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First Ever United Sports Car Championship Race Debuts With Rolex 24 Hours Of Daytona


This isn't IndyCar, and it's damn sure not NASCAR. This is something new.

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via www.imsa.com

Think of it as Major League Sports Car or the National Sports Car League - the heir of a merger between two competing series, Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series, to produce a first ever unified championship in 2014. With a fittingly royal name, the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship is now the unchallenged king of sports car racing in the United States. It happened over 24 hours at Daytona International Speedway: a sunny afternoon in Florida became night before the race was even halfway through. The cars would meet the sunrise covered in grime and screaming, their drivers and crews nearing delirium.


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via pbs.twimg.com

So this is sports car racing at its highest level. Production cars like the Ferrari 458, Aston-Martin Vantage, Porsche 911, Audi R8, and the brand new Corvette Stingray and Dodge Viper, knife-fighting at triple digit speeds while prototype racers which will never see a city street rocket through the fray like cruise missiles en route to a championship of their own.

Two classes of production cars, two classes of prototypes, all on the same track, non-stop, for 24 hours. It's akin to a mêlée fought on a highway.


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via pbs.twimg.com

Daytona International Speedway is the natural host for the coronation of the series. People have been holding races which spanned a rotational period of the Earth at the track's 3.56 mile road course since "driver safety" meant a polo helmet, a track lined with flammable hay bales, and not too much champagne at each pit stop. Seatbelts weren't even a "maybe" in 1962. Rolex named a watch after this race. Winning drivers, usually 3 to 4 per car, have been receiving the Cosmograph Daytona as a prize on the podium for 50 years.

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via pbs.twimg.com

Unlike Indy or Formula One, there are no open-wheel sports cars. Prototype (P) cars tend to look like a weaponized French curve, all swoops and blades. Sometimes the car's body is wrapped around a faceless helmet in an open cockpit - a soft human head, buffeted by open air and making all the decisions. The drivers have up to 600 horsepower underfoot with which to fight the other teams. Pits, cracks and sheets of duct tape mark the cars by the time daylight returns, evidence of impacts with debris, walls and other racers. The drivers seem implacable, their features erased behind visors, but the stress takes its toll.

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via www.imsa.com


The top prototype class cars run V-8s from Chevy and Dinan (BMW), Ford or Honda turbos, even Mazda diesels. The former Daytona prototype cars from the old Grand-Am tend to all look similar, and keep their pilots under closed cockpits. The American Le Mans Series ran under the international rules for the FIA and the famous 24 hour race in France. They're the sharp ones being driven by bobbleheads. The Prototype Challenge (PC) cars are open cockpit, but they're spec-racers: identical ORECA prototypes with Corvette-derived LS3 motors making a more modest 430 horsepower on their way to a top speed of 175mph, winging around the banked curves of the track's exterior course. They still get passed by the P cars like they're parked.

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via www.imsa.com


The rest of the cars, if not familiar, are at least recognizable. These are the production, GTLM and GTD ("-Le Mans" and "-Daytona") cars, and mostly follow the rules of their old series. LMs are the cars in the faster, more highly modified, class. You won't find a BMW V-8 under the hood of a square-fendered Z4 GTE at any local dealership. This was the first race for the seventh-generation Corvette, the 2014 Stingray - honed for this purpose into the positively evil, 500hp C7.R. The C5- and C6.Rs won dozens of races on U.S. and foreign soil, but the C7 is the first street Corvette to take its design from the race car's, instead of the other way around. It figures to roll onto the checkers of a few winners circles, despite actually having a smaller motor than the production vehicle, at a maximally-mandated 5.5 liters.
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via www.imsa.com


The GTD cars are enhanced, but their cores could conceivably be daily drivers. Porsche created an entirely new race car, the 911 GT America, for this class, but take off the five foot wide wing on the back, and it's almost pedestrian. The same goes for the Ferrari, Audi, Aston-Martin and Viper.

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via www.imsa.com


Exhausted from reading about all of those cars and classes? Consider battling all of them, all at once - or maybe just give some thought to watching, the next time they're on TV. The season begins in earnest with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours Of Sebring on March 12

<em>Notice: FanPosts are user-created content and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Pop Off Valve or SBNation. User discretion is advised.</em>

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