Team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing focuses on Endurance Cup, Rolex 24

Rolex 24 Team RLL
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BMW Team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will compete for their third consecutive Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona victory as the team focuses on the Michelin Endurance Cup in 2021 and scales back from a full-time season.

Last year’s Rolex 24 win set the stage for a successful season for the team. It was the first of nine podium finishes that included a second victory in the first Road Atlanta race as well as a third-place finish there for a second entry. Other highlights for the year included the overall win in the GTLM Michelin Endurance Cup and second place in GTLM driver points standings for John Edwards and Jesse Krohn.

Because of their success in longer races, the BMW Team RLL will focus on the Endurance Cup again. With the exit of Porsche Motorsports’ two cars as well, the full-time car count in GTLM currently stands at three for the 2021 season.

BMW Team RLL will have a strong foundation in winning that honor if they can score a third victory in next week’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

“It is a real accomplishment to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona once let alone do it twice, and particularly to do it twice in a row,” said Bobby Rahal in a release. “The pressure is on, right? Twenty-four hours is obviously a long race. It sounds simplistic to say that whoever spends the least amount of time in the pits wins but that’s kind of the way it works.

“Obviously, you have to have the pace, but you also have to have the reliability. Even a place like Daytona exacts its own brand of difficulty whether it’s traffic, surviving the race not being hit by other cars and so on. There are so many things that can conspire to knock you out of leading or winning the race. It’s really a tough, tough race. We just have to go out and put together a race like we have in the past. If we do the best possible job that we can, who knows, we might be in the winner’s circle again.”

Endurance racing puts more strain on cars and equipment and requires greater cooperation between team members, which is one reason that it is part of a season inside the longer IMSA schedule.

“This year will see us focus on the four races that compose the Michelin Endurance Cup and the 52 toughest hours in sports car endurance racing,” said Victor Leleu, BMW NA Motorsport Manager. “Of course, we would like to see all of our BMW fans at every IMSA venue, but this is the decision we have made in order to ensure a winning future. We look forward to the competition in Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta.”

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BMW Team RLL will field two entries in the Rolex 24. In the No. 24, last year’s full time drivers Edwards and Krohn will anchor the effort. They will be joined by Augusto Farfus, who was part of both previous Rolex 24 victories, and Marco Wittmann.

“Daytona has been a good track for the team these past two years,” Krohn said. “We got a lot of things right and learned a great deal during this time. … A lot of things that can go wrong at a 24-hour race, but with the two wins recently it seems we have found the key to enjoying success in Daytona.

“We have strong drivers in both cars, and I am really looking forward to racing alongside John, Augusto and Marco. Augusto has an incredible wealth of experience in North America, he doesn’t need anyone to explain Daytona to him. Marco is extremely fast and no doubt it won’t take him long to learn what it takes in Daytona. He has been here before, so knows what’s in store.”

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The No. 25 will be wheeled by Connor De Philippi and Bruno Spengler. Philipp Eng and Timo Glock will also be part of the lineup.

Glock makes his debut in the Rolex 24 this year.

“I’m really excited to see what awaits me at Daytona because both the track and the BMW M8 GTE are totally new to me,” Glock said. “I will really use the test drives ahead of the race weekend to get used to everything.

“I’m particularly looking forward to the very special experience of a 24-hour race, which I last had the pleasure of in 2015 when I competed at Spa-Francorchamps alongside Alex Zanardi and Bruno Spengler. I have strong teammates and am hoping for a good result. The BMW M8 GTE and BMW Team RLL have already proved they have the potential in recent years.”

The 59th Rolex 24 At Daytona will take the green flag at 3:40 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 30. The race will be broadcast on a mixture of NBC broadcast and streaming properties.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”