Rolex 24 at Daytona: Exotic prototypes get first laps here; they're also fit for Le Mans

DAYTONA BEACH — Call it a preliminary to the preliminary.

The first official look-see for a genuine worldwide prototype is still scheduled for Jan. 20 at Daytona, but with this unprecedented roll-out being so important to the international endurance-racing universe, the major players visit Daytona this week for a Tuesday-Wednesday shakedown of the long-awaited machinery.

This one is business only, so it’s closed to the public. Big business, actually.

Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche are building and backing new prototypes designed to compete on both sides of the Atlantic (Lamborghini is expected to join the group in 2024). Broadly, the cars are designed to race in North America’s WeatherTech SportsCar Series (IMSA-sanctioned) as well as Europe’s World Endurance Championship (FIA).

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Acura's new GTP, designed to run at Daytona as well as Le Mans.
Acura's new GTP, designed to run at Daytona as well as Le Mans.

Specifically, and to the point, the common-as-possible rules packages will allow the cars to race in each continent’s crown jewel of endurance racing: The Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.

Looking ahead to this Daytona unveiling, albeit open only to industry insiders, IMSA president Jim Doonan recently gushed about the beauty of the new prototypes, saying, “from a car enthusiast’s standpoint, they will have all the elements of performance and design.”

A handful of other Rolex 24 cars from other divisions will be on hand this week, but most eyes will be on the nine entries from the gilded international car builders. Those manufacturers have teamed with some American heavyweights — including Roger Penske (Porsche) and Chip Ganassi (Cadillac).

Rahal Letterman Lanigan (BMW), Meyer Shank (Acura), Action Express (Cadillac) and Wayne Taylor Racing (Acura) are also fielding new GTP machines.

It’s all in much-needed preparation for the Jan. 28-29 Rolex 24 at Daytona, North America’s premier endurance race and a grinding challenge even for the manufacturers’ old war horses, much less an off-the-shelf offering.

The public will get its first up-close look at the news cars, and all others competing in the 2023 Rolex, during the Jan. 20-22 “Roar Before the 24,” which is equal parts test session and high-profile promotion for the week ahead.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Rolex 24 at Daytona: IMSA-FIA GTP effort hits the high banks this week