IMSA: Rolex 24 Team Preview – GTD class

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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MotorSportsTalk’s Kyle Lavigne concludes the team preview of entries for the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the GT Daytona (GTD) class. At 21 entries, it is down from last year’s 27, but remains the biggest of the three classes entered at the Rolex 24, outnumbering the Prototype class by one.

It is also the most wide open of the three classes, with seven different manufacturers represented and a  seemingly infinite number of unknowns. Further, the defending winners of the class, Alegra Motorsports, are not even entered in this year’s race.

All told, the GTD class is the most difficult one to predict, and a winner from this class could come from literally any of the 21 entries.

Below is a breakdown of the teams entered in the GT Daytona class.

GRT Grasser Racing Team
Car:
Lamborghini Huracan GT3
No. 11 (Rolf Ineichen, Mirko Bortolotti, Franck Perera, Rik Breukers)
No. 19 (Max van Splunteren, Ezequiel Perez Companc, Christian Engelhart, Christopher Lenz, Louis Machiels)

Outlook: Just in case more evidence was needed to prove that the GTD class is the most wide open, enter GRT Grasser Racing Team. Last year’s Blancpain GT champions, their performance at the Roar Before the 24 test in early January took many by surprise, as they emerged as the fastest of the GTD entrants, qualifying first during Sunday qualifying to get first pick of pit stall and garage.

This is not their first time at the Rolex 24 – they finished 15th in GTD last year with their No. 11 entry, the only car they entered in last year’s race. Now returning with a two-car effort, this team, which will contest all four rounds of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup in the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, GRT Grasser Racing Team has quickly announced themselves as contenders for GTD victory.

3GT Racing
Car: Lexus RC F GT3
No. 14 (Dominik Baumann, Kyle Marcelli, Philipp Frommenwiler, Bruno Junqueira)
No. 15 (Jack Hawksworth, David Heinemeier Hansson, Scott Pruett, Dominik Farnbacher)

Outlook: 3GT Racing returns with a pair of Lexus RCF GT3 machines after debuting the marque last year, although the weekend proved to be troublesome for the Paul Gentilozzi led squad. It’s No. 14 entry – with Scott Pruett behind the wheel at the time – crashed heavily very early on and was eliminated on the spot, while the sister No. 15 could do no better than 14th in class.

Perhaps the biggest storyline to follow with this team is the aforementioned Pruett, who will be contesting the final race of his career at the Rolex 24. Pruett and company would like nothing more than to send him out with a final victory. It might seem like a tall order, but this class can certainly deliver a surprise winner.

Magnus Racing
Car: Audi R8 LMS GT3
No. 44 (John Potter, Andy Lally, Andrew Davis, Markus Winkelhock)

Outlook: Magnus Racing returns to IMSA after spending last year in the Pirelli World Challenge championship. The last time they contested the Rolex 24 was in 2016, when they took home the GTD victory, their second Rolex 24 triumph.

They return with a strong lineup of John Potter, Andy Lally, Andrew Davis, and Markus Winkelhock, with Potter and Lally both a part of the lineups from their 2012 and 2016 victories. With a proven driver rotation and an Audi R8 LMS GT3 underneath them, the car with which they won in 2016, expect Magnus to be a major player in the GTD class.

Wright Motorsports
Car: Porsche 911 GT3 R
No. 58 (Patrick Long, Christina Nielsen, Robert Renauer, Mathieu Jaminet)

Outlook: Wright Motorsports, last year’s Pirelli World Challenge GT champions, both in the overall standings and in the Sprint standings, make the move to IMSA’s GTD category in 2018, and do so with a powerful driver lineup. Patrick Long is renowned for his exploits as a Porsche factory driver, and partnering him with Christina Nielsen, who has been a co-driver champion the last two years in GTD, creates a highly potent rotation right off the bat. Add in Mathieu Jaminet, part of the Porsche junior program, and Robert Renauer, and you have maybe the strongest driver lineup in the GTD class.

It’s difficult to peg any team as the favorite for victory. But, if you are daring enough to do so, this team may be the one to peg.

Scuderia Corsa
Car: Ferrari 488 GT3
No. 63 (Cooper MacNeil, Alessandro Balzan, Gunnar Jeannette, Jeff Segal)
No. 64 (Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell, Frank Montecalvo, Sam Bird)

Outlook: The team that has won the last two GTD championships has undergone an overhaul of sorts over the winter. Gone is Christina Nielsen, who partnered Alessandro Balzan to those aforementioned championships, and in is a new partnership with Weathertech Racing that sees Weatherech branding on the No. 63 Ferrari.

Still, despite the changes, it’s hard to imagine that this group won’t contend for a victory. The No. 64 features former Rolex winners in Bill Sweedler and NBCSN’s Townsend Bell, while the No. 63 has a former winner of its own in Jeff Segal – all three were triumphant in 2014.

Expect both entries to be contenders for the win.

HART
Car: Acura NSX GT3
No. 69
(Chad Gilsinger, Ryan Eversley, Sean Rayhall, John Falb)

Outlook: If you’re looking for an underdog in the GTD class to pull for, then HART might be your best bet. Comprised of Honda employees who are basically volunteering to enter the Rolex 24, this is an entry that represents a throwback to the days when a group would get together, build their own car, and show up at a race to see what they can do.

While they aren’t as seasoned as the other GTD entries, this is an entrant that can sneak up on you if you’re not careful. John Falb and Sean Rayhall partnered to take the LMP3 championship in the 2017 European Le Mans Series, and Ryan Eversley is among the more underrated GT drivers around.

Chad Gilsinger, a Honda employee who has raced in SCCA previously, represents the biggest unknown on the driving front, but a mistake-free run from him would do plenty to keep the team in contention.

And with the team using an Acura NSX GT3, which had an impressive debut in last year’s Rolex — and went on to win races in its first year of IMSA competition — there’s definitely potential for this team to surprise a lot of people.

Michael Shank Racing
Car: Acura NSX GT3
No. 86
(Katherine Legge, Alvaro Parente, Trent Hindman, AJ Allmendinger)
No. 93 (Justin Marks, Lawson Aschenbach, Mario Farnbacher, Côme Ledogar)

Outlook: Another team with a sneakily good driver lineup, Michael Shank Racing returns to GTD with a pair of Acura NSX GT3 entries. An overall winner of this event in 2012 and two-time race winners last year with the NSX, the Michael Shank led squad possesses a strong winning formula that should make them one of the GTD favorites entering the event

Their driver lineup offers no weak links, either. Katherine Legge returns to the team after helping the team to those aforementioned wins last year. Alvaro Parente is, ironically, a McLaren factory driver who has been a star in Pirelli World Challenge. Mario Farnbacher is long-time standout in GT competition. Justin Marks and Lawson Aschenbach represent two underrated road racers. Côme Ledogar, like Parente, is a factory McLaren driver, and fresh off a class at the 24 Hours of Dubai. And, AJ Allmendinger is a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star who helped Michael Shank’s team take their 2012 overall victory.

All told, it’s easy to imagine either entry taking a GTD victory.

The remaining GTD entries are below. While they may lack the star power of other GTD entries, any of the below teams could also prove to be contenders. You’ll also find some big-name GT drivers as well, such as Jeroen Bleekemolen, Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Joerg Bergmeister and Martin Tomczyk, among others.

Remember, last year’s GTD winner, Alegra Motorsports, was a big underdog last season, yet came out on top at the end of 24 hours.

Expect the GTD class to be the most tightly contested throughout the 24 hours.

Montaplast by Land Motorsport
Car: Audi R8 LMS GT3
No. 29 (Sheldon van der Linde, Kelvin van der Linde, Jeffrey Schmidt, Christopher Mies)

Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports
Car: Mercedes-AMG GT3
No. 33 (Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Adam Christodoulo, Luca Stolz)

Paul Miller Racing
Car: Lamborghini Huracan GT3
No. 48 (Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Andrea Caldarelli, Bryce Miller)

Spirit of Race
Car: Ferrari 488 GT3
No. 51 (Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, Daniel Serra)

Manthey Racing
Car: Porsche 911 GT3
No. 59 (Steve Smith, Randy Walls, Harald Proczyk, Sven Muller, Matteo Cairoli)

P1 Motorsports
Car: Mercedes-AMG GT3

No. 71 (Kenton Koch, Robby Foley, Loris Spinelli, JC Perez)

Park Place Motorsports
Car: Porsche 911 GT3 R
No. 73 (Patrick Lindsey, Joerg Bergmeister, Norbert Siedler, Tim Pappas)

SunEnergy1 Racing
Car:
Mercedes-AMG GT3
No. 75 (Kenny Habul, Thomas Jaeger, Maro Engel, Mikael Grenier)

Risi Competizione
Car: Ferrari 488 GT3
No. 82 (Miguel Molina, Ricardo Perez de Lara, Martin Fuentes, Santiago Creel, Matt Griffin)

Turner Motorsport
Car: BMW M6 GT3
No. 96 (Jens Klingmann, Martin Tomczyk, Mark Kvamme, Don Yount)

 

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2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Schedule, TV info, start times, entry lists, notable drivers, more

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The new year brings the start of a new era for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will open the 2023 schedule with the 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

A new premier class for prototypes is the overriding story entering the 24-hour endurance race that unofficially kicks off the major-league racing season.

The new Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) cars of the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) top category will re-establish a bridge to the 24 Hours of Le Mans while bringing a new layer of engine electrification to IMSA.

With at least a few of the cars on the grid at Daytona also slated to race at Le Mans in June, it’s possible for the first time in decades (since the “Ford vs. Ferrari” battles) to have the same car win the overall title at Daytona and Le Mans.

The GTP category will feature four manufacturers, two of which are new to IMSA’s premier division. Porsche Motorsport (with Team Penske) and BMW (with Rahal Letterman Lanigan) will be fielding LMDh prototypes, joining (now-defunct) DPi category holdovers Acura (Meyer Shank Racing, Wayne Taylor Racing) and Cadillac (Chip Ganassi Racing, Action Express Racing).

Here’s what else you need to know ahead of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener Jan. 29-30 at Daytona International Speedway:


NOTABLE DRIVER ADDITIONS 

The Rolex 24 will feature 10 active drivers from the NTT IndyCar Series, including the IMSA debuts of Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who will be teamed in an LMP2 entry (teammate Will Power unfortunately had to withdraw from this debut).

Colton Herta will move into the GTP category with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud return with Meyer Shank Racing to defend their overall 2022 Rolex 24 victory. Scott Dixon also returns in the premier category with Chip Ganassi Racing for his 20th Rolex 24 start and third consecutive in the No. 01 Cadillac.

Other IndyCar drivers in the field: Romain Grosjean will make his debut in GTD Pro with Iron Lynx Racing (as a precursor to driving a GTP Lamborghini next year); Devlin DeFrancesco (Rick Ware Racing) and Rinus VeeKay (TDS Racing) are in LMP2; and Kyle Kirkwood will return in GTD with Vasser Sullivan.

Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric also will return, teaming with DeFrancesco in an LMP2 entry for Rick Ware Racing.


CAR COUNT

The Rolex 24 field was capped at 61 cars, matching last year’s field (which was the largest since 2014). The field was capped because of the space limitations for the LMDh cars of GTP in the pits and garages.

Click here for the official 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona entry list.


STARTING LINEUP

Tom Blomqvist captured the first pole position of the GTP era, qualifying defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing in first with the No. 60 ARX-06 Acura that he shares with Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.

The No. 7 Porsche 963 of Porsche Penske Motorsports will start second.

Click here for the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona starting lineup


RACE BROADCAST

The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona will be streamed across the NBC Sports AppNBCSports.com and Peacock, which will have coverage of the event from flag to flag.

Broadcast coverage of the race coverage will begin Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC and move to USA Network from 2:30-8 p.m. and then will be exclusively on Peacock and IMSA.TV from 8-10 p.m. Coverage will return to USA Network from 10 p.m. to midnight and then move to Peacock/IMSA.TV until 6 a.m.

From 6 a.m. until noon on Sunday, Jan. 29, Rolex 24 coverage will be available on USA Network. The conclusion of the Rolex 24 will run from noon through 2 p.m. on NBC.

HOW TO WATCH IMSA ON NBC SPORTS: Broadcast schedule for 2023

Other events that will be streamed on Peacock from Daytona during January (all times ET):

Jan. 21: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 2:05 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 12:20 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA Rolex 24 qualifying, 1:25 p.m.

Jan. 27: BMW Endurance Michelin Pilot Challenge, 1:45 p.m.


ROLEX 24 COVERAGE FROM NBC SPORTS

Wayne Taylor Racing takes a step up to the next level with Andretti Autosport

Austin Cindric seeks to join legendary club of Rolex 24-Daytona 500 winners

Helio Castroneves recalls “Days of Thunder” moment in 2022 Rolex 24 victory

The “Bus Bros” tackle the “Bus Stop” for Rolex 24 at Daytona debuts

Romain Grosjean adds Rolex 24 at Daytona to his crown jewel career

Tom Blomqvist beats the clock to win Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position

GTP cars make debut in “Gymkhana”-level traffic

Five things to watch in the new GTP class as a golden era of sports cars returns

Cadillac unveils paint schemes for LMDh cars

Austin Cindric, Devlin DeFrancesco, Pietro Fittipaldi teaming up in LMP2

IndyCar drivers in the 61st Rolex 24


ROLEX 24 DAILY SCHEDULE, START TIMES

Here’s a rundown of everything happening at Daytona International Speedway over the last two weeks in January, starting with the Roar test session. Rolex 24 start times and full schedule:

Wednesday, Jan. 18

7 a.m.: GTP garages open

4 p.m.: Non-GTP garages open

4 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers load-in (park only)

6:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Thursday, Jan. 19

7 a.m.: Garages, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers open

8:30 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection

10 a.m.: Rolex 24 Media Day

2 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

5:15 p.m.: Track walk

7:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Friday, Jan. 20

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:45-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

9:30-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-2:15 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

2:30-4 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

4:15-6 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (GTD/LMP3/LMP2 4:15-5:45; 4:30-6: GTD Pro, GTP)

8 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Saturday, Jan. 21

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:40-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge qualifying

9:30-11 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

2:05-2:50 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 1 (streaming on Peacock)

3:10 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

4:30-5:30 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

6:30-8:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10 p.m.: Garages close

Sunday, Jan. 22

7 a.m.: Garages open

10:15-11:15 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

12:20-1:05 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 2 (streaming on Peacock)

1:25-3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 qualifying (streaming on Peacock)

8:30 p.m.: Garages close

Wednesday, Jan. 25

6 a.m.: Garages open

7:30-10 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, non-GTP

8 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 load-in

10-11:30 a.m.: Track walk

10 a.m.-noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship car photos

11:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge team manager briefing

Noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team manager briefing

12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship new driver briefing

Noon-2 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety and technical inspection, non-GTP

1:45-2:30 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

2:45-3:45 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

2:30-7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, GTP only

4-5:30 p.m.: Track walk

6:45 p.m.: Garages close

Thursday, Jan. 26

7 a.m.: Garages open

9-9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

9:45-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:05 a.m.-12:35 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:55-1:10 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 qualifying

2:25-3 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge qualifying

3:20-5:05 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (3:20-5:05: GTD, LMP3, LMP2; 3:35-5:05: GTD Pro, GTP)

5:30-6:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

7:15-9 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10:15 p.m.: Garages close

Friday, Jan. 27

7 a.m.: Garages open

9:25-9:55 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

10:15-11 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-5:45 p.m.: BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona (Michelin Pilot Challenge; streaming on Peacock)

8:45 p.m.: Garages close

Saturday, Jan. 28

6:30 a.m.: Garages open

9:45 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

12:30-12:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 engine warmup

1:30-1:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 formation laps

1:40 p.m.: The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona (starting on NBC; streaming flag to flag on Peacock)

Sunday, Jan. 29

1:40 p.m.: Finish of the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona

7:30 p.m.: Garages close