2016 marked the 54th running of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the second running of the iRacing 24 Hours of Daytona. Over 2,000 iRacers participated in this year’s event which for the first time was held the weekend before the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. In this inaugural edition of IMSA Reality Check, we will analyze the 3.65mi road course at Daytona, along with a preview of the remaining events in both the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.
The road course located at Daytona International Raceway features 12 turns over 3.65 miles and is often described as being broken up into two different segments. Each lap at Daytona begins with a long braking zone into Turn 1 and the infield section of the track. Braking for Turn 1 often begins only a few seconds after crossing the start/finish line and requires very good trail braking skills to manage the turn. After completing the difficult 180 degree turn, drivers are greeted by a relatively easy chicane in Turn 2. By this point drivers will want to be running in a single file line as the track narrows considerably with a concrete wall on the left and grass on the right. Approaching Turn 3 drivers need to be aware of cars merging off the pit lane exit on the left side of the track as they prepare for a relatively tight right-hand turn known as the International Horseshoe. At the exit of Turn 3 on the outside of the track there is a curb which iRacers will want to avoid at all costs as, on the backside of this curb, there is a dropoff that is almost certain to cause your car to lose control.
Turn 4 is a relatively easy left-hand kink that can be taken nearly flat out and leads to another right hander in Turn 5 which once again requires trail braking. Turn 6 is the final turn of the infield section and is a misleading corner. Given that completing Turn 6 returns drivers to the NASCAR oval portion of the track, drivers often put the pedal to the floor at the apex of Turn 6 only to lose the rear end of the car from all the torque. Your best option is a slightly slower acceleration until you have straightened out on the oval portion of the track.
Now that the infield portion of the track is complete, drivers can relax for a little bit and catch their breath as they cruise around the steep banking of Oval Turns 1 & 2 and prepare for a chicane near the end of the backstretch known as the Bus Stop. The braking point for the Bus Stop takes place shortly after passing the 2 sign. This iRacer spent about an hour sitting at the Bus Stop waiting for a ride home, but was disappointed when no actual bus showed up. However, I was able to watch drivers navigate the Bus Stop and I noticed that the best line through the chicane involves touching all four curbs and doesn’t require taking a wide angle.
After completing the Bus Stop, drivers are once again given a break on the oval portion of the track before finishing their lap.
While the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship features four different classes of cars, iRacers only have their choice of two classes: DP and GT3. One of the biggest challenges in multiclass sim racing is managing traffic. Whether you’re driving the faster DPs or the slower GT3s, dealing with traffic is the most unpredictable part of endurance racing and is where the most time can be gained or lost on the track. The easiest place to pass slower traffic is on the oval portion of the track. Traditionally slower traffic will hold the lower line on the oval and faster traffic overtakes on the right. Other than the oval, you can also overtake going into Turns 3, 5, and 6 although passing in the infield is more dangerous than on the oval so care should be taken at all times when overtaking and communication with other drivers is vital.
Stay tuned later this season for more Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup coverage from the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen and Petit Le Mans!