No. 81 DragonSpeed Oreca 07 and No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217. Photo courtesy of IMSA

2017 Rolex 24 car-by-car preview: P/PC

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MotorSportsTalk’s Tony DiZinno takes a look through the entries for the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona, car-by-car. Here’s a look through the two prototype classes, Prototype and Prototype Challenge. Roar Before the Rolex 24 times are listed.

With 12 cars in P that are all new and five in PC that are in their final year of eligibility, the prototype classes span the generations of recent sports car designs, teams, and lineups.

PROTOTYPE

Daytona Prototype international (DPi) spec cars

No. 5 Cadillac DPi-V.R. Photo courtesy of IMSA
No. 5 Cadillac DPi-V.R. Photo courtesy of IMSA

No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing (Action Express Racing)
Car: Cadillac DPi-V.R
Drivers: Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Filipe Albuquerque
Roar Time: 1:38.693 (5)

Outlook: On what should be a better playing field for the debuting Cadillac DPi, the No. 5 Action Express team seeks a return to winning this race for the first time in three years.

No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing (Action Express Racing)
Car: Cadillac DPi-V.R
Drivers: Dane Cameron, Eric Curran, Seb Morris, Mike Conway
Roar Time: 1:38.902 (6)

Outlook: The time is right for the No. 31 car to finally contend at Daytona since it hasn’t in years past. Defending IMSA champs Cameron and Curran enter at the top of their games; Conway should star in his Rolex debut while Sunoco Challenge winner Morris, Andy Meyrick’s protégé, is the wild card.

No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing
Car: Cadillac DPi-V.R
Drivers: Jordan Taylor, Ricky Taylor, Max Angelelli, Jeff Gordon
Roar Time: 1:38.951 (8)

Outlook: After a rash of near misses and heartache, is this finally the year for the second generation of Taylor brothers to break through at Daytona? Gordon is the star guest driver here, and how close he is to the pace after a 10-year race layoff may determine their final outcome.

No. 55 Mazda RT24-P. Photo courtesy of IMSA
No. 55 Mazda RT24-P. Photo courtesy of IMSA

No. 55 Mazda Motorsports
Car: Mazda RT24-P
Drivers: Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez, Spencer Pigot
Roar Time: 1:38.363 (2)

Outlook: New car but the same lineup for this Mazda trio, who won’t lack for pace on their own. Suspension issues interrupted their Roar; reliability is also a key target for the same AER engine that continues into 2017.

No. 70 Mazda Motorsports
Car: Mazda RT24-P
Drivers: Joel Miller, Tom Long, James Hinchcliffe
Roar Time: 1:39.574 (10)

Outlook: Take the above description and copy and paste it here, except with a Machine Gray livery rather than Soul Red. The “Mayor of Hinchtown” makes a welcome return to Mazda for a fifth time, after a year’s hiatus.

Photo: Tequila Patron ESM
Photo: Tequila Patron ESM

No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM
Car: Nissan Onroak DPi
Drivers: Ryan Dalziel, Scott Sharp, Pipo Derani, Brendon Hartley
Roar Time: 1:39.654 (12)

Outlook: While it’s Derani and Sharp that return as defending champion co-drivers, it’s likely Derani and Dalziel – back Stateside full-time with ESM after a one-year detour to VISIT FLORIDA Racing – who will carry this car’s pace and hopes. The car doesn’t have a ton of miles and may struggle initially.

No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM
Car: Nissan Onroak DPi
Drivers: Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek, Bruno Senna, Brendon Hartley
Roar Time: 1:39.608 (11)

Outlook: Senna and Hartley are the impressive new additions here alongside the other two defending champion co-drivers, “JVO” and Brown. Hartley’s Daytona history is mixed with only one P5, last year, while Senna will look to star in what is, surprisingly, his Rolex 24 debut.

LMP2 spec cars

No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley Mk. 30-Gibson. Photo courtesy of IMSA
No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley Mk. 30-Gibson. Photo courtesy of IMSA

No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing
Car: Riley Mk. 30-Gibson
Drivers: Renger van der Zande, Marc Goossens, Rene Rast
Roar Time: 1:38.922 (7)

Outlook: Last year was a nightmare year for VISIT FLORIDA at Daytona with a tried-and-true car. More new elements enter with a new car (the Riley-Gibson), drivers (the admittedly fast van der Zande and Rast) and director of race operations (Michael Harvey), who if they can mesh quickly could produce a result.

No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217-Gibson. Photo courtesy of IMSA
No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217-Gibson. Photo courtesy of IMSA

No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports
Car: Ligier JS P217-Gibson
Drivers: Tom Kimber-Smith, Jose Gutierrez, Michael Guasch, RC Enerson
Roar Time: 1:38.596 (4)

Outlook: The car, class and most of the lineup is new. But Bobby Oergel runs a good program and won this race in PC before just two years ago. The team once again fields a similarly under-the-radar lineup, particularly with sports car debutante Enerson alongside expected pacesetter “TKS.” A podium is possible here if the car holds.

No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07-Gibson. Photo courtesy of IMSA
No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07-Gibson. Photo courtesy of IMSA

No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports
Car: Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Stephen Simpson, Mikhail Goikhberg, Chris Miller, Mathias Beche
Roar Time: 1:39.167 (9)

Outlook: John Church’s team steps up to Prototype and will find the going tougher here than it was in PC, where the team won last year. Finishing must be the first goal here for what will be a likable underdog entry in class, with Beche the all but certain car pacesetter.

No. 13 Rebellion Racing
Car: Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Nick Heidfeld, Neel Jani, Sebastien Buemi, Stephane Sarrazin
Roar Time: 1:38.408 (3)

Outlook: Rebellion makes its U.S. return and Daytona debut with, surprisingly, three Rolex 24 rookies in its all-star lineup of four drivers (Sarrazin has one start in 2013). Whether the undoubted pace can translate in the race week remains to be seen.

No. 81 DragonSpeed
Car: Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Nicolas Lapierre, Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman, Loic Duval
Roar Time: 1:38.343 (1)

Outlook: Elton Julian’s team knows how to run endurance races and had some success in the ELMS. Fourth at Sebring was an impressive result last year, and in some respects they may have wanted more. A podium is more than possible for the team that was the Roar pacesetter.

PC

No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09. Photo courtesy of IMSA
No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca FLM09. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Outlook: The swan song for the PC class at the Rolex 24 at Daytona will see a new team add its name to the list of class winners, a guaranteed fourth in as many years as CORE autosport, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and JDC/Miller Motorsports have won the last three. With those three teams now elsewhere on the WeatherTech Championship grid, it’s left to the Peter Baron, Brian Alder and Brent O’Neill-led stalwarts to make up the five-car grid.

While the PC class lacks the overall depth and star power in the three other classes, there’s still some intrigue. Performance Tech’s quartet was meant to be all 24 years of age or younger with French the only Rolex 24 veteran, although that changed following the Roar with 27-year-old Nick Boulle joining the team once more. Baron has done his usual star finding to spread between his two cars at Starworks. And at BAR1, past Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice returns to active competition after five years out, Johnny Mowlem makes one final drive at Daytona, and young guns Trent Hindman and Gustavo Yacaman will be keen to impress in their opportunities.

Expect the class to very much be a battle of survival, but it will be cool to see one of these three team owners rewarded for their persistence and dedication.

No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports
Drivers: James French, Kyle Masson, Pato O’Ward, Nick Boulle
Roar Time: 1:41.888 (1)

No. 8 Starworks Motorsport
Drivers: Ben Keating, John Falb, Chris Cumming, Remo Ruscitti, Robert Wickens
Roar Time: 1:43.320 (3)

No. 88 Starworks Motorsport
Drivers: Scott Mayer, Alex Popow, James Dayson, Sebastian Saavedra, Sean Rayhall
Roar Time: 1:44.089 (5)

No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports
Drivers: Buddy Rice, Don Yount, Gustavo Yacaman, Chapman Ducote, Mark Kvamme
Roar Time: 1:43.865 (4)

No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports
Drivers: Johnny Mowlem, Tom Papadopoulos, Trent Hindman, Adam Merzon, David Cheng
Roar Time: 1:42.701 (2)

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.