The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is an amazing event for automotive photographers, and I’m lucky to have met some brilliant photographers in my day such as Will Patterson, who was kind enough to supply the photos he took while attending the race here. You can check out more of his work on his website (http://willp-photo.com) or his Facebook page as well – thanks again, Will.
Part of what makes this race so spectacular for both spectators and photographers is that its a true 24 hour endurance race, with teams racing throughout the night. This adds another level of excitement as anything can happen – from malfunctions to crashes to running out of fuel on the track. It also means that the team with the smartest strategy, most solid car, and best pit crews may beat out the team with fastest car. Photographers get tons of opportunities to take pictures from multiple vantage points and in various lighting, and spectators get to see a drawn out and strategic battle for the podium. It’s an event I really hope to attend in person sometime soon.
Adding to the excitement factor of the race is that there are multiple classes of vehicles, so you’ll see a nice variety of cars including Audis, Ferraris, Aston Martins, Mazdas and even Daytona Prototype cars. This mismatch sometimes means collisions and penalities are inevitable as much faster cars are constantly overtaking slower classed vehicles – it can also make the sport a bit more dangerous, especially for drivers of the faster cars like Daytona prototypes. The Audi R8 LMS vehicles are all clased in the GTD series, which stands for Grand Touring Daytona and also includes other cars built to GT3 specifications like the Ferrari 458 Italia and the Porsche 911.
Audi had high hopes going into the race. The Audi Customer Racing program is relatively new to the Grand Am and American LeMans Series (now merged together and known as United SportsCar Racing), but the brand got a big boost as racing legend Flying Lizard Motorsports abandoned Porsche in favor of Audi for the 2013/2014 racing season. SoCal powerhouse GMG Racing continues its Audi Customer Racing program through United SportsCar, and a few private teams have also joined the fray to give Audi a substantial presence in the GTD (Grand Touring Daytona) class.
Unfortunately, Audi Customer Racing via the Flying Lizards Motorsports team did not win Daytona – a controversial penalty on the last lap would have given them the win, but the judges later overturned the penalty and gave the win back to the Ferrari team. You can view the final standings here, but ultimately Audi finished second (Car 45 – Flying Lizard Motorsports), fifth (Car 35 – Flying Lizard Motorsports), sixteenth (car 48 – Paul Miller Motorsports), and two DNFs for the GMG Racing car (Car 32) and Fall-Line Motorsports (Car 46) due to crashes. Luckily both drivers were okay in the crashes. Flying Lizard released a statement about the controversial overturn of the penalty which you can read on Fourtitude, but ultimately the finish of this race likely left a bad taste in both the Ferrari and Audi teams mouths.
Regardless, it’s a great event and having two cars in the top five is a great achievement both for Audi Sport Customer Racing and Flying Lizard Motorsport. I am willing to bet GMG Racing would have been right up there with them if it weren’t for an accident, and am sure they will achieve redemption soon. You can check out the rest of the racing schedule on the United SportsCar website, although finding TV coverage is often quite difficult.