Le Mans saw 62 entries granted last year, and there are 61 at Daytona this weekend, but Circuit de le Sarthe is nearly 8.5 miles, while Daytona International Speedway is just 3.5 miles long. There’s simply never a quiet moment for the drivers, and that tends to mean there’s never a quiet moment for the fans, either.
With so many cars squeezed into such a small space, incidents are pretty regular. Perhaps it’s the North American influence that seems to accept that bit more contact than in Europe, but the racing itself can get pretty robust too, especially in the closing stages after caution periods have almost inevitably bunched the field up on multiple occasions.
If you’re already a fan of Le Mans or the World Endurance Championship (WEC) as a whole, then you might well have a similar interest in IMSA. But if not, now is certainly the time to be learning the ropes, because the agreement between both WEC and IMSA to create Hypercar and LMDh categories that will allow the biggest teams to enter their top level cars at both Daytona and Le Mans is an exciting one.
“You might just get a look at a future F1 star or two at the same time”
For LMDh, that switch is now one year off, meaning this is set to be the last year of the Daytona Prototype (DPi) regulations. While it’s just Cadillac and Acura providing cars in the top-level DPi this time round – and both will keep competing at Daytona – the LMDh regulations have seen commitments from Audi, BMW, Porsche and Alpine, which should open up a much larger prototype field in future. And the star drivers taking part now will remain in high demand.
But if all of that is seeming a bit too complex to think about and you want me to simplify it even more, it’s just a very, very cool event with a high quality field from multiple racing disciplines, on a track that gives the fans brilliant access. From the main grandstand there is a view of the whole circuit, while the infield allows spectators to move around easily to pick a vantage point overlooking pretty much any corner.
Garage access is permitted too, so when cars are being wheeled into the permanent garages for running repairs during a race, fans can stand just a few feet away and watch the teams at work on their machines, in a way they can only dream of at an F1 race or Le Mans.
You might not get to enjoy those perks from home, but it adds up to a unique atmosphere at the event that permeates through the drivers, who love what is traditionally their season-opener regardless of their full-time series. And if the drivers are loving it, the final product tends to be that little bit more enjoyable to watch.
With F1’s opening round still more than a month off, it’s one of the best ways to get your racing fix. And who knows, you might just get a look at a future F1 star or two at the same time.