2015 Rolex 24 Preview: GTD class

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We conclude our look at the four classes competing in the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona with a look at the GT Daytona class. The 2014 race came down to the last lap, and at least a dozen cars figure to have a realistic shot at the 2015 crown.

2014 RECAP

WINNERS: No. 555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, Scott Tucker, Jeff Segal, Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler, Alessandro Pier Guidi

PODIUM: No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS, Spencer Pumpelly, Nelson Canache Jr., Markus Winkelhock, Tim Pappas, No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America, Madison Snow, Jan Heylen, Marco Seefried

POLE: No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS, Christopher Haase

2015 FORECAST

ROAR RECAP: The Porsche 911 GT Americas held the edge in the majority of sessions at the Roar, even though the Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R driven by Marc Goossens set the outright fastest time during the week. These two, plus the TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3s, were the class of the field, with Ferrari and Audi struggling and BMW unable to set a representative time after arriving late and running only in wet conditions on Sunday.

RACE OUTLOOK: GTD is a hard one to peg because as the tail-end class (in speed terms, not talent terms) so much of the race is determined early. If you get down a lap or lose the pace early in the race, it’s harder to recover. With a 19-car grid, the competition is deeper here than in almost any other category (P is 16 cars and GTLM is 10). The race of course came down to the final lap last year, even beyond before the results order was reversed, and the challengers will be the six or seven cars within the class lead lap by time of sunrise on Sunday morning.

WIN/PODIUM CONTENDERS: In no particular order… the Nos. 22 and 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT Americas, Nos. 33 and 93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-Rs, No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT America, No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS, No. 58 Dempsey/Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America, No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia, No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America, No. 81 GB Autosport Porsche 911 GT America, No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3 and No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3. Yes, I realize that’s 12 of 19 cars entered in class, but all of these lineups feature at least three capable drivers in a four-driver lineup, and that’s the minimum standard for success in the Rolex 24, even with the two Silver/Bronze-rated driver stipulation.

THE REST OF THE RUNNERS: Flying Lizard is doubtful, on paper anyway, to repeat its near-heroics of last year when it almost scored the win. With Markus Winkelhock as lead driver and his three teammates having a combined one prior Rolex 24 start, it will be a challenge for them to match their 2014 effort. This is not to say their effort and preparation won’t be there, but this field is simply too deep. As for the rest, Muehlner’s main goal is always trying to finish, the Konrad, AF Corse and second Scuderia Corsa lineups are stealthy but inexperienced in North American racing, and the second TRG-AMR entry is rarely a factor. It’s still a solid, deep field of 19 cars, with most of the drivers distinguished in some capacity heading into the race.

CLASS ENTRY LIST (19 cars)

  • 18 Darryl O’Young, Marc Basseng, Matteo Beretta, Connor De Phillippi, Muehlner Motorsports America Porsche 911 GT America
  • 19 Jim Michaelian, Matteo Beretta, Connor De Phillippi, Muehlner Motorsports America Porsche 911 GT America
  • 22 Leh Keen, Cooper MacNeil, Andrew Davis, Shane van Gisbergen, Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America
  • 23 Ian James, Mario Farnbacher, Alex Riberas, Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America
  • 28 Klaus Bachler, Christian Englehart, Christopher Zoechling, Rolf Ineichen, Lance Willsey, Konrad Motorsport Porsche 911 GT America
  • 33 Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating, Marc Goossens, Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R
  • 44 Andy Lally, John Potter, Marco Seefried, Martin Ragginger, Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT America
  • 45 Markus Winkelhock, Robert Thorne, Tomonobu Fujii, Satoshi Hoshino, Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS
  • 48 Christopher Haase, Dion von Moltke, Bryce Miller, Rene Rast, Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS
  • 49 Matt Griffin, Pasin Lathouras, Michele Rugolo, Rui Aguas, AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia GT3
  • 58 Madison Snow, Jan Heylen, Patrick Dempsey, Phillip Eng, Dempsey/Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America
  • 63 Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler, Anthony Lazzaro, Jeff Segal, Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia GT3
  • 64 Daniel Serra, Francisco Longo, Marcos Gomes, Andrea Bertolini, Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia GT3
  • 73 Spencer Pumpelly, Patrick Lindsey, Jim Norman, Kevin Estre, David Ducote, Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America
  • 81 Damien Faulkner, Mike Skeen, Michael Avenatti, Rory Butcher, Kuba Giermaziak, GB Autosport Porsche 911 GT America
  • 93 Kuno Wittmer, Dominik Farnbacher, Al Carter, Cameron Lawrence, Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R
  • 97 Markus Palttala, Michael Marsal, Boris Said, Andy Priaulx, Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3
  • 007 James Davison, Christina Nielsen, Christoffer Nygaard, Brandon Davis, TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3
  • 009 Derek DeBoer, Max Riddle, TBA, TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).