2015 Rolex 24 Preview: GTLM class

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We continue our look at the field for the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona, and now shift to the GT categories. The GT Le Mans class is wide open with 10 cars entered, even despite the loss of the two factory Vipers.

2014 RECAP

WINNERS: No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR, Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet, Richard Lietz

PODIUM: No. 55 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE, Bill Auberlen, Andy Priaulx, Joey Hand, Maxime Martin, No. 91 SRT Motorsports SRT Viper GTS-R, Dominik Farnbacher, Marc Goossens, Ryan Hunter-Reay

POLE: No. 91 SRT Motorsports SRT Viper GTS-R, Marc Goossens

2015 FORECAST

ROAR RECAP: Aston Martin and Porsche traded places at the top of the Roar, with the Aston now with a more favorable performance outlook after shedding its high-downforce package which it was saddled with a year ago. BMW, Corvette and Ferrari were never session leaders, but were close enough to the pace to where they aren’t out of it.

RACE OUTLOOK: More attrition than normal struck the GTLM class a year ago, and so the leading Porsche was rarely hassled en route to the win in its North American debut with the new 991-spec 911 RSR. They won’t have it easy this time around. Corvette has a year’s worth of development on the C7.R, the Aston Martin is on par, there’s two race-winning capable Ferraris and even BMW – notoriously bad in terms of straight-line speed – could be reliable and consistent enough in the hands of its two cars to pose a threat. If P will go to a DP and PC almost certainly to CORE, GTLM is a far more wide-open category.

WIN CONTENDERS: Ever so slightly, Porsche’s defending champion lineup of Tandy, Pilet and now LMP1 factory ace Marc Lieb could be in good shape to defend. Corvette, undoubtedly, will figure into the equation with either of its two cars, and as mentioned above either BMW could factor into win contention on consistency and reliability more than outright pace. You could strongly suggest at least six, if not eight of the 10 GTLM runners have a realistic shot at winning.

PODIUM SPOILERS: The second Porsche features Earl Bamber and Fred Makowiecki in their Daytona GTLM debuts, and both should star in their first outings in the pre-eminent GT class. Risi is poised to bounce back after its disastrous 2014 race; Aston Martin can actually challenge and AF Corse has a lineup that should contend most of the race. Team Falken Tire is the wild card, the team in its Rolex 24 debut even though most of the players have achieved success in this race elsewhere on the grid. Getting their tires in the right temperature range will be key; seems hard to believe, but this will be Falken’s first 24-hour race with this particular program since entering the American Le Mans Series in 2009.

CLASS ENTRY LIST (10 cars)

  • 3 Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Ryan Briscoe, Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R
  • 4 Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Simon Pagenaud, Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R
  • 17 Wolf Henzler, Bryan Sellers, Patrick Long, Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR
  • 24 John Edwards, Lucas Luhr, Jens Klingmann, Graham Rahal, BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE
  • 25 Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner, Augusto Farfus, Bruno Spengler, BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE
  • 51 Emmanuel Collard, Francois Perrodo, Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander, AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia
  • 62 Giancarlo Fisichella, Pierre Kaffer, Davide Rigon, Olivier Beretta, Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia
  • 98 Darren Turner, Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, Stefan Mucke, Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE
  • 911 Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet, Marc Lieb, Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR
  • 912 Jorg Bergmeister, Earl Bamber, Fred Makowiecki, Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR