After New Year’s, every sportscar fan in the world is waiting for Daytona and for many it is the start of the racing season. With its high speeds and high banks, it’s a spectacle on its own. For the CMS VWSC series, while the sun may rise at Daytona in the United States, but it was the machine from the country of the Rising Sun that owned the day. Nissan finished 1-2 in LMH-Pro and 1-2-3 in LMH-Am dominating the first race of this new era of hypercar sportscar racing. In the GTEs, it was a story of dominant teams, with CMS Pro Ferrari and the Trash Panda Racing owning the day.
Ahmed Abdalla took the win in LMH-Pro class and overall for the race. Driving for newcomer team Storm Rider Racing along with Jason Whited in Nissan GT-R LMHs, Abdalla demonstrated top form from the get-go however his teammate characterised the car as “the beast” and struggled to master it.
Team Tripoloski GorillAAAH, sponsored by Gorilla Glue, also driving paired Nissans had mixed success themselves driving this marque, with Marouane el Idrissi finishing a close 2nd to Abdalla but teammate Yassin Marzoug struggling badly and finishing last of the LMH field.
The difficulties of the top teams in truly mastering their Nissans and so take advantage of the speed that these cars posses, left ascending driver George Angelidis of privateer Ferrari Team Maranello Concessionaires the opportunity to battle for top honours. Relentless nighttime battles of Angelidis and el IDrissi as well as Jason Whited with George Whitehouse went on until the early hours of the morning and made for great spectating.
Ultimately, Angelidis would outlast the competition to collect his 1st podium of the season by cementing a 3rd place finish through consistent and error-free laps.
LMH-Am was also dominated by the “Godzilla”, this time sweeping the podium completely. Snake Eyes Racing would finish 2-3 in the standings after an interesting inter-team battle of Wayne Hutchison and last year’s GTE-Am Champion Ross Smith throughout the race, but the win belonged to vintage racer Steve Carman of Weyerbacher Brewing. His win would be the first in any modern sportscar build in the 21st Century admittingly saying it was “a weird, nice feeling”. The Blue Flag McLaren team of Ajay Ren and Tom Aiken would leave the race feeling quite devastated after each driver had held top place in class for at times but leaving empty-handed due to damage or lack of sustained pace by race end.
Shake ups were to be the order of the day in GTE racing with many new teams and drivers in both the Pro and Am classes.
Favoured ByKolles Racing were obliged to start the race without their 2nd driver, Cosimo Streppone, resting all their hopes on their returning LMP2 champion, Colin Moore. Unfortunately, Moore has not yet got his hands firmly around their new Corvette C8.R and suffered lacklustre pace and an early exit due to damage. As a result, Ernest Dela Cruz of CMS Pro Ferrari took advantage of the opportunity and dominated the race from start to finish facing little challenge in getting the win.
The real race of the Pro class was a spectacular chase between Vasilis Katerinakis in the SMR Corkscrew Motorsports Ford and Matthew Marlow in the CMS Pro Ferrari for 2nd that sparkled for most of the morning hours. The back-and-forth battle would ultimately end with Marlow fending off Katerinakis giving a 1-2 to his team, however, Vasilis Katerinakis scores A CAREER HIGH of 3rd placeand1st podium!
With the departure of Snake Eyes Racing champion Ross Smith for the LMH-Am class and a switch of manufacturer, the team has yet to find their footing with the Corvette C8.R. A 4th by their new driver, Horacio Beckert Polli when ‘Flying Frank’ Radosti was an early retirement seemed indicative of a team that had yet to unlock a competitive setup but the season is just beginning.
This left room for an ‘open fight’ between the Rothmans Fords and the Trash Panda Aston Martins, but with the Rothmans team absent this round, Trash Panda Racing dominated, with Matt Buice getting his first career win and his brother, Mike, his highest career finish in 2nd place. That would also be the first 1-2 in Trash Panda Racing Aston Martin’s history.Last podium place would go to independent Corvette C8.R entry from Dan Minges.
With the field to be reinforced with returning drivers Stian Gjorvad and Jamie Zolecki for their teams Recab NG TMC Aston Martin and Stardust Autosports Ferrari respectively, as well as fewer mechanical issues for the current drivers, expectations are high that the competition will become much closer next race weekend.
The Championship will now take a pause before moving thousands of miles west to the country of the Rising Sun for the 60 Minutes of Motegi. What’s about to happen at Motegi is anyone’s guess at this point, but we do expect the Nissans to have a strong outing at home as the other teams are trying to put the brakes on what is currently a run-away train!
CMS offers a variety of racing throughout the week across a number of racing sims. The VWSC chapter races Saturday afternoons (North American timezone) and features concurrent modern and historic multiclass sportscar championships with PRO and AM driver classes plus live broadcast on YouTube.