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New Class Race Cars in Classes for the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona

Photo Credit: General Motors

This weekend kicks off the official start of the auto racing season in North America for 2017. The 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course within the Florida motorsport complex called Daytona International Speedway hosts a large field of teams and drivers competing for a once around the clock event. The debut race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona is a fresh opportunity to ring in a new year on a highest note.

For 2017, big changes to the Prototype and GT Daytona class for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will create some new sights to behold for race fans. Thanks to a series of rules designed to make competition vehicles comply closer to the regulations of international racing sanctioning bodies such as the ACO and FIA, some new pieces of motoring technology are incorporated within the grid. Debuting in the top class for the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona, DPi (Daytona Prototype international) features race cars sharing LM P2 chassis and suspension components originating from four manufacturers. DPi cars can be tailored by car brand entities such as automakers with special bodywork and engine power. The new vehicle specifications succeed the previous DP category race vehicles.

In the season opener for the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Daytona, six all-new race cars will be engaged in the ultimate christening.

Cadillac DPi-V.R 

Photo Credit: General Motors

The Cadillac DPi-V.R is one of several new cars complying with the updated class regulations that will compete alongside conventional LM P2 cars in a general prototype category in 2017.

Marking Cadillac’s return to prototypes after a lukewarm 2000-2002 effort in the American Le Mans Series, the 2017 vehicle is mainly a race-bred shape but incorporates several cues belonging to the luxury car brand. Vertical LED front and rear light strips as well as canopy graphics depicting a side window line on the DPi-V.R are some features found on the production Cadillacs such as the CTS or XT5.

Reflecting Cadillac’s production high-performance CTS-V sedan, a 6.2-liter V-8 engine is used to power the 2017 DPi-V.R although in a different configuration. Instead of a supercharged 640-horsepower engine found on the current CTS-V, the powerplant used on the Cadillac DPi-V.R is naturally aspirated and is restricted to produce around 600 horsepower. A dry sump oiling system and sequential transmission are also special to the prototype race car.

The Cadillac Dpi-V.R is an indirect replacement to the Chevrolet Corvette DP race car.  Ran from 2012 to 2016 in Grand Am and later in what is now known as IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Corvette DP was the instrument used to lock the 2016 Prototype class manufacturers’ title.

Acura NSX GT3

Photo Credit: Honda North America 

When an auto manufacturer builds a sports car or supercar, there is nothing like motorsport competition to add legitimacy to high-performance engineering and speed-tuning. Starting at the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Acura looks to promote the character of their NSX supercar by partnering with the experienced operation of Michael Shank Racing.

Competing in the production-based GT Daytona category, the Acura NSX GT3 reflects much of the road-going supercar’s design despite using custom bodywork. Aerodynamically augmented to the race track, the NSX GT3 competition car is identified by enlarged hood vents, prominent rear deck wing, underbody diffuser and other minor tweaks. Underneath the body, the Acura NSX GT3 utilizes a production-based aluminum space frame.

The most notable differentiation of the Acura NSX GT3 from its production model is the powertrain. Unlike the 2017 Acura NSX’s Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive configuration, the race version is only powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 engine channelling propulsion solely to its rear wheels. The engine used in the NSX GT3 shares much of its technical design with the production supercar including the block, cylinder heads, crankshaft and dry sump oiling system. A race-purpose six-speed sequential transmission is in place instead of a dual-clutch gearbox.

Arriving with a high-profile appearance for 2017, the Acura NSX had actually competed at the Rolex 24 at Daytona 20 years ago. A Mark Hein-entered NSX raced in the GTS-3 category for the 1997 Daytona endurance race finishing in 71st place overall completing just 90 laps.

Mercedes-AMG GT3

Photo Credit: Daimler AG

Not an entirely new race car for 2017, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is making its debut at this year’s 24-hour event on the Daytona International Speedway road course. Late last year, Mercedes-Benz announced involvement with Riley Motorsports and SunEnergy1 Racing.

First racing intentionally in late 2015, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 race car had been competing on the Blacpain GT Series where it won two sprint races as well as an Endurance Cup race at Silverstone in 2016. Produced based on the Mercedes-AMG GT supercar, the competition car incorporates modifications such as its large rear wing and a widened stance. An extensive use of carbon fiber components is a considerable characteristic for the GT3 car. Borrowed and enhanced from the SLS AMG GT3 race car, the Mercedes-AMG GT3's naturally-aspirated 6.3-liter V-8 engine is planted under the car’s long hood.

Porsche 911 RSR

Photo Credit: Porsche Car North America

Porsche’s success at the Rolex 24 at Daytona is record-setting. Since 1968, overall wins alone total 18 as a car make and an additional four as the engine supplier of the winning car. An additional 76 class victories prior to the 2017 race also serve to promote the brand as one of the most successful in the Daytona sports car race.

The Porsche 911 RSR is only new car included in the ultra-competitive GTLM class where the sports car specialist has to contend against the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R and the Ford GT. Although the general styling of Porsche 911 vehicles has maintained a general correlation for more than 50 years, the new 911 RSR model has actually been completely redesigned in Weissach, Germany. A new body structure, aerodynamic tailoring that includes a large rear diffuser and revised suspension is found on the 2017 Porsche 911 RSR. Along with improvements to handling and downforce, the rear-mounted, 4.0-liter boxer-style six-cylinder engine can generate up to 510 horsepower.

Lexus RC F GT3

Photo Credit: Toyota Motor Sales USA

Powering the overall winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona for three consecutive years from 2006 to 2008 with Chip Ganassi Racing, Luxury car company Lexus is taking a new approach to the endurance race for 2017.

Pledging involvement to the GT Daytona class for this year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Lexus and the 3GT Racing team (formed by Scott Pruett and Paul Gentilozzi) are fielding two race cars based on the RC F Coupe. The specially-prepped Lexus RC F GT3 uses a modified version of the 5.0-liter V-8 engine found in the production car. Technical specifications set out by the RC F GT3 when unveiled in late 2014 featured a race vehicle that is 4 inches longer in overall length and is considerably wider than the showroom example of the coupe. Wheelbase length remains consistent between the race and production car. Weight of the Lexus RC F GT3 is also significantly lower than the road-going coupe.

Lexus and 3GT Racing originally intended to debut the RC F GT3 coupe on the track in 2016 competition in the United States but would have to wait until this year to compete in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. The 2017 car did race at the Nurburgring last year where it won in the VLN Endurance Championship.  

Mazda RT24-P  

Celebrating its 25th anniversary of a 24 Hours of Le Mans win last year, Mazda is still hunting for an overall victory at another popular daylong event at the Daytona International Speedway. Built in a quest of conquering another 24-hour race, Mazda unleashes its 2017 challenger in prototype competition called the RT24-P.

The vehicle’s use of 24 in the nameplate relates to both the Mazda Road to 24 driver development program and the presence of a 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine. Compared to its past motorsport efforts that consisted of rotary engines and most recently diesel power, Mazda’s all-new RT24-P explores a relatively more conventional route in powertrain performance. Replacing the unsuccessful SkyActiv-D diesel engine that ran in 2014 and 2015, the 600-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter power unit used for 2017 was introduced into last year’s prototype race car.

All-new modern look from the Mazda RT24-P complements the KODO design theme the Japanese automaker has incorporated across their production vehicles. A marriage of function and pleasing style, KODO design emphasizes an aerodynamic shape with muscular proportions. A five-point Mazda grille is also applied to the RT24-P. Mazda switches from their previous Lola chassis to a Riley chassis developed in relations with Multimatic for the new prototype machine.

The Mazda RT24-P as well as the other race cars will be making their debuts at Daytona but will be making many more appearances across the motorsport world in this upcoming year.


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