2016 Rolex 24 car-by-car preview: P

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MotorSportsTalk’s Tony DiZinno takes a look through the entries for the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona, car-by-car. Here’s a look through the Prototype (P) class, with order done by the Roar Before the Rolex 24 times and then second car in team, if applicable:

No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM
Car: Ligier JS P2 Honda
Drivers: Scott Sharp, Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek, Pipo Derani
Roar Time: 1:39.249 (1)

Outlook: Now a partial-season IMSA entry, Derani starred during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test. But given the lineup includes one gentleman driver (Brown) and the Honda engine’s reliability has been in question in the past, is more of an outside podium contender at best.

No. 60 Michael Shank Racing
Car: Ligier JS P2 Honda
Drivers: Ozz Negri, John Pew, Olivier Pla, AJ Allmendinger
Roar Time: 1:39.438 (2)

Outlook: The top of the LMP2-spec car contenders, Shank’s Ligier Honda has dominated the timesheets at Daytona but looks set to actually parlay it into overall success on track this year. Getting Pla was the key alongside the steady hands of Negri and Allmendinger, and if Pew and the engine avoid trouble, a win is in range.

No. 55 Mazda Motorsports
Car: Mazda Prototype
Drivers: Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez, Spencer Pigot
Roar Time: 1:39.934 (5)

Outlook: Bomarito and Nunez have had the most time testing the Mazda MZ-2.0T gasoline engine, developed with AER. They’re steady hands and Pigot is the wild card. The Indy Lights champion had no expectations in his 2013 race debut, but will be under a microscope here in a three-driver lineup. A finish must be the first target for the new package here, with a top-five or better a bonus.

No. 70 Mazda Motorsports
Car: Mazda Prototype
Drivers: Joel Miller, Tom Long, Ben Devlin
Roar Time: 1:39.828 (3)

Outlook: Similar to the team’s No. 55 lineup, this car has a good if not incredible trio of drivers and with less time behind the wheel of the new gasoline powerplant. And similar to the No. 55 car, a finish is the first goal before going for a top-five or better.

No. 37 SMP Racing
Car: BR Engineering BR01 Nissan
Drivers: Nicolas Minassian, Maurizio Mediani, Mikhail Aleshin, Kirill Ladygin
Roar Time: 1:39.899 (4)

Outlook: The top sleeper in the Prototype field, as the team’s GTD Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 was in 2014 (finished fourth). It’s the car’s U.S. debut but showed better than expected pace at the Roar with four highly underrated drivers, particularly Ladygin. If it makes it to the morning, it could be in position to snatch a podium result.

No. 0 Panoz DeltaWing Racing
Car: DeltaWing DWC13
Drivers: Katherine Legge, Sean Rayhall, Andy Meyrick, Andreas Wirth
Roar Time: 1:39.955 (6)

Outlook: Dr. Panoz has a sneaky good lineup here with a very hard-working team. The car, as ever, is the question. Reliability, not outright top end speed, has proven the car’s albatross in the past and a big result will likely be at mercy of the team’s new – and hopefully improved – EMCO gearbox.

No. 10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing
Car: Corvette DP
Drivers: Jordan Taylor, Ricky Taylor, Max Angelelli
Roar Time: 1:39.973 (7)

Outlook: Ended the top DP-spec car at the Roar, in a less-than-top position of seventh. Jordan Taylor’s social media quirkiness belies his ability behind the wheel, and as “Burt Middleston” goes, so goes this car. Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli provide ample support and there’d be few who begrudge this car winning, especially after its drive-time miscalculation a year ago.

No. 5 Action Express Racing
Car: Corvette DP
Drivers: Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Filipe Albuquerque, Scott Pruett
Roar Time: 1:39.995 (8)

Outlook: Sterling reliability, sterling lineup and a sterling history. Easily one of the top two or three victory contenders, even with it being Albuquerque’s first DP-spec start and Pruett’s first with the team.

No. 31 Action Express Racing
Car: Corvette DP
Drivers: Dane Cameron, Eric Curran, Simon Pagenaud, Jonny Adam
Roar Time: 1:40.011 (9)

Outlook: This car won’t be the out-and-out fastest car in the class, but Cameron and Pagenaud – reunited in another DP after three years – should keep the car firmly in the frame. A podium is a realistic target; a win, not out of the question.

No. 90 Visit Florida Racing
Car: Corvette DP
Drivers: Ryan Dalziel, Marc Goossens, Ryan Hunter-Reay
Roar Time: 1:40.418 (11)

Outlook: All the parts here are good – lineup, car, team – but this will be their first race as a newly combined unit, and the Roar was a big challenge for this group with engine and gearbox issues. Ordinarily you’d rate the win chances high, but they’re going to need a far better set of circumstances for the race week itself.

No. 01 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Riley-Ford
Drivers: Lance Stroll, Alexander Wurz, Brendon Hartley, Andy Priaulx
Roar Time: 1:40.665 (12)

Outlook: Only at Daytona could Toyota, Porsche and ex-BMW factory aces come together in a Ford EcoBoost-powered DP, but they are thanks to the Stroll/Ford Chip Ganassi Racing linkup. However, it was a tough Roar for this car, and despite the star power in the lineup it’s hard to call this car the race favorite.

No. 02 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Riley-Ford
Drivers: Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson
Roar Time: 1:40.244 (10)

Outlook: The defending champion lineup is back for what could be one last hurrah, certainly for the DP cars, but perhaps as a unit if Ganassi only continues to run extra cars for its IndyCar and NASCAR stars from 2017 and beyond. You can bet the No. 02 crew will be extra motivated to match its 2015 result.

No. 50 Fifty Plus/Highway to Help
Car: Riley-BMW
Drivers: Byron DeFoor, Dorsey Schroeder, Jim Pace, David Hinton, Thomas Gruber
Roar Time: 1:43.330 (13)

Outlook: The mostly gentlemen driver, lone five-driver entry and oldest DP-spec car in the field is the only car of the 13 in the Prototype class you can rule out of win contention off the bat. But as a fun one-off entry racing to raise awareness for a good cause, the Alzheimer’s Association, it more than serves its purpose.