Hour 0:00: Welcome back, auto racing.
The Rolex 24 at Daytona is now well into its DPi era, defined by the top class built around high-output, production-based engines paired with LMP2 cars. In two years, this will also be the formula for half of the top class at Le Mans. For now, the top class is just Cadillacs, Acuras, and a lone Mazda.
In 2023, it will feature at least Acura>>>P, Audi, and Porsche. Many more announcements are expected.
But, for now, all eyes are on the present. Cadillac and Acura have both re-structured their programs this year. Acura has lost their partnership with Team Penske, but poaching away defending race winners Wayne Taylor Racing and bringing sports car stalwarts Meyer Shank Racing back up to the top class has the program still expecting championships and major race wins. Cadillac has replaced WTR with an even bigger name, bringing Chip Ganassi Racing back to sports cars after a year off following their overwhelmingly successful run with the Ford GTLM program. Whether or not GM and all of the teams involved have made an official announcement, both are at the very least scouting out potential partnerships for the near future of LMDh. First, though, another Rolex 24 to win.
In GTLM, this is the last Rolex 24. The GT class that dates back to the ALMS days has been the home to high-level factory sports car racing in the US for a decade and a half, but dwindling car counts mean it will be merged into the GT3-based GTD category as a pro-only subclass next year. What this means for Le Mans remains to be seen, but IMSA's GT racing future is set. Corvette Racing will battle BMW and two privateer entries representing Porsche and Ferrari one more time, then they will join the high-end GTD battle currently headlined by major programs from Lexus and Acura. This year's GTD race also includes entries from McLaren, Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Ferrari, and BMW, although most of those teams will not join Corvette in the pro-only sub-category set to be introduced next year.
Finally, a massively expanded LMP2 grid and a new-for-2021 LMP3 category fill out the 49-car field with two full sets of pro-am prototypes following a strict set of rules. These battles are expected to be competitive throughout the race, but the strangely low top speeds and high corner speeds of these cars could create havoc for the DPi, GTLM, and GTD competitors as the race goes on.
The race, which you can find on NBC and its affiliated platforms throughout the day>>>P, begins in ten minutes. This live blog will follow it minute-by-minute, updating periodically with timestamps representing the total number of minutes elapsed in the race.