The first major North American endurance race of the year is set to thrill as 61 cars get set to do battle on the banking as the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship bursts into life with the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

DAYTONA 24 HOURS: PROTOTYPES PREVIEW | GTD PREVIEW | INTERVIEW RINUS VEEKAY | OPENING HOURS REPORT | OVERNIGHT REPORT

While there’s still the great mix between Prototypes and GTs that has marked out IMSA as one of the great endurance series, there’s one significant change to the structure this season.

That’s because GTLM – based on the GTE rules seen in the World Endurance Championship – is no more. Instead, GT Daytona has been expanded with a GTD Pro class catering for, you guessed it, mainly Pro crews. The original GTD class remains for Pro-Am crews, and both make use of the GT3 rules to offer massive grids.

GTD Pro

With GTLM teams welcomed in the GTD Pro class, a total of 35 GTD entries – 13 GTD Pro, 22 GTD – could serve as a prelude of what’s to come at Le Mans in 2024 when GT3 also replaces GTE there.

#2 KCMG Porsche 991.2 GT3R – Laurens Vanthoor / Patrick Pilet / Dennis Olsen / Alexandre Imperatori

While no stranger to full-Pro racing, having competed in the GT World Challenge Europe, Intercontinental GT Challenge, 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, and countless other races and championships, the Hong Kong-based crew is making its first foray in the 24 Hours of Daytona bringing one of three Porsche 991.2 GT3Rs in the field.

The works-supported #2 Porsche is piloted by two-time IMSA GTLM champion Laurens Vanthoor and 2014 Daytona winner Patrick Pilet, with the factory drivers joined by burgeoning young star Dennis Olsen and KCMG’s own Alexandre Imperatori. For Vanthoor and Pilet this will be their first 24 Hours of Daytona in a GT3 after spearheading the Porsche GTLM project for several years.

#3 Corvette Racing C8.R GTD – Antonio García / Jordan Taylor / Nick Catsburg

To remain in IMSA, Corvette Racing had to make major adjustments to its two-year-old C8.R GTLM machine – changes the manufacturer had already prepared for when it debuted the new model back in 2020. While able to keep the roaring 5.5 litre V8 engine but with reduced power output, its wings were redesigned and ABS added to fit the global GT3 regulations. Roar Before The 24 troubles with Balance of Performance (BoP) should have been addressed with the latest BoP update.

2021 GTLM champions Antonio García and Jordan Taylor reunite with Dutch powerhouse Nick Catsburg.

#4 Corvette Racing C8.R GTD – Tommy Milner / Nick Tandy / Marco Sørensen

Defending their 2021 victory, the second Corvette sees a change in line up. Marco Sørensen joins from FIA World Endurance Championship rival Aston Martin Racing for the American endurance classic to substitute for Alexander Sims who is on duty with BMW in Formula E this weekend. The Dane shares the #4 Corvette with Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy.

#9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 991.2 GT3R – Matt Campbell / Mathieu Jaminet / Felipe Nasr

Canadian Pfaff Motorsports is leaving no stone unturned in its quest to take its maiden Daytona win by bringing not just two of Porsche’s hottest talents – Bathurst 12 Hour winner Matt Campbell and ADAC GT Masters champion Mathieu Jaminet – but getting last year’s DPi champion and Daytona winner Felipe Nasr on board as well. The Brazilian star joins the GTD ranks as he prepares with Porsche and Team Penske for the combination’s 2023 return to Le Mans in the LMDh class.

#14 VasserSullivan Lexus RC F GT3 – Jack Hawksworth / Ben Barnicoat / Kyle Kirkwood

Lexus squad VasserSullivan comes back with something of a point to prove, having showed some return to form with a win and a couple of podiums last season. Jack Hawksworth continues his run with the team, while Ben Barnicoat is the dark horse having left his factory drive at McLaren to explore new options. Kyle Kirkwood, meanwhile, has five titles in his seven-year car racing career and comes into the race as the reigning Indy Lights champion.

#15 Proton USA Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Dirk Müller / Patrick Assenheimer / Austin Cindric

Proton races something other than a Porsche for the first time as it enters a pair of AMGs alongside a Porsche in GTD Pro. Austin Cindric is a Nascar Xfinity champ and is branching out into sportier rather than stockier cars as he continues his development. Dirk Müller is one of the most experienced racers you’re likely to get, while Patrick Assenheimer is a winner in the NLS and a safe pair of hands in a Mercedes.

#23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 – Ross Gunn / Alex Riberas / Maxime Martin

The Heart of Racing squad was one of the standout performers in GTD last year, and moving up to the Pro category will suit Ross Gunn down to the ground. Maxime Martin also knows his way round an Aston so the pair will make a good partnership with Alex Riberas, who is a winner in GT World Challenge Europe.

#24 BMW M Team RLL BMW M4 GT3 – Philipp Eng / Marco Wittmann / Nick Yelloly / Sheldon van der Linde

The first IMSA race for the new M4 GT3 couldn’t come with a more experienced crew. All four know their way round BMW machinery, so for RLL there’s a great chance to learn the quirks of the new car and push as hard as possible for a win with four experienced hands.

#25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M4 GT3 – Connor De Phillippi / John Edwards / Augusto Farfus / Jesse Krohn

That said though, RLL’s second car isn’t exactly short on talent either. This quartet has picked up Rolexs in recent years – indeed Augusto Farfus, Jesse Krohn and John Edwards won this race alongside Chaz Mostert in 2020 but trading the Australian for Connor De Phillippi is hardly a downgrade and BMW should be optimistic about its prospects considering the talent spread between the two cars.

#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 – Alessandro Pier Guidi / James Calado / Daniel Serra / Davide Rigon

Speaking of talent, if you were to pick four drivers you’d want behind the wheel of your Ferrari, there probably wouldn’t be much differentiation with the four above. Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado won Le Mans last year, while Daniel Serra and Davide Rigon both have enough wins and titles under their belts to know what it takes to win a blue riband race like Daytona.

#63 TR3 Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 – Marco Mapelli / Andrea Caldarelli / Rolf Ineichen / Mirko Bortolotti

For this, see above. Would you want four other Lamborghini factory drivers in your Huracán at this very moment? While it’s odd to see Andrea Caldarelli race for someone other than his own team, placing him with Marco Mapelli, Rolf Ineichen and Mirko Bortolotti basically marks this crew out as early favourites. Indeed, it’s only Mapelli who doesn’t have a win to his name in Florida, but a podium cements his commitment to the cause. Pole position in the Roar Before The 24 race marked the team’s intentions.

#79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R – Cooper MacNeil / Julien Andlauer / Matteo Cairoli / Alessio Picariello 

The second of the Proton cars, and the only Porsche, it’s anchored by two guys who’ve won all sorts in Porsches – Julien Andlauer and Matteo Cairoli – while Alessio Picariello has an ELMS title under his belt and the ability to bang in some rapid stints. Cooper MacNeil is also showing how he’s becoming an ever quicker Silver – especially behind the wheel of a 911.

#97 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Cooper MacNeil / Dani Juncadella / Jules Gounon / Maro Engel

The last of the Proton fleet and the second MacNeil will be driving as one of a few racers attempting to keep themselves busy by driving more than one car. He’s joined by a solid roster of Mercedes racers with Maro Engel, a winner in everything he’s ever been in, and Daniel Juncadella proving handy in a GT3. Jules Gounon is also showing his own increasing skill in a GT3, as he grows in confidence every time he’s out behind the wheel.

GTD

#12 VasserSullivan Lexus RC F GT3 – Frankie Montecalvo / Aaron Telitz / Richard Heistand / Townsend Bell

With one of its Lexus’ now in GTD Pro, VasserSullivan’s #12 RC F is the sole remaining car in GTD. Like last year, Frankie Montecalvo and Townsend Bell are on driving duties aboard the #12 with Aaron Telitz joining from the now GTD Pro sister car. Richard Heistand returns to the team with which he scored his biggest successes in IMSA – two race wins in 2019 – after two seasons elsewhere.

#16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 991.2 GT3R – Ryan Hardwick / Zacharie Robichon / Jan Heylen / Richard Lietz

2021 GTD champion Zacharie Robichon joins Wright Motorsports after three successful years with Pfaff Motorsports. The Canadian teams up with Wright regulars Ryan Hardwick and Jan Heylen while FIA World Endurance and multiple Le Mans GT champion Richard Lietz is hired from Porsche making the #16 Porsche an clear and present danger for anyone with title aspirations.

#19 TR3 Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 – Bill Sweedler / John Megrue / Giacomo Altoè / Jeff Segal

Florida’s own TR3 Racing has entered a Pro-Am car in its Daytona 24 debut as well. Like its full-Pro squad, this one is top of the line as well with 2014 winners Jeff Segal and Bill Sweedler sharing the Lambo with factory driver and highly-rated Giacomo Altoè, with the quick Am driver John Megrue completing the four-man line up.

#21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 – Simon Mann / Luís Pérez Companc / Nicklas Nielsen / Toni Vilander

The list of strong GTD line ups continue with the #21 AF Corse Ferrari. While Toni Vilaner and Niklas Nielsen – both winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans – need no introduction, neither need Simon Mann and Luís Pérez Companc. The respectively Silver and Bronze pilots share a wealth of experience in a variety of race cars, with Mann having last celebrated success just a couple of months ago when he won the Italian GT Sprint GT3 Pro-Am title.

#27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Racing AMR GT3 – Roman De Angelis / Ian James / Darren Turner / Tom Gamble

Charity off the track but not on it: the Heart of Racing Team is bringing its strongest possible GTD quartet to Daytona consisting of two Silvers and two Gold-rated drivers. 20-year-old Roman De Angelis has been racking up titles in recent years including last year’s IMSA GTD Sprint title, team manager Ian James gets back behind the wheel looking to continue his race winning form from last year’s Road Atlanta and Aston Martin works driver Darren Turner all return alongside rising star Tom Gamble who replaces Ross Gunn.

#28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Daniel Morad / Michael de Quesada / Linus Lundqvist / Maximilian Götz

2021 DTM champ Maximilian Götz starts his new season in the USA with two-time Daytona GT winner Alegra Motorsports. The German finds 2017 GTD class winners Daniel Morad and Michael de Quesada as well as IndyCar hopeful Linus Lundqvist as his teammates, leaving the team with a good chance for victory.

#32 Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Mike Skeen / Stevan McAleer / Scott Andrews / James Davison

Race week has gotten off on a rocky start for the Gilbert Korthoff team. Just days before the start of the race, Guy Cosmo announced he had left the team effective immediately for unspecified reasons. This leaves Mike Skeen, Stevan McAleer and sole Gold driver Scott Andrews with last-minute substitute driver James Davison to defend the team’s honours.

#34 GMG Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R – Kyle Washington / James Sofronas / Jeroen Bleekemolen / Klaus Bachler

Returning to Daytona for the first time since 2014, James Sofronas’ GMG Racing team is leaving no stone unturned as the team boss and his regular co-driver Kyle Washington are joined by GT sensations Jeroen Bleekemolen and Klaus Bachler.

#39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo – Robert Megennis / Corey Lewis / Sandy Mitchell / Jeff Westphal

A force of double Silver, double Gold drivers is entered by the CarBahn with Peregrine Racing troop. New Yorker Robert Megennis makes his fulltime sportscar debut in 2022 with Peregrine. Coming from Indy Lights, Megennis has a wealth of openwheel racing experience and a Petit Le Mans podium finish to boot. Corey Lewis, meanwhile, has proven himself to be a driver more than capable of steering the Lamborghini to victories wherever he goes – including Daytona where he won the GTD class two years ago. With a line up rounded out by Lamborghini works driver Sandy Mitchell and the ever-quick, Peregrine Racing full-timer Jeff Westphal, the Lambo squad goes into its fifth year of existence as yet another top-of-the-line team.

#42 NTE Sport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo – Don Yount / Benja Hites / Jaden Conwright / Markus Palttala

2022 marks the beginning of a new manufacturer relationship for NTE Sport as the Texan team switches from Audi to Lamborghini. What does remain the same, though, is the drivers hired for the Daytona endurace: Don Yount, Benja Hites, Jaden Conwright and Markus Palttala all made appearances with NTE Sport as the Paul Mata-owned team completed a partial IMSA season. Palttala’s experience combined with sheer speed will be the team’s trump card.

#44 Magnus Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 – John Potter / Andy Lally / Spencer Pumpelly / Jonathan Adam

Magnus Racing has joined the Aston Martin fold for 2022 and goes it alone again having partnered with Grasser Racing and Archangel Motorsports in the last two seasons. A two-time winner of Daytona, team owner and driver John Potter has set the bar high for his team as he aims to score a third Rolex. As always, Potter shares his car with Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly, with Jonny Adam brought in from Aston Martin Racing.

#47 Cetilar Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 – Roberto Lacorte / Alessio Rovera / Antonio Fuoco / Giorgio Sernagiotto

The proud Italian team of Cetilar Racing will be at Daytona this weekend making its GTD debut. That is not to say the squadra lacks in Daytona experience: last year Cetilar Racing ran with the leaders in the LMP2 class for most of the race before gearbox issues threw them out of contention. Driver and team owner Roberto Lacorte brings back Antonio Fuoco and Giorgio Sernagiotto from the promising 2021 outing, with breakout Ferrari talent Alessio Rovera completing the line up.

#57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Lucas Auer / Philip Ellis / Mikael Grenier / Russell Ward

The Mercedes team is back for another year, this time with HTP fully integrated into Winward Racing and with what still looks like a solid line up featuring two Silvers and two Golds. Philip Ellis and Russell Ward remain from the foursome that won the GTD class this time 12 months ago, with the rapid Lucas Auer and Mikael Grenier – who finished second with SunEnergy1 last year – filling the spaces.

#59 Crucial Racing McLaren 720S GT3 – Lance Bergstein / Jon Miller / Patrick Gallagher / Paul Holton

A nice bit of something different in GTD, as Crucial Racing – fresh off its debut at the Indy 8 Hours – brings its McLaren to IMSA for what should be an Endurance Cup season entry. Team manager Paul Holton leads the way as the Gold driver, with Patrick Gallagher making a jump up the ranks after some good drivers in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. Businessman Lance Bergstein is also making his WeatherTech Sportscar Championship debut, with regular co-driver and coach Jon Miller.

#64 TeamTGM Porsche 911 GT3 R – Ted Giovanis / Hugh Plumb / Matt Plumb / Owen Trinkler

Supported by Wright Motorsports, TeamTGM is doing a remarkable double at Daytona, with this exact line up also taking on the Michelin Pilot Challenge race on Friday as two duos in Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsports. 76-year-old Ted Giovanis is also the team owner, with the two Plumbs and Owen Trinkler his regular drivers in the support series.

 #66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 – Kyffin Simpson / Till Bechtolsheimer / Marc Miller / Mario Farnbacher

Another bit of variety in GTD, with the only Acura in the field being entered by Gradient Racing. Mario Farnbacher is an experienced hand behind the wheel of the NSX, with Marc Miller more than capable of putting a good shift in as a solid Silver. Kyffin Simpson is in just his third season of car racing, off the back of a year where he won Formula Regional America. Founder of Arosa Capital Management, Till Bechtolsheimer is another businessman pursuing his passion for motorsport.

#70 inception racing McLaren 720S GT3 – Brendan Iribe / Frederik Schandorff / Ollie Millroy / Jordan Pepper

A second McLaren comes from world travellers inception racing – with some help from Optimum Motorsport. Brendan Iribe and Ollie Millroy have been on pretty much every continent it would appear with their trusty McLaren, and have some good results to show for it too. Frederik Schandorff is a consistent title winner – notably at the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Finals – while Jordan Pepper breezed to the title in GT World Challenge America alongside Andrea Caldarelli.

#71 T3 Motorsport North America Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo – Franck Perera / Mateo Llarena / Maximilian Paul / Misha Goikhberg

Off the back of competing in the DTM and ADAC GT Masters, where Maximilian Paul was one of its drivers, T3 Motorsport has sailed to North America for the IMSA opener. Franck Perera is a master in Lamborghinis, whilst Misha Goikhberg is an ever-reliable pair of hands in this championship who will put in solid stints. At just 17, Mateo Llarena is already an IMSA class pole sitter and took a podium at Misano in last year’s Italian GT race.

#75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG GT3 – Kenny Habul / Luca Stolz / Raffaele Marciello / Fabian Schiller

Competing all over the world, Kenny Habul knows what makes a good line up and he’s pretty much nailed a dream line up hoping to go one better than second in last year’s race. Luca Stolz and Raffa Marciello are both top Mercedes factory drivers, while Fabian Schiller is becoming an increasingly over-performing Silver in round-the-clock marathons.

#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 – Robby Foley / Bill Auberlen / Michael Dinan / Jens Klingmann

It’s always great to see Turner Motorsport on the entry and moving to the latest of BMW’s sportscar offering. Bill Auberlen is deeply experienced and never seemingly slowing down, while Jens Klingmann is also approaching that level of go-to BMW customer racer. Robby Foley is a consistent race winner in all sorts of GT machinery, while Michael Dinan is a champion in GT4s and multiple race winner in GT3s across American racing.

#98 NorthWest AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 – Paul Dalla Lana / David Pittard / Charlie Eastwood / Nicki Thiim

Paul Dalla Lana certainly knows what he needs for success, a successful racer himself, he’s the Bronze in a quartet packed with talent. David Pittard can more than do a job in the NLS and has been rewarded with a factory Aston contract, whilst Charlie Eastwood and Nicki Thiim are in the top tier of Aston’s existing factory crop. All four of them should be a force to be reckoned with – they’ll certainly have speed in any case.

#99 Team Hardpoint Porsche 911 GT3 R – Rob Ferriol / Katherine Legge / Stefan Wilson / Nick Boulle

Last but definitely not least, is Team Hardpoint. Owner Rob Ferriol is partnering with Katherine Legge – a multiple race-winner in GTD – for the full-season and brings Stefan Wilson and Nick Boulle in as his endurance teammates. Wilson is making his maiden start at Daytona this weekend, and Boulle is continuing to show his speed despite combining racing with a day job.

Continue to the Prototypes preview.

 
 

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