Daytona is done! Well maybe not quite
The 1st round of any series is a learning experience for everyone and that includes the organisers. The big talking point of the week leading up to the race was the qualifying format and, in retrospect, maybe open qualifying at a circuit where draft can make such a significant difference wasn't the best idea and we'll think about this carefully for future events. We also had a problem with not being able to set the race dates/times correctly although the compromise on this worked out pretty well.
These issues however, didn't stop the racing from being exciting.
The new time slot on Saturdays looks promising - we had our biggest ever International field although there's still work to do before we get this region splitting. The biggest problem in International now is the gap between the fastest and slowest drivers is huge and it can make racing awkward and the very small performance gap between the GTEs and GT3s made matters worse in this race.
In the DPs, Daniel Benefield, as expected, took the win but Cam Dance kept him honest from most of the race. Eric Thorpe pipped Robert Northway to 3rd after a race long battle. Defending champion Josh Noack had a nightmare race, eventually registering a DNF. Sam Sutton won GTE from Chris Purnell and Simon Mezzomo after early leader Corey Ott run into backmarker problems. The GT3 race was also impacted by early interactions with slower cars but Duane Burns took a well deserved win from Mirko Dautanac and Jason Martin.
In the teams, favourites and defending champions Kinetic-Schwift had a disastrous 1st 5 laps with 3 of their cars damaged in early incidents. However they recovered well to take the lead in the Pro constructors championship. Sportsman team Allusion Motorsport scored the 2nd most points overall to lead the standings there.
Europe split into 2 good sized fields and there were a lot of new names on the grid in the Pro Split. Gabriel Roos did a few rounds in 2018 but is in for the full season this year and won the DP class (a specialist car for him) fairly comfortably from Joshua Wolf and Teemu Toikka. Like International, the defending champion struggled, with Pete Harrod only managing 12th place.
GTE was dominated by the CQR team with their drivers David Baker, Christian Rose and Jamie Rushworth taking an impressive 1-2-3. In GT3, Christian Challiner, last years Pacific runner-up, showed that he'll be a force in Europe as well with a comfortable win from David van Broeck and Markus Niskanen.
In the teams, Kinetic's 2 class wins and solid results from the rest of their team mean they have a small lead over CQR. Defending champs Bombshell are 3rd. In sportsman, Team Mad lead from Black Tree Racecrew.
The Sportsman split winners were Dawson Brock, David Onzol and Hayden Pastorius.
Three good splits for this one and it meant that the racing in the Pro Split was always going to be good.
Defending champion Blake Reynolds showed he's not going to give up his title easily by winning a race long close tactical battle with Dallas Pataska and Erich Smith. GTE was a mighty battle as well, with Paul Darling winning from Brain Bennett and Vince l'Herbier. GT3 saw a great tactical and patient drive by Alex Saunders to win from Travis Warling and Jimbo Pfeiffer.
The sportsman splits were won by Carter Kundinger, John Ehlers, Gustavo Cianfarani, Jes Coleman, Brent McCoy and Jose Pabon.
In the Pro teams, vApex lead from Ridin' Shotgun and Alliance. Will this be the year that Alliance is finally toppled? This looks like it might be a titanic battle all year!
In Sportsman teams, Northwind-Puffin lead from Dogbear White.
Next is the Daytona 500 - an oval race will tell us a lot about who might be able to maintain the kind of consistency needed to win titles in The Majors.