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News Story
Updated: 01/26/2017 08:30:09AM

Race fans rejoice!

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ALLEN MOODY/STAFF

Tequila Patrón ESM tests its new DPi at Sebring International Raceway. The car will have its traditional green and black livery at Daytona.

JAMES STRICKLIN PHOTO

The No. 52 Ligier of PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports

.

JAMES STRICKLIN PHOTO

The No. 15 Lexus of 3GT Racing

tests at Daytona.

By ALLEN MOODY

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For race fans who can’t wait for the 12 Hours of Sebring, a quick trip to Daytona International Speedway will provide a fix until the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship arrives in Sebring. Gates for the Rolex 24 At Daytona officially open today, with the race itself taking place Saturday and Sunday.

The Rolex 24 features a star-studded collection of drivers, such as NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon, WEC LMP1 champion Brendan Hartley, IndyCar stars James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Graham Rayhall, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan, along with others. Olympic gold medalist swimmer Tyler Clary will be competing in Friday’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race, but the twice-around-the-clock race is definitely the big attraction.

The race will be the first for the new DPi class, which features some amazing machines from Cadillac, Nissan and Mazda, along the racing debut of the Lexus RCF GT3, Acura NSX GT3 and the Mercedes AGM GT3 in the GT Daytona class.

A four-day wristband with infield access will cost $95, while Saturday and Sunday tickets are $60 for infield access and $40 without it.

There will be many of the same activities that fans have come to expect during the 12 Hours of Sebring, such as the grid walk before the race and the driver autograph session, along with some activities specific to Daytona, such as the Rolex 24 Heritage Exhibition, where cars from 1960 to 2014 which have raced in the 24 Hours of Daytona, the Boardwalk Experience, where you can ride one of the largest Ferris Wheels on the East Coast, have your picture taken with the Rolex 24 trophy and more.

You will have to pay an additional $45 for garage access Saturday and Sunday, which you basically get for free at Sebring with full paddock access, so there’s something to be said for the confines of Sebring International Raceway.

While the new GT cars will draw plenty of attention, it will be the Prototypes that are under the magnifying glass worldwide, but so far they have been well-received by the teams themselves.

“IMSA has done an amazing job to bring this new Prototype class together,” said Tequila Patrón ESM driver Pipo Derani.

If there’s one team who will be in the spotlight a bit more than the others, it’s Florida’s Tequila Patrón ESM, as they look to duplicate last year’s feat of winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.

“It’s always hard to win, especially to win two years in a row,” said team owner Scott Sharp.

Saturday’s autograph session takes place between noon and 12:45 p.m. and if you want Gordon’s autograph plan on getting in earlier than that, as he’ll no doubt be the main attraction. The grid walk takes place between 1:05 and 2:10 p.m. and the race is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.

Daytona International Speedway does provide free WiFi so you can keep tabs on the race while you’re visiting the different attractions and don’t forget to dress warm, as temperatures are expected to range between 45 and 62 degrees during the race, as a cold front is approaching.


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