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


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Before embarking on a worldwide career that would encompass major-league circuits and crown jewel races(soon to include the Rolex 24 at Daytona), Romain Grosjean had much smaller ambitions.

He was reminded of them when arriving at Daytona International Speedway last week to begin preparing for his debut in the GTD Pro Lamborghini of the Iron Lynx team. Grosjean ran into Franck Perera, a fellow Frenchman who is driving for Iron Lynx’s GTD car in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“What’s quite funny is and when I was starting go-karting, Franck Perera was world champion of karting, so I told him today that in my room I painted a poster of him go-karting,” Grosjean, 36, told NBC Sports with a smile. “When I was at that age, I would never dream of doing what I could in Formula One, in Indy 500, IndyCar, Le Mans 24 and Daytona 24. And here I am 20-plus years later.

“And I’m lucky to have participated in all those races and say I’ve got a chance to win some of them. And for me as a guy who just dreamed of racing cars when I was 10 years old, being able to be here 20-plus years later and having done those, it’s just incredible.”

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The Rolex 24 at Daytona will mark the beginning of another memorable chapter for Grosjean, who already was an established Formula One driver before he became world-renowned as “The Phoenix” for surviving his fiery crash in the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix.

He became a U.S. sensation as a hugely popular rookie in the NTT IndyCar Series in 2021 and moved to Andretti Autosport last season.

Over the offseason, Grosjean signed as a factory driver for Lamborghini and will help spearhead its entry into LMDh racing and the Grand Touring Prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and in the premier class of the World Endurance Championship next year.

Romain Grosjean

He also will be driving full time in IndyCar this year while competing in IMSA endurance events for Lamborghini in GTD Pro starting at Daytona.

Lamborghini has yet to confirm its LMDh schedule next year, but officials have indicated that Iron Lynx likely will run a prototype full time in IMSA and WEC. Asked by NBC Sports whether he could be driving in IMSA, WEC and IndyCar for the 2024 season and if he will be committing to one or multiple circuits full time, Grosjean smiled.

“Who knows what next year is like,” he said with a laugh. “So first we go through 2023. We’re in January. Try to win as many races as we can and then we see what the future is like.”

Having raced at Monaco, Le Mans and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway will become the latest iconic circuit on his racing CV. Grosjean, whose family moved to Miami a year ago, has had the Rolex 24 circled for a long time, “especially when I discovered racing in the U.S. in 2021 with IndyCar.

“I love the racing around here,” said Grosjean, one of 10 active IndyCar drivers in the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona. “I wanted to do it in 2022, but I’d just moved houses from Switzerland to the U.S., so I was kind of fairly busy, and I really wanted to be with a constructor for the new era of the LMDh. And Lamborghini was definitely the best option for me.

“First of all, it’s a brand that everyone knows. It’s a brand that everyone would love to represent, so that’s the first good thing. We have an LMDh coming later in the year. And I wanted to get some experience. And also driving the Huracan GT3 with Iron Lynx on those races in 2023, so really happy to be here.

“Daytona 24 is a big deal on its own, and obviously we’re entering a new era with the LMDh coming with Lamborghini joining in the future for this event. But I’m looking forward to being part of it. I’ve been watching it on TV for a long time. It’s one of those big races in the world. You have the Monaco GP, the Indy 500, Le Mans. You’ve got the Rolex 24. It’s one of those races that you really want to be participating and even better try to win.”

Grosjean has driven twice before in 24-hour races – at Le Mans and Spa in 2010 – but the Rolex 24 still will represent a stark departure from his recent experience in IndyCar and Formula One.

In the 61-car field for the 61st Rolex 24, Grosjean will be in the slowest category and be passed in traffic constantly by the prototypes of GTP, LMP2 and LMP3 on the unfamiliar 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course.

“I think there’s a lot of challenge for me,” he said. “First of all I’ve never driven the Daytona track. I’ve never driven the Huracan GT3 Lamborghini. And of course, we are the slowest class on track, so we have to look for the traffic. Everyone is going be looking after traffic. There are a lot of different cars with LMDh, LMP2s, GTs. It is a challenge. But I like challenges.”

Over five practice sessions in the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test last week at Daytona, Grosjean turned 38 laps in the No. 63 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 for the Italian-based Iron Lynx team. His fastest lap (1 minute, 48.548 seconds) ranked 25th among the 32 GTD Pro drivers, about 1.5 seconds off the practice pace.

He will have more opportunities for reps in practice this week and of course over the course of 24 hours as he gets acclimated to watching his mirrors.

“Making sure I understand the traffic and where the fastest cars are going to try to pass us, that’s definitely the key,” said Grosjean, who will be co-driving with Jordan Pepper, Mirko Bortolotti and Andrea Caldarelli. “It’s as hard for the fast car as the slow car. Twenty-four hours is a long time, especially when you go racing.

“It’s quite funny very often you see the night coming, and midnight and think, ‘Oh, we are almost at the end.’ But no, we’re halfway. So 24-hour races are very intense. They are a sprint within the race. And the beauty of it is you get to share the car with drivers. So it’s not only you that has to be competitive, but the team and other drivers altogether make the best team to win the race.”

Grosjean also will be working to help optimize Lamborghini’s new hybrid prototype, which he will begin testing later this year ahead of its 2024 debut.

“We still are very early in the development of the Lamborghini LMDh,” he said. “We have seen it. It’s a beautiful car. I can’t wait to drive it on track. I know we’ve done some simulator work already. I know it’s all going to plan. But we still are a long way from getting ready to race. There’s a lot of work to be done by everyone at Lamborghini, but I think so far they’ve done an amazing job, and I can’t wait to actually see the car in reality.”

Grosjean will bring the experience of having worked with hybrid engines in Formula One (which introduced the technology in 2014).

“I think the more experience you’ve had in your career, the more you can use it in different categories,” he said. “So I’ve had six years of hybrid technology and seeing the beginning in F1 and how easier it got after a few years and how much smoother it was to run. That’s definitely some stuff I can fit to the team. But also know they’re working very hard and have some engineers.

“It is a big change. We love that in IndyCar in 2024 with hybrid coming in, so it’s definitely something for a driver that’s a new challenge.”

The No. 63 Iron Lynx, Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 that will be driven in the GTD Pro category by Jordan Pepper, Romain Grosjean, Mirko Bortolotti, Andrea Caldarelli (IMSA).

Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi bring their storied rivalry to a new level at Rolex 24

Ganassi Penske Rolex 24
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To measure the impact of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi squaring off for the first time in overall sports car wins (starting at the Rolex 24), look at the auto racing titans’ lineups.

There are 12 combined drivers across four entries representing Chip Ganassi Racing (competing as Cadillac Racing) and Team Penske (as Porsche Penske Motorsport) in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.

And with the possible exception of six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, none of those behind the wheel is as famous and accomplished as the U.S. motorsports icons who will be sitting atop the pit stands at Daytona International Speedway.

In the NTT IndyCar Series, Penske and Ganassi are synonymous with success, having combined for 23 Indy 500 victories and 30 championships. They also competed in the NASCAR Cup Series for two decades with several signature wins for each.

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Until now, the rivalry never extended to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where they competed in different classes from 2018-19 and have competed in the top category in differing times over the years.

But the 2023 season opener at Daytona will mark the beginning of a new era in which Ganassi and Penske will compete for sports car overall victories on two continents. A Ganassi Cadillac Racing V-LMDh and Porsche Penske Motorsports Penske 963 will run full time in both the premier prototype divisions of IMSA and the European-based World Endurance Championship – whose crown jewel is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Having two of the world’s biggest sports car races welcome the Ganassi-Penske battle seems only fitting in a season in which IMSA’s new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class is expected to introduce a stiffer level of competition.

“We obviously like beating each other,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “I think if you beat Penske, you know you’ve beaten someone. You’ve accomplished something great. It’s going to be the same as always. Just another platform at another track, but the rivalry will be just as heated I’m sure.

“On one hand, he’s always the first guy to call us out for a penalty or something. On the other hand, he’s also the first guy to congratulate me on a win, so I think it’s a healthy rivalry, but we certainly pound each other’s heads into the ground on race day. Monday through Friday it switches to more of a good relationship.”

After starting his career in sports cars, Penske also is looking forward to having a new arena to race Ganassi.

“There is a lot of anticipation and excitement about the Rolex 24 and the upcoming sports car season overall,” Penske said in a statement to NBC Sports statement. “With the new hybrid prototype formula ready to make its debut, and some great competition expected on the track between teams, drivers and manufacturers, there is a lot of momentum building right now. Porsche Penske Motorsport is excited to compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship, this season and I can’t wait to see the No. 6 and No. 7 Porsche 963s in action at Daytona this weekend. We also look forward to bringing some new rivalries and storylines to the sport.

Roger Penske confers with Chip Ganassi before the 2013 Honda Indy Toronto (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“In the new IMSA GTP class, there should be a good competitive balance between Porsche, Cadillac, Acura and BMW. We have seen how the rivalry between Team Penske and Ganassi Racing has developed in the NTT IndyCar Series in recent years, and that could certainly extend to sports cars as our teams and drivers continue to develop the new formula and push the production on track in both IMSA and WEC. We will see how the competition plays out, starting this weekend, as we always enjoy racing against Chip and his teams.”

Though there have been some fiery moments over the years (Dario Franchitti vs. Will Power, anyone?), Ganassi vs. Penske mostly has been a story of respect between two organizations whose main strengths are people.

“It’s just the depth of the organizations going up against each other,” Ganassi said. “It’s not just he and I. It’s at every level of the organization.

“We’re smaller. I’d like to think we’re a little more nimble. This is all I do is race cars. I don’t have 200 car dealerships or a truck rental company or a transportation company. I just have racing is all I have.”

Heading into Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, here are the thoughts of Ganassi and Penske drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona:

Earl Bamber, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “When I grew up as a kid, I remember watching Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske battle each other for many years, obviously following Scott Dixon and his career in IndyCar (Bamber is a New Zealand native like Dixon). And when the opportunity came up to come and race for Chip, it’s a no-brainer. It’s one of those teams you want to drive for in the world. It’s one of the biggest and most successful teams in the world. And then we’ve got Porsche, where I used to drive, with Penske. It’s going to be a phenomenal rivalry over the next couple of years and that rivalry continues between two absolute legends of our sport. Two people who have been the most successful. I hope we can get Cadillac and Chip their first Le Mans win. That’s obviously the ultimate goal for us and beat his old rival, Roger.

“Those two powerhouses of the sport, they definitely raise the bar. You’ve seen it in IndyCar for years and years. One finds something and the next pushes it forward and forward. You’ll see the same in sports car racing. We all saw what Chip Ganassi Racing did back in the day with the GT program. So no doubt we can do the same again. It’s the ultimate highest level of motorsport when it comes to sports car racing, and there’ll be no stone unturned to make sure that we’re winning these races. It will be a really great fight, great for the fans and great for the sport, because both of them love winning.”

Dane Cameron, No. 6 Porsche Penske: “I think anytime you have Chip and Roger come to town to start fighting for wins, it raises the profile of the whole thing. Hopefully it brings a few more eyes to everything. Certainly brings a lot of expectation with it as well, and I also think it reflects really strongly on the championship to show how competitive it is. They respect the championship and challenge, but when they come to town, they come to win for sure.”

Scott Dixon, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “The battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske is always a fierce one. I obviously know it well from the IndyCar side. But I think it’s a lot more than that. It’s impressive to see a lot of the manufacturers that have come in for this battle. I imagine if it’s not from the first race but during the season that Penske and Ganassi will fight it out pretty hard.

“I think the rivalry between Chip Ganassi racing and Penske has always been strong and in a good way. There’s been some battles and the 2010s for me and other drivers when it gets fierce. Some disagreements here and there. But it’s always been a great pure battle, which is what I think these championships are made of and what brings the fans to the track. So I’d sum it up as a very healthy rivalry.”

Alex Lynn, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “Even as a little boy (growing up in England), you knew exactly who Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were. You knew what their teams represented. For me to represent Chip and his team is a huge honor. I’m extremely motivated to try to add to his legacy and be part of the fabric of this team. I think having the battle between Penske and Ganassi is iconic. Also Porsche and Cadillac as brands, respectively, just adds to the occasion. Makes me smile even thinking about it knowing what we get to represent when the flag drops.”

Felipe Nasr, No. 7 Porsche Penske: “I think it’s fantastic especially because we’re merging the IMSA and WEC Series and giving the opportunity for teams like Penske and Ganassi to fight for overall victories. You look at the history of those teams, they’ve been on top. We always hear it from the IndyCar guys or the NASCAR side, you’re talking two big names in motorsports. You expect nothing but them fighting for wins. For sure Ganassi has strengths, and we have strengths as well. I’m pretty glad I have the opportunity to be representing Team Penske and continue to write history with them and Porsche is a great opportunity.”

Richard Westbrook, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “The chance for the two most famous teams in America to go head to head in the Daytona 24 Hours and also the Le Mans 24 Hours. I expect that rivalry to keep going up more notches.”

Renger van der Zande, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “Obviously, it’s such the big houses of racing in the U.S. Penske and Ganassi are taking it at each other. The rivalry is big. The best of the best. The most famous ones in the U.S.

“Ganassi is part of Cadillac. We’re the race team that runs the factory program for Cadillac. Penske is running it for Porsche, obviously a high brand as well. Those teams have their little rivalry, but they’re working for a bigger company, a bigger brand, which is Cadillac and Porsche. So those two premium brands taking on each other and then two of the best teams in America taking on each other. It’s very simple: Cadillac got the best team in the U.S. and Porsche got the best team in the U.S. So let’s see what happens. It’s going to be a cool fight.”