Today at 1.40 p.m. local time the Rolex clock will begin its 24-hour countdown as the 61-car grid tackles the 61st edition of this demanding contest. Renowned manufacturers, including BMW and Porsche, are returning to the top category, as the pioneering Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) cars make their highly anticipated debut. For the first time in endurance racing history, a transatlantic agreement will enable the LMDh machines to compete in championships and competitions across the globe.
This includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans – the world’s oldest and most iconic endurance race – of which Rolex has been the Official Timepiece since 2001, and this year celebrates its 100th anniversary. The LMDh cars, competing at Daytona International Speedway® as part of the revived Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class, encourage ground-breaking design in the quest for ultimate performance and will feature nine of the most sustainable, hybrid technology cars in North America.
The official rehearsal for the race – known as the Roar Before the Rolex 24 – took place last week, as the drivers and teams familiarized themselves with the demanding 5.73 kilometre (3.56 mile) tri-oval circuit. During the three-day event, the five classes participated in qualifying, with the reigning champion, #60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06, driven by Tom Blomqvist, clinching pole position in the final few seconds ahead of an incredibly competitive field.
Discussing this milestone season and the wider impact on motor sport, Rolex Testimonee, endurance racing legend and nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen says:
"The transatlantic relationship we now have in endurance racing is very important to the sport and its future; it shows comradery, respect and development. This year has brought a number of changes, with advancements in technology and engineering, alongside many new teams and drivers entering. That is what Rolex and motor sport are about – always improving and breaking down the boundaries of possibility.”
Famed for having more hours of darkness than daylight, the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA continues to welcome drivers from around the world, as they look to challenge themselves in extreme conditions and in the most avant-garde sports cars. The exciting GTP line-up at the event includes three-time overall Rolex 24 winner and IndyCar legend Scott Dixon, who partners Sébastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande at Chip Ganassi Racing. Meanwhile, recently crowned 2022 FIA World Endurance Champion and winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2022, Brendon Hartley, joins Wayne Taylor Racing. Following his retirement from Formula 1®, Romain Grosjean will make his American endurance debut in the Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD Pro) class.
The deep-rooted alliance between Rolex and motor sport began in the 1930s when Sir Malcolm Campbell broke World Land Speed Records at the wheel of his car, Bluebird, with a Rolex on his wrist. Having supported racing at Daytona International Speedway® since its beginnings, the Swiss watchmaker officially became Title Sponsor of the 24-hour race in 1992 and awards those who triumph at this demanding course with a specially engraved Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona. Sir Jackie Stewart, a Rolex Testimonee for 55 years and three-time FIA Formula 1® Drivers’ World Champion, says:
"To this day, Rolex continues to be involved with the best events in motor sport. The Daytona watch embodies the brand’s enduring association with the Rolex 24 At Daytona and is the ultimate reward for a racing driver.”
Rolex’s close ties with motor sport date back to Sir Malcolm Campbell’s World Land Speed Record successes in the 1930s, when he became the first driver to break the 300 mph barrier (483 km/h) at the wheel of his car, Bluebird. Since then, Rolex’s presence in motor racing has grown steadily, its support extending to revered endurance events such as the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship. In 2013, Rolex became associated with Formula 1®, the pinnacle of motor sport, having supported Rolex Testimonee Sir Jackie Stewart since 1968. The three-time FIA Formula 1® Drivers’ World Champion has been joined by fellow high achievers from the world of motor sport: Tom Kristensen, the record nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner; Mark Webber, the multiple Formula 1® race winner and 2015 FIA World Endurance Champion, and Jenson Button, 2009 FIA Formula 1® Drivers’ World Champion. Most recently, Jamie Chadwick, current Indy NXT driver, three-time W Series champion and the sport's most exciting young female talent became part of the Rolex family. The brand also has a global appreciation for classic automotive events steeped in elegance, beauty and tradition, including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and the Goodwood Revival.
Image: BMW M Hybrid V8, LMDh, BMW M Team RLL.