The Roar Before the 24. Isn’t that by far the best name for any test session in the motor racing world? The three days of action, starting on Friday 22 January, is an annual rumble that signals the start of a new motor racing season, and this year, because of Covid, runs just a week before the Daytona 24 Hours itself – one of sports car racing’s three great endurance races and the opening round of the US IMSA series.
The test is considered as vital preparation for the Florida classic, which runs on a hybrid circuit using most of NASCAR’s famous 2.5-mile tri-oval, but with an added ‘bus stop’ chicane and a short infield road course section.
Increasingly in recent years, the Rolex-sponsored race has attracted curious high-profile adventurers from all corners of the racing world, including Formula 1. In 2019, Fernando Alonso headlined the stars joining the super-competitive grid of IMSA regulars, the Spaniard adding a Daytona win in a Cadillac DPi prototype to his Le Mans successes with Toyota.
This year, old rival Robert Kubica takes his Daytona bow, joining High Class Racing in an ORECA 07 LMP2. The Roar will give the Pole valuable seat time ahead of his debut.
NASCAR racers have traditionally been drawn to the race too, and this year reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott joins the throng for the first time, partnering seven-time NASCAR champion and 24 Hours regular Jimmie Johnson and 2018 Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon in an Action Express Cadillac DPi.
The GT division is slimmer than it has been in recent years following the withdrawal of the factory Porsche team. British GT ace Nick Tandy makes his debut as a works Corvette driver, having replaced semi-retiring countryman Oliver Gavin at the Pratt & Miller squad. Still, Gavin hasn’t managed to quit the habit completely. The 48-year-old lines up in a Lexus RC F GT3 and will be champing at the bit this weekend to Roar with the rest of them.