As the Tudor United Sports Car Championship kicked off on Saturday, a lot of attention was centered on the GT classes. Both GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) had been the brightest stars in their troubled series before the merger, and on Saturday the classes again showed the world that GT racing is becoming the big-ticket item in North America. With a number of new cars making their debut, and new teams racing with new cars for the first time, the GTLM and GTD classes saw some of the best teams going door-to-door for victory.
The GTLM class was interesting due to the number of teams and new cars that were making debuts this weekend. The new Porsche 911 RSR and the Chevrolet Corvette C7R both made on-track debuts. Add Ferrari, BMW, and the SRT Viper cars to the mix and you have a true who’s who in sports car racing.
While I personally had the Corvette taking the opening victory, I think the 911 RSR and Corvette will spend the rest of the season battling for the title. Mechanical issues during the 24 proved costly to Corvette, but it is not at all surprising the car performed well out of the box. Corvette Racing was the most successful team during its time in the American Le Mans and that point was highlighted a number of times during the telecast. Corvette Racing also knows Daytona. This is a GT team that took overall victory at the Rolex 24 previously. The SRT Vipers performed well also, and given the talent that currently resides at the team with their steady increase in performance and consistency, the Viper will challenge for victories regularly and could make the championship interesting. Not to be left out, the BMW Z4 made an impressive P2 run at the Rolex. Take a car that was nearly two laps down during the final 30 minutes and five minutes later is nine seconds off the lead with a little help, we could have been talking about a Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan victory.
The GTD class had easily the best battles on track during the Rolex 24. The awesome part about this class is some of the high performance teams and drivers that are competing. Level 5 Motorsport and Flying Lizard Audi are just two of the real quality teams that reside in this class. What we witnessed in the dying moments of the twice-around-the-clock event was nothing short of magic. To watch world class teams like Level 5 and Flying Lizard fight door-to-door on track for the win was truly special. You were really watching two of the great titans in the sport do battle. The Level 5 Ferrari 458 Italia was victorious, and regardless of what happened off-track, the fact is this class was a real pleasure to watch.
Given the balance issues that were obvious during the prototype segment of the race, the GT classes were amazing and continue to be the shining jewel on the crown of North American sports car racing. Between the two classes, we were treated to fantastic battles between world class drivers and world class manufacturers. This racing is what it is all about and why the GT classes will continue to be the focus by both teams and fans over the 2014 championship.