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Start your engines for the Rolex 24 at Daytona

Words by Rob Chilton

Teams, drivers and fans gather at the famous Daytona International Speedway track in Florida for the season-opening endurance race

Few venues in motorsport are as evocative, storied and just plain old exciting as Daytona Beach. The famous Florida track this weekend hosts the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the celebrated endurance race that kicks off the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Concluding in October, the 12-race series is contested by 39 cars across four classes: Daytona Prototype international (DPi), Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD).

The car to watch at Daytona International Speedway this weekend is number 77, driven by Frenchman Olivier Pla, who races in a Mazda Team Joest Dpi. His winning time of 1:33.324 in the three-day prologue event at Daytona in early January gives him first choice of garage location and pit stall this weekend. Grand Marshal for the 2020 race will be ex-driver Christian Fittipaldi who retired from racing last year.

Top marks to the lawnmower team at Daytona

Big names to watch elsewhere among the 140 drivers are defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, former Formula 1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya and IndyCar icon Scott Dixon. As well as the glory of lifting the trophy, the winning drivers walk away with a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona.

Ex-driver Scott Pruett won the race five times

Teams must clock 13 hours of driving at night, the longest single period of darkness of any 24-hour race. The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship goes on to visit Florida, Ohio, California, Michigan, Connecticut, Wisconsin, New York and Virginia with the closing race taking place in Georgia in October. In July the championship crosses into Ontario in Canada.

Daytona seats more than 100,000 spectators

But the honour of the season curtain-raiser goes to the renowned 3.56 mile track at Daytona International Speedway. The venue also houses the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and welcomes the iconic NASCAR Cup race, the 62nd annual Daytona 500, on February 16.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona begins January 25

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