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Fear And Loathing At the Rolex 24, Part 2

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On: Fri, Feb 5, 2010 at 10:30AM | By: John Welch

Fear And Loathing At the Rolex 24, Part 2

Wet, thirsty, and brimming with manic excitement, I took stock of my current situation. The race (after thirty laps) had calmed into a steady ebb and flow that saw both the Daytona Protoype and GT lead change hands two or three times. It would be a while before the strongest competitors separated themselves from the field. The Ford contingent (Mike Shank Racing, Suntrust/Wayne Taylor Racing) were hanging close to the top four, but it was becoming apparent that the Ganassi BMW/Rileys and the two Porsche flat-six powered prototypes were the class of the field.

Th rain had lessened slightly, and the cold was begininng to set in. We decided it might be a good time to visit the dark green Subaru we had left in the parking lot two hours prior. After assessing what items other people were able to get into the grandstands (backpacks, entire 18 packs of Busch, massive camera equipment) we had a decent idea of what we needed to retrieve from the lowly Legacy. It was time to accessorize, strap loose beers, and a Canon D5 to our chests, and brave the coming night . . .

Walking back to the car is less of a struggle than getting into the grandstands. On the hike I bounce some thoughts around my skull. The cars were all turned out brilliantly, but a few struck me as especially fetching. The #60 Mike Shank/Crown Royal XR machine reminded me of the Group C-era Silk Cut Jaguars; you be the judge . . .

Silk Cut Jag, and the Mike Shank Ford/Riley. Eh, not so much.

My favorite paint scheme was definitely plastered on the #44 Magnus Racing Porsche GT3. Dark green streaks laid over white, this was the classiest livery at the 24. A close second goes to the Porsche DP of the Action Express team. The "Brumos-meets-The Fatherland" finish was very striking in its simplicity. The red/black/yellow of the German flag is an extremely satisfying treatment.

We arrive at the car, conduct Impact Meeting, and then begin to morph ourselves into pack mules. I have a normal hoodie on; in the pockets there is a Flip camcorder, Subaru keys, two lighters, and a bag of Combos. Over that I wrench on a "parkaesque" jacket featuring a gigantic fur-lined hood. The jacket's contents include a small digital camera in the front chest pocket, four "AutoShopper" pens in both side pockets. Sharing the side pockets with the pens are two cans of Miller Lite each, and a granola bar, each. My jeans contain our tickets (thoroughly soaked), more pens, and three memory cards.

Over this ridiculous stack of clothing I throw my backpack. It contains a 'Shopper-supplied laptop, all of the equipment that accompanies the D5 camera, six to eight beers, a full-sized sheet, three cans of 'Four Loko' (12% by volume! Screw 'taste'!), and another pad of notebook paper. I would love to see someone try to sneak a load like this into the Daytona 500- you would be shot on sight.

We made our way back up to the "Oldfield Tower" and trudged to the top row, maybe 20 stories up from the tri-oval. The view was magnificent. Completely dark, with just enough fog to make the track's lighting come alive with streaks of color. From where we were sitting we could plainly see the cars as they roared off of turn four, fought for position around the tri-oval, and then ducked down onto the in-field road course. An absolutely bizarre, almost sci-fi environment. The sounds emitting from the track reminded me of the strange droning noises that directors pump into sci-fi/horror flicks. The abrasive, metallic echos heard on every fictitious space station the galaxy over. Think of the beginning of 'Alien' and you know what I mean. The cars exiting my field of view, careening up the impossibly banked tri-oval, left me with a startling feeling of awe. Difficult to describe, this phenomenon was eerily calming, as if the cars were dragging all of my problems and gripes with them in the glow of their tailights.

Lap 180 to lap 210: The Stevenson Camaro (#57) and the Turner BMW M6 (#94, both are GT cars) have been waging total war in front of us for the better part of 45 minutes. Each lap they trade position, the sound of the ferocious BMW V10 rendered almost pedestrian by the Camaro's angry small-block. Honestly, this is the meanest sounding Chevy V8 I've heard outside of a dedicated drag car. Streaks of yellow and blue and red fly past, dart in and out of each other, and then seemingly collapse on the same piece of tarmac, entering the infield. Incredible stuff; the new GT cars almost make up for the lack of Daytona Prototypes. This epic battle lasted for many laps, and was sparked over and over during the next 16 hours. Two great teams punching out some fantastic entertainment.

Lap 247: The Ganassi #02 BMW/Riley, the Action Express #9 Porsche/Riley and the Michael Shank #6 Ford/ Riley are going at it as if there is only an hour left. There are approximately 14 hours left. These cars are feeling frisky, rubbing fenders coming out of the horseshoe before turn three. Watching the Ganassi try to pass the Porsche on the outside coming off of turn three is incredible. The cars are inches apart for what seems like days, separating only to fall in line for the infield. Dodging GT cars all the while, they continue their race within a race all the way to the Start/Finish line . . . when disaster strikes.

Lap 248 sees the Ganassi number 02 belch a little blue smoke from its backside. Lap 249 and the 'belch' has become a full-on 'ralph'. The car is dying before our eyes, and the driver is aware. At the conclusion of lap 250 the sparkling BMW/Riley pulls off of the banking, onto pit lane, and then straight behind the wall to the garage. By the middle of lap 250 the car has already dropped to sixth place. That is the last we see of the number Oh-Two.

Lap 251 and the #9 AE Porsche/Riley leads, followed closely by the number #6 ShankRacing Ford. As the #99 Gainsco Chevrolet pits from 8th place, we notice a line of cars trying to get OUT of the infield. Eureka! Over the course of our dealings with the incompetent DIS staff, one thing was always for sure: there is NO room in the infield! We saw our window, and we were going to take it . . .

Part 3: Infield Absurdity.

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