2016 Rolex 24 car-by-car preview: GTLM

New Ford, new Ferrari. Photo: IMSA

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 GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, with order done by the Roar Before the Rolex 24 times and then second car in team, if applicable:

No. 100 BMW Team RLL
Drivers: Lucas Luhr, John Edwards, Kuno Wittmer, Graham Rahal
Roar Time: 1:45.088 (1)

Outlook: BMW’s GTE variant of the new M6 is a bigger beast compared to the outgoing Z4, but it showed nicely at the Roar test. Daytona has been BMW’s Achilles Heel for years, with top end straight line speed always the weak point. But the goodness is there – Wittmer a welcome addition to the team – and with Rahal (2011 overall) and Luhr (2001 GT) past class winners.

No. 25 BMW Team RLL
Drivers: Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner, Augusto Farfus, Bruno Spengler
Roar Time: 1:45.120 (3)

Outlook: In truth, this is probably BMW’s stronger of its two GTLM lineups by a fraction of a percent – so not by much. I could see this car as a class win contender; of course, I could say that for basically all the cars in this class!

No. 4 Corvette Racing
Car: Corvette C7.R
Drivers: Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler
Roar Time: 1:45.106 (2)

Outlook: If any bad luck hits Corvette Racing, it generally seems to hit the No. 4 crew. Gavin and Milner haven’t lost their pace and Audi factory ace-on-loan, Fassler, makes his return to the team after a several-year hiatus.

No. 3 Corvette Racing
Car: Corvette C7.R
Drivers: Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller
Roar Time: 1:45.124 (4)

Outlook: The defending champions of last year have swapped Mike Rockenfeller for Ryan Briscoe and should be consistent, and quick, throughout. Garcia is arguably one of the top GT drivers in the world and will lead this car’s charge.

No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Ford GT
Drivers: Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais
Roar Time: 1:45.248 (5)

Outlook: The symmetry of a Ford with the No. 66 winning 50 years after a Ford GT did overall in 1966 is too rich to ignore. In truth, first race out for the most hyped new car in the field might be a tough one, even given the caliber of people and drivers assembled. A finish is the first goal, a win a bonus.

No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Ford GT
Drivers: Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe, Stefan Muecke
Roar Time: 1:45.2469 (7)

Outlook: Much like its sister car, the No. 67 Ford has great parts but will have to see how it endures in its first 24-hour race. The bright side, like its sister car, is the Ford EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 engine has been well-developed in the prototype ranks and any of three in this car could maximize its potential.

No. 911 Porsche North America
Car: Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, Kevin Estre
Roar Time: 1:45.524 (9)

Outlook: I wouldn’t put too much stock in Porsche’s bottom-of-the-class Roar times. With the lone older car in the class (now in its third year, with upgrades) and a less-than-favorable pre-Roar BoP assessed, the car and its drivers haven’t yet shown their full potential. Pilet, Tandy and Estre are three of the best at the moment and it’d be a bigger surprise if the car doesn’t make strides during race week.

No. 912 Porsche North America
Car: Porsche 911 RSR
Drivers: Earl Bamber, Fred Makowiecki, Michael Christensen
Roar Time: 1:45.543 (10)

Outlook: The No. 912 lineup isn’t far off the No. 911 car. Here’s hoping the Mako of two or three years ago resumes after a tough 2015 season and Christensen lives up to his potential. Right now, Bamber is this car’s best bet.

No. 68 Scuderia Corsa
Car: Ferrari 488 GTE
Drivers: Alessandro Pier Guidi, Alexandre Premat, Daniel Serra, Memo Rojas
Roar Time: 1:45.266 (6)

Outlook: The privateer entry makes the first of four starts in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup with a new car and a newly organized lineup. The Giacomo Mattioli-led team is very strong and in its first GTLM start, doesn’t have a ton of expectations … which is a good thing.

No. 72 SMP Racing
Car: Ferrari 488 GTE
Drivers: Victor Shaitar, Andrea Bertolini, Gianmaria Bruni, James Calado
Roar Time: 1:45.314 (8)

Outlook: Just as SMP’s BR01 Nissan is the top Prototype class sleeper, this car has to be the top GTLM class sleeper. A mostly pro lineup including Bruni, arguably the best GT driver in the world, and a better-than-you-realize Shaitar could deliver success in the Ferrari 488 GTE’s worldwide race debut.

No. 62 Risi Competizione
Car: Ferrari 488 GTE
Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander, Davide Rigon, Olivier Beretta
Roar Time: No time

Outlook: The team’s already in a tight race to make the Rolex 24, with its car build completed in mid-January at Michelotto ahead of a shakedown at Fiorano. Its first real running will be after it arrives Stateside, race week. But the Dave Sims-managed, Giuseppe Risi-led team has always starred in endurance races and has one of the best lineups in class.

Ryan Hunter-Reay hired as replacement for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Hunter-Reay was named to replace Conor Daly in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet, starting in the NTT IndyCar Series event next week at Road America.

Hunter-Reay is the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. He finished 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold last month in the 107th Indy 500, his first start since the 2021 season finale. He drove full time for Andretti Autosport from 2010-21.

“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader. I am excited to welcome Ryan to the team,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a team release. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test. I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”

Hunter-Reay has 18 IndyCar victories, most recently in 2018. He also is a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having been a part of winning entries in the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 2018 Petit Le Mans. Last year, he was an endurance driver for Cadillac Racing while being on standby for Chip Ganassi Racing.

He replaces Daly, whose departure was announced a day earlier in what the driver and team said was a mutual decision.

“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed,” Hunter-Reay said in a team release. “He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help. Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in BITNILE.COM.

“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world. Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an NTT IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber. However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy, while representing BITNILE.COM, we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”

Said Milton “Todd” Ault, the chairman of sponsor BitNile.com: “It is great for BitNile.com to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an NTT IndyCar Series champion. I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”