This year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona LMP2 class is up one car from last year, although the late dropout of the Rick Ware Racing team does put a slight damper on what looks like a strong comeback for the in 2019 mostly forgotten class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Regardless, the presence of Starworks, Performance Tech Motorsports, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports, DragonSpeed and newcomer Era Motorsport promises a show, with no less than five prototypes set to take part in what should be a 24-hour sprint to the finish.
Tower Motorsports by Starworks – ORECA 07 LMP2
#8 – Ryan Dalziel/David Heinemeier Hansson/John Farano/Nicolas Lapierre
Starworks Motorsport makes a return to prototype competition, after having previously participated in select races last year with an Audi R8 LMS GT3 in the GTD class.
The Peter Baron-owned team has retained veteran racer Ryan Dalziel who won the 2012 FIA WEC LMP2 championship, including a class victory at Le Mans, together with Starworks. Joining Ryan will be David Heinemeier Hansson who is returning to IMSA competition after making one-off appearances during last year’s FIA WEC Super Season events at Le Mans and Sebring. The Dane drove both races — achieving a class victory at Sebring — behind the wheel of an ORECA 07, so expect him to be setting quick lap times from the get-go.
60-year-old John Farano joins the team for the first time, bringing his grandstand and hospitality service sponsorship with him. Because of this, the team will be running this season under the name Tower Motorsport by Starworks. Farano has experienced with LMP2 machinery, having recently participated in both the Asian and European Le Mans Series with RLR MSport.
Closing out the line-up is ex-Toyota LMP1 factory driver Nicolas Lapierre. Lapierre is by far the most experienced driver in the LMP2 class, having won class honors at Le Mans four times, all while driving ORECA machinery. He will make his fourth start at Daytona, and after finishing in third place in the LMP2 class during last year’s race, expect to see Lapierre go all out again this year.
Era Motorsport – ORECA 07 LMP2
#18 – Kyle Tilley/Dwight Merriman/Ryan Lewis/Nicolas Minassian
Historic racing specialist Era Motorsport is set to make its IMSA debut, with Dwight Merriman, Ryan Lewis, and Nicolas Minassian joining team owner Kyle Tilley behind the wheel of an ORECA 07. Kyle Tilley is no stranger to IMSA competition, having raced in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge back in 2016. 51-year-old Dwight Merriman makes his IMSA debut, however, joining the team for all six LMP2 class events this year.
Ryan Lewis returns to sportscar racing after a two-year hiatus, bringing along prototype experience, having raced LMP1, LMP2, and LMPC machinery with various teams throughout the years in the American Le Mans Series and IMSA series.
Nic Minassian is a driver that needs to no introduction. The 16-time Le Mans 24 Hour competitor comes to Daytona for the second time, looking to add a Rolex 24 victory to his already impressive resume. Minassian has done it all, from competing in both the American and European Le Mans Series with teams such as Creation Autosportif, Pescarolo Sport, and Team Peugeot, to competing in the CART Series with Chip Ganassi Racing, including a single appearance in the Indianapolis 500 in 2001. The Frenchman is perhaps the most experienced driver within the LMP2 field, meaning it will be interesting to see how his lap times compare with the rest.
Dwight Merriman closes out the Era line-up. Merriman makes a transition to IMSA competition this year after having raced in the Pirelli World Challenge with Heinlein Racing Development in the TCR class. A transition from TCR cars to LMP2 machinery is no easy feat. It’ll be task for Merriman’s teammates to get him acquainted as quickly as possible with the ORECA prototype.
Performance Tech Motorsports – ORECA 07 LMP2
#38 – Cameron Cassels/Robert Masson/Kyle Masson/Don Yount
2019 LMP2 championship runner-up Performance Tech Motorsports returns with a rather unchanged line-up. The father and son duo of Robert and Kyle Masson return for another stab at Daytona, hoping to improve on their incredible second-place finish from last year. The Masson family has had great success with the team, with Kyle having joined the Performance Tech crew back in 2016 and his father Robert in 2017. Kyle is the 2017 IMSA Prototype Challenge North American Endurance Cup champion when he won three of the four races including the Daytona 24 Hours, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen. The 22-year-old also won last year’s Michelin Endurance Cup with the team. His father, Robert, on the other hand, has had success in the IMSA Prototype Challenge series, having earned seven podium finishes including a win at Road Atlanta during the 2017 season.
The reigning IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup champion Cameron Cassels makes his return with the team for what should be a very busy season for the Canadian. After having won the Endurance Cup last year, Cassels punched his ticket to the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. Cassels will also perform double duties throughout the 2020 season as he will be running a full season in the IMSA Prototype Challenge and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Don Yount returns to prototype competition after having spent the last two years racing GT cars. He has extensive experience with prototypes, having raced in the IMSA Prototype Challenge for almost a decade. Although Yount has no prior experience with LMP2 machinery, expect him to produce quick lap times as he searches for his first Rolex Daytona watch.
PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports – ORECA 07 LMP2
#52 – Ben Keating/Simon Trummer/Nick Boulle/Gabriel Aubry
2019 IMSA LMP2 team’s champion PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports returns for another full season of IMSA competition with an impressive driver line-up. Ben Keating will be joined by Simon Trummer, Nick Broulle, and Gabriel Aubry as they look to make the team proud and bounce back at Daytona after a very disappointing result during last year’s event.
For Ben Keating — on double duty this weekend racing with both PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports in LMP2 and Riley Motorsports in GTD — the Daytona 24 Hours marks his first race in a prototype since having raced a Riley Mk. 30 Gibson LMP2 during the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans. It is no secret Keating’s considered to be one of the fastest GT Pro-Am drivers in the business, but can he carry that momentum over to the prototype category?
Simon Trummer comes to IMSA LMP2 after having spent the last two seasons racing with JDC-Miller Motorsports in the DPi class. The 30-year-old Swiss brings plenty of experience to the team, having raced in the open-wheel GP3 and GP2 Series before making a full-time move to sportscars. In 2017, Trummer raced the full FIA WEC season with CEFC Manor TRS Racing behind the wheel of an ORECA 07 with his best result being fifth during the last two rounds of that season. With a full season of driving the French prototype under his belt, Trummer will be one to watch for.
2017 Daytona 24 Hours class winner Nick Boulle is the third driver on the line-up. Having spent most of 2019 racing for Park Place Motorsports in IMSA and for United Autosports in the FIA WEC, Boulle is back with PR1 Mathiasen in hopes to add more silverware to the table. The American-Brit raced with the team in two races during the 2018 season piloting a Ligier JS P217. It will be interesting to see how Boulle gets himself acquainted behind the wheel of an ORECA 07 LMP2.
Gabriel Aubry is without a doubt one of the most talented young drivers from the entire field and the last driver to close out the line-up. Aubry, who has been competing throughout the last two FIA WEC seasons with Jackie Chan DC Racing, arrives to Daytona with a good reason to feel confident of a race victory. The Frenchman finished the 2019 season with three commanding class victories in the FIA WEC plus two class victories during the last two rounds of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup season.
DragonSpeed USA – ORECA 07 LMP2
#81 – Ben Hanley/Henrik Hedman/Colin Braun/Harrison Newey
DragonSpeed comes to the Florida high banks to defend its LMP2 victory from last year albeit with a completely different line-up. Ben Hanley is set to join Henrik Hedman, Colin Braun, and Harrison Newey behind the wheel of an ORECA 07 LMP2 car.
Hanley and Hedman where part of the second car from DragonSpeed during the team’s two-car assault last year, taking third place in class. Both drivers, longtime DragonSpeed team members, come into Daytona with an opportunity to score big, with the Elton Julian owned team keen in repeating a class victory.
Colin Braun is set to participate in his 17th Rolex 24. He joins the squad after spending the last six years with the CORE Autosport team who folded its prototype program at the end of the 2019 season. Braun has had success at Daytona, winning his class in 2014 and a 3rd place overall finish in 2018. It will be interesting to see how Braun performs with a new team, but make no mistake, he will be one to watch for throughout the race.
Son of Formula 1 engineer Adrain Newey, Harrison Newey, makes his long-awaited IMSA debut after spending 2019 racing in the Japanese Super Formula series. Although he spent most of his time racing open wheels last year, Harrison has plenty of experience behind the wheel of an ORECA 07 machine as he competed the 2018 racing season in the European Le Mans Series with Rebellion Racing where he finished 12th in the standings. It is also important to note that Newey won the 2017-’18 Asian Le Mans Series overall championship with Jackie Chan DC Racing/JOTA, winning three of the four races all while piloting an ORECA 05 LMP2 car. Keep an eye out for Harrison as he’s determined more than ever to show off his talents for the first time in American soil.