The 2017 Roar Before the Rolex 24 entry list revealed

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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The unofficial kickoff to the North American road racing calendar occurs this week at Daytona International Speedway, with the annual Roar Before the Rolex 24 test, which runs from Jan. 6-8 before the Jan. 28-29 Rolex 24 at Daytona itself.

It’s the de facto “spring training” event for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with this year’s Roar taking on a greater significance as the first public event for the debut of the series’ new Daytona Prototype international (DPi) formula, alongside the new 2017-spec LMP2 chassis.

In all, 50 cars are entered, with the biggest entry coming from the GT Daytona class. There are 12 cars in Prototype, 2 in Prototype Challenge, 11 in GT Le Mans and 25 in GT Daytona.

Despite a flurry of TBD drivers listed, many of the TBDs have already been named by their respective teams, and are just going through the formal process by IMSA to be officially added later (per IMSA: Nominated drivers that have not received their 2017 IMSA membership/license are listed as TBD).

The PC class also figures to grow from 2 cars for the Rolex 24. Right now, only BAR1 Motorsports has cars entered although both Performance Tech Motorsports and Starworks Motorsport figure to add entries.

Prototype’s dynamic dozen entries features seven DPi models, three of the new Cadillac DPi-V.Rs, with two Mazda MRT24-Ps and two Nissan Onroak DPis apiece. The remaining five entries are new-spec LMP2 cars: three Oreca 07s, one singular Riley Mk. 30 and one Ligier JS P217.

Most of the drivers have already been announced, and Jeff Gordon heads a list of star guest drivers that include plenty of aces from the IndyCar and sports car worlds.

The GTLM field sees Ford Chip Ganassi Racing going all in with four cars to attempt to topple Corvette Racing. Ganassi won at Le Mans last year while Corvette enters with a shot at a Rolex 24 three-peat. Unlike last year, Risi Competizione will make the Roar as it has its Ferrari 488 GTE (the lone Ferrari in class), while BMW Team RLL has several new drivers and Porsche GT Team has both new drivers and, more importantly, its new mid-engined normally aspirated 911.

GTD boasts the largest number of manufacturers to go along with the car count. Some of the lineups are carefully crafted to take full advantage of the controversial driver ratings system, so there’s a number of de facto all-pro lineups in a theoretically pro-am class. With the debuts of Acura, Lexus and Mercedes-AMG in GTD, how those seven cars get on compared to the returning makes and models will be interesting to watch.

The full entry list is linked here. But to fill in the TBDs, we’ll list the ones already announced by teams below:

PROTOTYPE

  • 2-Tequila Patron ESM, Pipo Derani
  • 13-Rebellion Racing, Nick Heidfeld, Stephane Sarrazin
  • 22-Tequila Patron ESM, Brendon Hartley
  • 31-Action Express Racing, Mike Conway
  • 52-PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, Jose Gutierrez, Mike Guasch (fourth driver still TBD)
  • 81-DragonSpeed, Loic Duval, Ben Hanley
  • 85-JDC/Miller Motorsports, Mathias Beche
  • 90-Visit Florida Racing, Renger van der Zande, Marc Goossens (third driver still TBD)

GT LE MANS

  • 69-Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Harry Tincknell, Tony Kanaan

GT DAYTONA

  • 14-3GT Racing, Sage Karam
  • 15-3GT Racing, Jack Hawksworth, Austin Cindric
  • 23-Alex Job Racing, Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler, Frankie Montecalvo, Pierre Kaffer (this car not listed on the entry list, but has been announced)
  • 28-Alegra Motorsports, Daniel Morad, Jesse Lazare, Michael de Quesada
  • 33-Riley Motorsports-Team AMG, Adam Christodoulou
  • 50-Riley Motorsports-WeatherTech Racing, Cooper MacNeil, Shane van Gisbergen, Thomas Jaeger
  • 57-Stevenson Motorsports, Robin Liddell, Matt Bell (U.S.)
  • 63-Scuderia Corsa, Alessandro Balzan, Christina Nielsen, Matteo Cressoni (fourth driver still TBD)
  • 73-Park Place Motorsports, Joerg Bergmeister (fourth driver still TBD)
  • 86-Michael Shank Racing, Jeff Segal, Ryan Hunter-Reay
  • 93-Michael Shank Racing, Graham Rahal
  • 991-TRG, Pablo Sanchez

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”