso Daytona 14 Hours.” I’d be driving the #213 Casey Carden Motorsports Mazda MX-5.
The WRL weekend is unique in that we don’t have any practice or qualifying. Friday is purely a tech inspection and setup day then on Saturday morning the cars grid up based on class, you do two pace laps, and the green flag waves. If you’ve never raced on the track before those laps will be your first of the weekend. It makes for a unique and challenging day of racing, luckily I ran the event last year so I did have some experience but not in this car.
The first stint was purely turning laps and getting the car into a rhythm. I made some passes and drove within a reasonable limit working my way to first in class where I then tried to continue building a gap. In a race that long it’s vital you think of the big picture. It’s easy to start turning super fast laps but then ten hours down the road you won’t have that speed if needed. The key is to find a pace that’s fast, hopefully faster than your competition, but not too hard on the car that you use up the brakes, tires, engine, etc. In this series we actually aim at running the entire race on a single set of tires, so adding in a tire change would cost time.
I drove for around an hour and a half, maybe a little more, before coming in for our first pit stop of the day. I handed the car over to my teammate, Jason Workman, who continued our strong pace and kept us in the lead.
With two more drivers in line before my next stint I was able to watch the race unfold and admire the car’s reliability. We just kept turning lap after lap! The only issue that came up early on was the shift knob came loose and we had to put another one in during a pit stop which costs no time at all.
When it was time for me to get back in the car I was probably thirty to forty minutes into my stint when the full course caution came out. I didn’t see a wreck and then got told it was for the weather. They decided to red flag the race due to severe lightning in the area. We race in rain but if there’s lightning or other severe weather we need to stop to let crews and safety workers seek shelter. So we parked the cars on pit road and went to the garages for a short break. After a nap I was told to head back to the car and we were going to be underway again.
The restart was good and every car pitted at the restart while we stayed out. This let us build an even larger lead now as we were ahead by a few laps at this point. The car was still running strong and our pace was good so once again we just clocked laps and took care of the car.
After twenty minutes or so the full course yellow came out again and I saw lightning, sure enough, it was for another storm. I was frustrated but it made sense. This time was shorter but now we decided since it was close to my stint being up we’d do our driver change and do a fuel stop to get back on a normal schedule.
Our race continued on trouble free and at 11:00PM we took the checkered flag in first place in GP3 by a whole nine laps! We also finished in the top ten out of over thirty cars starting. It was an amazing race and a great feeling to be back on the top step of the podium, especially after the disappointment at The Mitty in April. The team prepared an absolutely bulletproof car and my teammates drove solid the entire race, we all had fun, turned clean laps, and brought it home.
Our next race is next month back at Road Atlanta, once again with the World Racing League.