Daytona International Speedway has set the date for the 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the facility's first marquee event following the completed $400 million "DAYTONA Rising" upgrade. The 54th Rolex 24 will take the green flag on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, concluding 24 hours later at the World Center of Racing.
Not only will this historic event feature Daytona's "reimagined" motorsports stadium, it also will mark the debut of new rules packages that are expected to improve the performance of the two production car-based "GT" classes in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
The GT Le Mans (GTLM) class will compete under the new "GTE" specifications established by the ACO, which sanctions the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. The GT Daytona class will welcome full FIA GT3 specifications for all of its cars. Multiple manufacturers around the world are building cars to the GT3 specifications, and including that configuration in the TUDOR Championship's GTD class is expected to attract more manufacturers and competitors to the series.
The other two classes in the TUDOR Championship, the headlining Prototype and Prototype Challenge cars, are expected to remain similar to the 2015 specifications.
"The debut of new cars in the GTLM and GTD classes, along with the first event in Daytona International Speedway's motorsports stadium, will add even more anticipation for one of the most prestigious events on the international motorsports calendar," said Scott Atherton, president of IMSA, the TUDOR Championship's sanctioning body.
"The Rolex 24 At Daytona is more than a race, it's an event where fans can enjoy world-class sports car competition and witness the latest and greatest from some of the most prestigious high performance car manufacturers in the world," Atherton said. "New GT cars and the addition of a completed DAYTONA Rising project will make next year's Rolex 24 a must-see spectacle."
"We're excited to finalize the dates for the Rolex 24 At Daytona for 2016, the first event in the new stadium," said Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III. "Sports car enthusiasts will be able to enjoy all the new amenities from the DAYTONA Rising project as well as view the thrilling racing action that comes with Rolex 24 At Daytona."
DAYTONA Rising represents a major redevelopment of the Daytona International Speedway oval and road course facility, which ran its first race in 1959 and cost $3 million to build — $397 million less than the DAYTONA Rising investment.
Among the improvements: Five expanded and redesigned entrances, or "injectors," will lead fans to a series of escalators and elevators, transporting them to three different concourse levels. Each level features large social areas, or "neighborhoods," along the nearly mile-long front stretch and provides an enhanced view of the track's infield road course.
Testing dates for the Rolex 24 also have been finalized. The Roar Before the Rolex 24, a three-day test in preparation for the Rolex 24, will be held Jan. 8-10.
As usual, the prelude to the Rolex 24 will be the season-opening IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, part of the Rolex 24 At Daytona weekend. The BMW Performance 200 will kick off 2016 Daytona Speedweeks on Friday, January 29. Speedweeks will conclude Sunday, February 21, with NASCAR's Daytona 500.