New Ford, new Ferrari. Photo: IMSA

2016 Rolex 24 car-by-car preview: GTLM


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.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”