The “Roar before the 24” takes on a new complexion in the first unified race since the ALMS was acquired by the Grand-Am and renamed the Tudor United Sportscar Championship. Three new classes of machinery will race each other for the first time later this month, as GTLM, P2 and PC cars will join the existing field of DP and GTD cars.
It hasn’t been an easy transition. Tensions simmered throughout 2013 as IMSA officials, teams and partners struggled to draft a rulebook, agree on types of machinery, incorporate an FIA driver ranking system, and decide on a schedule. Key among these decisions was the balance of performance, a voodoo metric that – in theory – will keep the DPs at the top of the food chain, with other classes following behind. Early indications are that the balance of performance is (at least) within the ballpark.
It remains to be seen whether today’s times are an accurate barometer of what to expect in the 24 Hours. In past years, allegations of sandbagging have dogged the event. It wasn’t unusual to see a team post average numbers at the Roar, and show significant performance gains come race day. IMSA officials claim to be combating this concern by establishing balance of performance levels at the Roar, enticing teams to put their best foot forward sooner rather than later.
The Roar also serves an important public relations service, allowing fans and media to get an early look at the car and driver pairings. It’s only the third day of 2014, but the racing season is in full swing.