The first full day of action at this year's edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Some other news and notes beyond the qualifying results follow:
VAUTIER ON THE VERGE? – Tristan Vautier, one of the quartet of star young drivers in the No. 00 Visit Florida/Yellow Dragon/SpeedSource Mazda6 in GX, sounded very optimistic about potential IndyCar opportunities following his first series test at Sebring in December with Sam Schmidt's team.
“I can't say too much right now, but let's just say it opened some doors,” the likeable 23-year-old Frenchman smiled.
Vautier also confirmed the Mazda Road to Indy scholarship received for winning last year's Firestone Indy Lights Series championship is $500,000 for a team inside the Leader's Circle set of entries, and $1 million for a team outside the Leader's Circle top 22 entrants.
Vautier is part of a lineup here with Tristan Nunez, Joel Miller, Spencer Pigot and Mazda veteran Yojiro Terada. The team qualified fourth fastest in the GX class.
LINEUP TWEAKS AND TIDBITS – The GT class pole-sitting No. 32 Konrad Motorsport/Orbit Porsche flew under the radar heading into the weekend – a major oversight. As the car features Porsche's newest factory driver, Nick Tandy – who qualified the car – that's suddenly a much stronger entry. Co-drivers Michael Christensen, Christian Englehart and Lance Willsey complete the lineup alongside the Porsche Supercup ace.
Some other driver changes include Tonis Kasemets and Louis-Phillippe Dumoulin being added to the No. 27 BTE Sport Riley Ford, the lone second-generation DP in the field, with the Muehlner Motorsports America Porsches assembling lineups of Mark Thomas, Norbert Siedler and Kevin Estre (No. 18), and Thomas, Eliseo Salazar, Eduardo Costabal and Sam Hancock (No. 19). AF Waltrip's No. 55 Ferrari and an Audi Sport Customer Racing R8, a test car listed as No. 74, have been withdrawn from the GT class entry to leave 34 cars.
Boris Said and Doug Peterson, who were set to drive in two cars apiece, will focus instead on their efforts with Turner Motorsport (No. 94 BMW for Said) and Vehicle Technologies (No. 87 Viper Comp Coupe). David Donohue was added to the lineup for the Doran Racing No. 77 Dallara Ford DP, a secondary driving assignment to his main one with Napleton Racing's No. 16 Porsche Cayman S, the GX class polesitter.
DOUBLE DUTY – A host of drivers will be competing in both the Rolex 24 and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge BMW Performance 200 on Friday. Some 32 drivers will be on track for almost every on-track session between the two series; most are balancing commitments in the Rolex GT and Continental GX class. Only four DP drivers (Michael Valiante, Ian James, Emmanuel Anassis and Anthony Massari) are also racing in the Continental race, with the rest all part of GT lineups.
Of the following lineup, the Norman/Pumpelly BGB Porsche Carrera in GS had an accident on Thursday and began undergoing repairs. John Edwards confirmed Stevenson's No. 9 GS Camaro had an engine fire on Wednesday, but was repaired.
The full list of "doublers" includes:
• Eric Curran (No. 31 Marsh Corvette GT, No. 01 CKS Camaro GS)
• Mike Skeen (No. 72 Park Place Porsche GT, No. 6 Mitchum Camaro GS)
• Matt Bell (No. 51 APR Audi GT, No. 9 Stevenson Camaro GS)
• John Edwards (No. 57 Stevenson Camaro GT, No. 9 Stevenson Camaro GS)
• Nick Longhi (No. 69 AIM Ferrari GT, No. 13 Rum Bum Porsche GS)
• Matt Plumb (No. 13 Rum Bum Audi GT, No. 13 Rum Bum Porsche GS)
• David Empringham/John Farano (No. 51 APR Audi GT, No. 15 Multimatic Aston Martin GS)
• Dr. Jim Norman (No. 16 Napleton Cayman GX, No. 38 BGB Porsche GS)
• Spencer Pumpelly (No. 73 Park Place Porsche GT, No. 38 BGB Porsche GS)
• Emmanuel Anassis/Anthony Massari (No. 27 BTE Riley Ford DP, No. 43 BTE Mustang GS)
• Al Carter/Hugh Plumb (No. 45 Magnus Porsche GT, No. 45 Fall-Line BMW GS)
• Mark Boden (No. 45 Magnus Porsche GT, No. 46 Fall-Line BMW GS)
• Bryan Sellers (No. 59 Brumos Porsche GT, No. 46 Fall-Line BMW GS)
• Charles Espenlaub (No. 45 Magnus Porsche GT, No. 48 Fall-Line BMW GS)
• Michael Marsal (No. 93 Turner BMW GT, No. 71 Multimatic Aston Martin GS)
• Tony Ave/Jan Heylen/Doug Peterson (No. 87 Viper GT, No. 87 Challenger GS)
• Bill Auberlen/Paul Dalla Lana (No. 94 Turner BMW GT, No. 96 Turner BMW GS)
• Ian James (No. 50 Highway to Help Riley BMW DP, No. 158 Dempsey Mustang GS)
• Tom Long/Derek Whitis (No. 25 Freedom Mazda GX, No. 25 Freedom Mazda ST)
• Rhett O'Doski/Andrew Carbonell (No. 25 Freedom Mazda GX, No. 26 Freedom Mazda ST)
• Ryan Eversley (No. 38 BGB Porsche GX, No. 75 Compass360 Honda ST)
• Dan Rogers/Seth Thomas (No. 22 Bullet Porsche GX, No. 82 Bimmerworld BMW ST)
• Michael Valiante (No. 6 Shank Riley Ford DP, No. 93 HART Honda ST)
• Ian Baas (No. 52 APR Audi GT, No. 171 APR VW Jetta ST)
A BIG LAST-MINUTE ADD – When Radio Le Mans was not initially included on the broadcast listings for this year's Rolex 24, disappointment followed from drivers, fans and series stakeholders alike. But with a groundswell of momentum to try and change the equation, on Wednesday, RLM's renewed presence was confirmed.
RLM had its first go at last year's Rolex 24 and the crew led by the unflappable, candid and passionate John Hindhaugh on the lap-by-lap announcing never missed a beat. The first details of this year's domestic television and radio package were announced with RLM not a part of it, with SPEED set to handle the TV side and MRN the radio part of the equation.
At the time, RLM and Grand-Am both said discussions were still ongoing with nothing decided. In the interim, comments flowed from many in the sports car community including from SpeedSource's Marino Franchitti, who noted on Twitter, “Really feel sorry for all the fans (my family included) who won't be able to listen to @Rolex24Hours on @radiolemans. Very disappointing.”
However, a Grand-Am news release Wednesday morning announced RLM's participation, and RLM confirmed it later in the day.
From RLM's website, www.radiolemans.com, it reads in part, “Following on from the great success of our full, live broadcasts from the Rolex 24 last January, Radio Show Limited, Grand Am and MRN have been working toward an agreement which would have allowed RSL the same level of access and coverage for 2013. Agreements like this are complicated and time consuming. It is surely ironic, that in discussions regarding a 24 Hour race, the clock has won, with time simply running out before all details could be finalized. Despite RSL's commentators not being able to broadcast from Daytona International Speedway, the team will still be offering comprehensive coverage of the 51st running of this marquee event.”
Most of the action will be called from RLM's UK studios, but Daily SportsCar editor Graham Goodwin and contributor Shea Adam are on the ground here in Daytona for live pit reports. Live coverage occurred today and is already being replayed on radiolemans.com.
THEY JUST NEEDED MARKY MARK – In recent years, Magnus Racing has set the comedic bar for outrageous press releases and pop culture references that have seeped into the Rolex Series. Magnus may be the series' original “kings of comedy” – and its 2013 Rolex 24 preview video lives up to expectations (http://vimeo.com/57801052) – but a quartet of youngsters has now emerged as challengers.
Brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor, along with Rolex 24 debutante Spencer Pigot and CTSCC driver Mark Jensen, decided to produce a lip dub video of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch's “Good Vibrations” in advance of the weekend. The rather hilarious results speak for themselves below.
• Final practice for the Rolex Series occurs Friday at 10:30 a.m. ET and local time before the race on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET. Coverage begins live on SPEED at 3 p.m.
For tickets to the Rolex 24, CLICK HERE.