Roar Before the Rolex 24 starts off the season in front of a whisper of fans

On Friday, January 22, under a foreboding sky, the 2021 IMSA season got off to a less than rousing start at the World Center of Racing – Daytona International Speedway. Dozens of high tech, high speed racing machines took to the high banks in front of what, at times, seemed like only dozens of fans to knock a few months of offseason rust off, and prepare for what has been argued as the most grueling 24 hours of motorsports in North America – the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

This round the clock extravaganza that pits man and machine against the most unfriendly of obstacles – time – takes on an even bigger challenge in 2021; Covid19! With extra protocols in place, including limited capacity, temperature checks, and more, the teams started their practice rounds knowing that this year was unlike any other. 

Fans were not allowed into the garage area. The traditional cub and boy scouts were no where to be seen. In fact, all tent camping was eliminated for the event. It was a virtual ghost town in the UNOH FanZone, normally a hub of activity at the track.

All was not doom and gloom, however. Racers such as 7-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, Two-time defending Rolex 24 At Daytona winner Kamui Kobayashi, and even a member of a legendary racing family, Jarrett Andretti, each took their cars to the limit, and beyond. 

Kamui Kobayashi opened the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season with the fastest lap Friday during the first day of testing at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. His lap of 1 minute, 35.312 seconds (134.463 mph) around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile DIS road course in the No. 48 Action Express Racing Ally Cadillac DPi V.R was 0.385 seconds faster than the closest competitor.  Two-time DAYTONA 500 winner Jimmie Johnson, returns for his eighth start, driving the No. 48 Ally Cadillac DPi-V.R  alongside 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, two-time defending Rolex 24 winner Kamui Kobayashi and German sports car champion Mike Rockenfeller.
On Friday, Jarett Andretti, 28, fired up the No. 18 Andretti Autosport Ligier JS P320 for practice in the Roar Before the Rolex 24 with teammate Tristan Herbert. The team and car carry the influences of John Andretti, and his son is pleased to continue his father’s legacy.
For more photos of Friday’s action, check out the Speedway Digest Thursday Night Thunder Facebook page.
The Roar schedule finds WeatherTech Championship test sessions at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23. Live timing and scoring is available for each session on
Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23 and streams live on Following a 10 a.m. warmup on Sunday, Jan. 24, the Motul Pole Award 100 wraps up the weekend starting at 2:05 p.m. that afternoon.
Adam Sinclair