Am I the only person who judges the passage of time by race seasons? My year starts and begins with races, but even I have found myself wondering how 2015 went so fast. Has it really been a year since I stayed up for forty-three hours straight with my best friend at Daytona? Did I really watch Porsche dominate 2015 in a way that left me breathless? (I’m serious, the finale in Bahrain had me thinking I was going to have an anxiety attack.) Did I really attend all four races of the North American Championship? Did I really finally make it to a WEC race? Did I survive the wettest race I’ve ever been to which led to the reward of my favorite team winning? Did I really watch Nick Tandy dominate that race so beautifully?
It was an eventful 2015 racing season. After a nearly disastrous 2014, IMSA seemed to find its footing and put on some incredible racing. FIA WEC drew comparisons to F1, which has always been considered the pinnacle of motorsports, but is now being surpassed by a global sports car series. Pirelli World Challenge had its problems this year, but when it went right, it really went right. Every single sports car series seemed to hit its stride, from support series to the headliners, and it was just absolutely incredible to watch as a fan.
It’s tempting to look back, to list what went right and wrong to make this season what it was, but I’m excited for what’s in the future, just nine days away. The off season seemed so much shorter, and now we are just nine days out from the Roar Before the 24, the annual testing for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. It’s a great event, more laid back, but it also marks the beginning of a fresh new season. In 2014, the Roar was special because it was the beginning of a whole new series. There was so much hope that year, and now, two years later, I feel like there is so much more to excited about.
I was lucky enough to ask the drivers in November what was going to be so great in 2016, and overwhelmingly, the answer was the GT racing. But I thought I’d take a moment and list what has me excited for 2016. There might be a little bit of Porsche fangirling here. I’d apologize for it, but I feel like I get to enjoy the fact Porsche are current world champions for a bit. So, what am I excited about for 2016?
- The GT cars. Okay, so I’m not drifting too far from the drivers on this one. Between the Ford GT in GTLM and the GT3 machinery in GTD, I am beyond excited to watch GT racing this year. While I absolutely hate that we’re missing some of the manufacturers I had always looked forward to seeing in IMSA (specifically McLaren and Mercedes), I do think the new GT3 models will really provide an awesome shot of adrenaline into my favorite class.
- The prototype competition. Okay, so the prototype class is probably a bit of a lame duck this year. 2017 is the year of big change for this class, but already we’re seeing some interesting driver pairings for both NAEC and for the season as a whole. Everyone seems to be putting their money on last year’s championship winning team, Action Express, but I personally think we’re going to see some surprises. You can’t discount Ryan Dalziel, who makes his series return this year with Spirit of Daytona and co-driver Marc Goosens. Ganassi just announced an incredible line up for their two Rolex-running Daytona Prototypes, and they know how to win the Rolex 24. As much as there isn’t enough of a change in the machinery, there is no doubt that the depth of talent will make the racing every bit as exciting as it has been.
- Can Porsche dominate again? I’m not just talking in IMSA, but also worldwide. Porsche ran the perfect season in WEC, and in latter parts of season in GT racing. The LMP1 program was especially impressive after so many people started the season pointing out just how unreliable the Porsche 919 was. They came from a difficult 2014 and showed the world that Porsche was not only ready to race in the prototype ranks again, but to win in them. Everything about Porsche works, from their crew to the car to the preparation and especially to the drivers. Nick Tandy took down the rest of the world for sports car driver of the year award, and his performance at Petit Le Mans was mind blowing. While they have made changes in LMGTE-PRO in WEC, they are showing the world that they are coming back in 2016 with a plan to dominate again. I’m excited to see what each driver can accomplish, especially newly crowned Porsche driver Kevin Estre. So can they do it again? I can’t wait to see. It would be great to see them stand as winners at the Rolex 24.
- Will sports car racing continue to grow? This is my big question and one for which I’m truly hoping we can get an answer. Sports car racing will never be as big as NASCAR in the United States, but every year the Rolex 24 grows. Hotels are already sold out in Daytona Beach. Will we see gain traction here in North America? What can we do to make it grow? These are all questions I think every one involved in the sport is asking, and I’m more than willing to do my part to help.
- It’s race season. I feel like that’s the obvious one. I’m just looking forward to 2016, because it means racing is back. I’ve written before that I find my joy in this sport, I find my passion. I can’t be the only person on the planet who starts to get the shakes sometime in November. While the rest of the world is excited for the holiday season, I know it means I can start an official countdown. Nine days until the Roar Before the 24, 29 days until the Rolex 24 Hours, 62 days until Pirelli World Challenge makes it’s comeback, and 108 days until WEC comes back in Silverstone. The racing season is almost here, the shakes can stop, and I can’t wait.
I want to thank everyone for reading this little column that I actually started once the racing season was over. I can’t wait to show you guys the world of sports car racing. I can’t wait to build on this. I’m sure the 2016 season will have some of its usual drama, and I’m sure I’ll have something to say about it. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a great New Year. And if you see me at the Roar, probably wearing my usual gray Porsche hat, make sure you say hi. It’s almost done, guys, it’s almost time to go racing.