As I tackled last year, I'm taking a stab at putting together a few thoughts for all of our Blogathon fans (and those of you who hate us but still follow along, for whatever reason), in order for everybody to be better acquainted with our central event (and no, I don't mean the middle of the night screening of Kart Racer, though that is bound to be awesome with all of its Quaid-ness). This year's Daytona 24 Hour race has an extra class, so that's where we'll kick things off this week.
GrandAm's new GX class, from everything I've heard, is poised to be a potential showcase for car manufacturers to come show off new technology that they can't otherwise run in GrandAm, be that in Daytona Prototype, the Rolex GT class, or anywhere in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. The initial list of eligible vehicles did, in fact, include a couple of cars that have something "different" about them, but the vast majority of them did not. All of that head scratchiness aside, let's take a look at who is actually racing at Daytona.
The New Tech
The Speedsource Mazda6 Skyactive-Ds - Most sports car (and past Blogathon) fans will know Sylvain Tremblay's Speedsource team as the long-time Mazda stalwarts who won the GT class in 2010. Up to now, they've run the ubiquitous rotary-engined RX-8s, but with rotary engines falling out of favor in these times of fuel efficiency consciousness, Mazda has discontinued production of the RX-8, and started to focus on other technologies. Enter the new Mazda6, with its optional Skyactiv-D turbo diesel. Like Audi before it, Mazda has made the decision to make diesels go fast, and so the RX-8s have been re-skinned as Mazda6s, and the new engine shoehorned into the spot where the rotary once lived. Speedsource has brought three of these cars to Daytona, with a variety of teams of varying driver experience. The #25 car has a varied lineup, highlighted by Tom Long, who co-drove with Patrick Dempsey to 3rd in GT in the 2011 Daytona 24 Hours. The #00 car is littered with young drivers from Mazda's Road to Indy ladder, with Joel Miller, Tristan Nunez, Spencer Pigot, and last year's Indy Lights champion, Tristan Vautier (for the rare "Double Tristan"). The flagship #70 car sports last year's full time GrandAm drivers Tremblay and Jonathan Bomarito, plus IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe and "I'll drive anything fast guy" Marino Franchitti. The diesel 6s will be very interesting to watch.
The Old Tech
The Porsche Caymans - Puzzlingly, GrandAm has allowed the already race-worn Porsche Cayman into the GX class, even with a larger transplanted 3.8 liter engine. This is hardly new tech, but I guess you have to have something to boost class numbers, huh? There are three Caymans entered, the potentially strongest of which has a driver lineup that includes Nelson Canache, longtime sports car drivers Jim Norman and Shane Lewis, and multiple Daytona Prototype race winner David Donohue. Oh, and this car was the fastest at the Roar Before the 24 preseason test, in almost every single session. Game, set, match.
This one's easy. The Mazdas are brand new, and bound to hit reliability issues (as they also did in pre-season testing, too), even with their STACKED driver lineups. The Porsches are, well, Porsches, and this is Daytona, where Porsches are always good. Among the three Porsches, only one has drivers of the talent level of a Shane Lewis or a David Donohue. Ergo, the #16 Napleton Racing Porsche Cayman is going to take the inaugural GX class race win. If you can find a bookie desperate enough to make odds on a class that is barely faster than the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge GS class, bet the house on the Napleton car. Really. No, seriously. Maybe. (All bets placed at the reader's discretion. Author not to be held responsible for mortgages or children lost by using author's recommendations. Seriously, don't come break my legs if the #16 car doesn't win.)