This year’s race sees champions from across the motor sport world compete for the title – including previous winners from the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, 24 Hours of Le Mans, Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series, as well as the event debut of two-time FIA Formula One Drivers’ World Champion™, Fernando Alonso. The talent and racing pedigree on display makes it one of the most anticipated Rolex 24s in recent history.
On Thursday 25 January, the star-studded field took to Daytona International Speedway for qualifying sessions that lived up to the fans’ high expectations. With the field so closely matched in performance, the battle for overall pole in the Prototype (P) class was intense as the Cadillacs, ORECAs and Acura Team Penske continued to move the benchmark. Ultimately, Renger van der Zande in the reigning No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R took pole position with a time of 1:36.083; incredibly, the top 13 cars were separated by less than one second. The No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette Racing C7.R set a best time of 1:42.779 in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class and the No. 51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3 finished quickest of the 21 GT Daytona (GTD) teams in 1:46.049.
Today, teams and drivers will make their final preparations in the last one-hour practice session before this year’s Grand Marshal, Chip Ganassi, announces the starters orders for the 2018 Rolex 24 At DAYTONA on Saturday afternoon. Speaking ahead of the race, successful team owner, Chip Ganassi said: “Daytona is a special place that I have come to know very well over the years, so it is an enormous honor to return here as Grand Marshal for this year’s Rolex 24. I look forward to delivering the famous words ‘Drivers, start your engines’, ahead of what we know is always a long race that usually comes down to the final hour.”
As the premier North American endurance race, the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA exudes motor sport history and demands skill, consistency and a finite balance between speed and reliability. Throughout the competition drivers and teams are challenged by a gruelling 13 hours of darkness, varying track and air temperatures combined with changeable weather. Rolex’s ongoing appreciation for motor sport at Daytona Beach dates back to the early 20th century and was formalized in 1992 when the Swiss watch brand became the Title Sponsor and the Official Timepiece of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA. This legendary race demands dedication, excellence and perseverance, making the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona a fitting reward for those who reach the chequered flag first.
ROLEX AND DAYTONA
Rolex’s connection to Daytona harks back to an even earlier time when Daytona Beach was considered the capital of land speed records in the early 20th century. The long, flat and very firm Daytona Beach played host to 14 land speed records in the early part of the 20th century – five of which were set by Sir Malcolm Campbell, including the fastest official time recorded there of 276mph in 1935 at the wheel of his mighty Bluebird with a Rolex on his wrist. In 1992, Rolex formalized this long-standing association with Daytona and the Speedway becoming the Official Timepiece and Title Sponsor of the 24-hour Daytona classic, further strengthening the link between the race and the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watch. After 26 years, the brand is now so closely tied to the event that motor sport aficionados simply refer to it as “The Rolex”.