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.
As always, the main class is for the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) machinery, with seven cars not too bad a result considering this is the final year for this category before LMDh hopefully provides a shed load more entries from 2023 onwards.
#01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac DPi – Renger van der Zande / Sebastien Bourdais / Scott Dixon / Alex Palou
The first of two cars entered by Chip Ganassi Racing under the Cadillac Racing banner, the #01 is stuffed to the brim with talented drivers. Renger van der Zande is on the top tier of IMSA racers and a double winner around the Daytona Speedway. Add into the mix Bourdais and Dixon and you make a solid line up, throw in reigning Indycar champion Palou and you get the sort of electric mix that marks the team out as ones to watch.
#02 Cadillac Racing Cadillac DPi – Earl Bamber / Alex Lynn / Marcus Ericsson / Kevin Magnussen
As above, Ganassi certainly aren’t messing around in Florida, with a second car that will no doubt provoke some sort of reaction from racing fans everywhere for just how eclectic the quartet is. Bamber and Lynn have proved quick in everything they’ve raced, but the former is moving into Prototypes for the first time. Magnussen meanwhile is a race winner for Ganassi in IMSA and Ericsson has started to show skill in Indycar – winning two races for the team last year.
#5 JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi – Tristan Vautier / Richard Westbrook / Loic Duval / Ben Keating
Speaking of eclectic, this third of five Cadillac entries is all sorts of odd. Not a bad thing, though, with Vautier and Duval the core of the team that won last year’s Sebring 12 Hours and Westbrook adding overall podium experience to a squad that certainly knows how to do battle at the front – just look at Westbrook’s scrap for the lead in the Roar Qualifying Race. JDC is the only team to add an Am to its mix, with Ben Keating being very Ben Keating in splitting his time between this entry and an LMP2 entry.
#10 Wayne Taylor Racing/Konica Minolta Acura DPi – Ricky Taylor / Filipe Albuquerque / Alexander Rossi / Will Stevens
The defending champs are back, and as one of only two non-Cadillacs in DPi, the team will no doubt be looking to defend brand honour as much as team honour.
Wayne Taylor’s eponymous team is slightly different in terms of line-up this year, with returnees Ricky Taylor, Albuquerque and Rossi being joined by Will Stevens – the increasingly rapid sportscar racer replacing Helio Castroneves.
The team started its title defence in the best possible manner, winning the Roar Qualifying Race and securing pole for the 24 Hours.
#31 Action Express Racing/Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi – Pipo Derani / Tristan Nunez / Mike Conway
The only team to go with three, rather than four, drivers in its crew doesn’t mean Action Express is any less of a threat coming into the Daytona classic. Derani is the reigning IMSA champion – his co-driver Felipe Nasr moving into GTD Pro – and Conway is twice a World Endurance Champion.
Add in the fire of Nunez – returning to the DPi ranks after a year in LMP2 having lost his Mazda drive when the Japanese manufacturer shrunk from two to one cars.
#48 Action Express Racing/Ally Cadillac DPi – Kamui Kobayashi / Mike Rockenfeller / Jimmie Johnson / Jose Maria Lopez
The team finished second last year, and is still stocked with pretty much the same mega line up that scored that podium. The only change comes with the addition of Jose Maria Lopez, replacing Simon Pagenaud. Apart from that, Johnson, Kobayashi and Rockenfeller remain to do battle round the Speedway – a return home for Johnson – in what will be the first of what is probably going to be a limited programme for the Ally-backed Cadillac, considering the other commitments for the quartet.
#60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura DPi – Oliver Jarvis / Tom Blomqvist / Helio Castroneves / Simon Pagenaud
Fastest in much of the testing sessions during the Roar, Meyer Shank is the only team not running a Caddy as they run a fantastic looking Acura instead.
First off, the old hands. Castroneves won last year with Wayne Taylor and, as mentioned above, Pagenaud was second. For the other duo, Oliver Jarvis carries a lot of momentum off the back of a win at Petit Le Mans for Mazda’s swansong, while Blomqvist was part of a Jota crew which just missed out on the WEC LMP2 title.
Compared to the last few years, LMP2 has exploded for Daytona, with a number of European teams heading across the Atlantic to join in the fun. Bumping up the entries to 10 cars, all of them are ORECA 07s in a highlight of the lack of variety in the category.
#8 Tower Motorsport – John Farano / Rui Andrade / Louis Deletraz / Ferdinand Habsburg
You probably couldn’t get a better LMP2 line-up at the moment. Habsburg won Le Mans and WEC in LMP2 last year, and Deletraz took the title in the European Le Mans Series which makes their move across to IMSA all the more exciting.
That makes a good balance with their other two team-mates. Farano is also team boss and improving Am, while Andrade is continuing his learning having switched across from F4 early in his career.
#11 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports – Steven Thomas / Josh Pierson / Jonathan Bomarito / Harry Tincknell
The longstanding PR1 team has a core that reunites the former Mazda racers Bomarito and Tincknell to continue their run of racing in the States.
They’re joined by Steven Thomas who is starting his second season in LMP2, and Pierson – who is making a remarkable leap into top-line sportscar racing after a season F1600 and two campaigns in US F2000. He’ll also be racing in WEC with United Autosports, so this is something of being thrown in at the deep-end.
#18 Era Motorsport – Dwight Merriman / Kyle Tilley / Ryan Dalziel / Paul-Loup Chatin
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This quartet stormed to victory at Daytona last year in LMP2 so quite logically, Era has ensured the same quartet are back behind the wheel of their ORECA to try and double up.
#20 High Class Racing – Dennis Andersen / Anders Fjordbach / Fabio Scherer / Nico Müller
The first of the European invaders, High Class is actually joining IMSA for a full-season for team boss Andersen and regular co-driver Fjordbach.
Joining the pair are Scherer – a regular with United Autosports and getting to grips with the cut and thrust of LMP2 – and Audi stalwart Müller, who is no doubt looking to gain as much Prototype experience as he can before the Four Rings’ arrival in LMDh next year.
#22 United Autosports – James McGuire / Guy Smith / Phil Hanson / Will Owen
Speaking of United, the Anglo-American squad are of course tackling the banking in its quest to ensure the red, white and blue machines are present at pretty much every endurance race of significance in 2022.
The team’s quartet is a great mix of drivers who’ve raced together all over the world, with Smith enjoying yet another fruitful spell in his career, while Hanson and Owen are proving themselves as rapidly rising stars. McGuire, meanwhile, is becoming ever more dependable as a Bronze driver.
#29 Racing Team Nederland – Frits van Eerd / Giedo van der Garde / Rinus VeeKay / Dylan Murry
The Dutch squad has committed to a full-season in 2022, with Jumbo supermarket boss Van Eerd racing alongside Van der Garde in a continuation of what’s been a successful partnership for the pair.
For Murry, LMP2 is a step-up in his career where he’s ran at the front of the LMP3 category, and in the Porsche Carrera Cup North America. VeeKay hardly needs an intro, scoring his breakthrough Indycar win last year confirmed the talent he has in abundance when he can get luck on his side.
#52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports – Ben Keating / Mikkel Jensen / Scott Huffaker / Nico Lapierre
Keating’s other ride at Daytona is in LMP2, where he reunites with Jensen – with whom he won the IMSA LMP2 title last year and is prepping for a drive in Hypercar with Peugeot.
Huffaker resumes his place as regular Endurance driver for Keating and Jensen, while Lapierre adds a mountain of sportscar experience to try and right the fact that Daytona was the only race where this crew didn’t end up on the podium during their dominant 2021.
#68 G-Drive Racing by APR – René Rast / Ed Jones / Oliver Rasmussen / Francois Heriau
The definition of European invaders, G-Drive is adding this Florida race as a way of shaking off some winter rust with this the first of its two cars.
Rast is adding more Prototype knowledge to his portfolio, with Jones and Rasmussen looking to branch out of their single-seater wheelhouses to add some sportscar fun to the CV. Heriau fulfills the bronze requirement.
#69 G-Drive Racing by APR – John Falb / James Allen / Luca Ghiotto / Tijmen van der Helm
The second car contains the same mix of youth and experience. Falb is a regular trophy winner and one of the quickest bronzes out there – alongside fellow Texan Keating at least.
Allen and Ghiotto are both continuing their sportscar development and showcasing themselves no doubt to future manufacturer teams. Van der Helm is also in the same boat, after an uninspiring Formula 3 campaign the Karting champion is no doubt looking to bounce back in form and confidence.
#81 DragonSpeed USA – Eric Lux / Devlin DeFrancesco / Pato O’Ward / Colton Herta
Talk about a great mix of drivers, Lux is a rapid semi-pro who always does well wherever he races, and DeFrancesco is looking to keep his upwards momentum going, having stalled slightly in Indy Lights last year.
But then you get onto O’Ward and Herta. These two make up some of the most exciting young guns in Indycar – including Palou – and getting to watch them compete in LMP2 will no doubt be a thriller.
The baby Prototype class has nine entries and an increasingly professional roster of drivers, with both experienced veterans and rising young guns. Many come fresh from the IMSA Prototype Challenge race at the Roar, meaning some teams have managed to get plenty of experience round the banking already.
#6 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine D08 – Efrin Castro / Mortiz Kranz / Ayrton Ori / Joel Miller
As expected with the LMP3 category, the majority of drivers in this category are either making their first steps in Prototypes, or are looking to find their footing once again.
Miller, a former Mazda factory driver, is in the latter camp, while Kranz is looking to add another feather to his bow by adding another Rolex to his collection and another trophy to those he picked up in SP9-Am at the Nürburgring in the NLS.
Ori is just 17, and comes off just over a dozen US F2000 and F4 races, and a spell in eRacing, while Castro claimed the Pro/Am title in Porsche Carrera Cup North America.
#7 Forty7 Motorsports – Duqueine D08 Mark Kvamme / Austin McCusker / Trenton Estep / Antoine Doquin
Anchored by businessman Kvamme, the Forty7 Motorsports team still has one place outstanding for now but even as a trio the team will have some speed behind them.
That’s because Estep and McCusker have championship titles in their backgrounds. Estep is a Porsche GT3 Challenge champion, while McCusker has experience in LMP3 machinery with a Prototype Challenge crown to his name. Mix them together, and that’s not a bad line-up to score some silverware.
#13 AWA Duqueine D08 – Orey Fidani / Kuno Wittmer / Lars Kern / Matt Bell
Yet another Duqueine, this comes from Prototype Challenge regulars AWA who have recruited a great mix of drivers. Orey Fidani is the Am but he’s a Canadian Touring Car and Porsche GT3 Challenge Canada champion, and he’s joined for the full-season by Wittmer – an IMSA champion in the past.
Bell’s experience in LMP3 makes him a shoe-in, plus the amount of wins in similar machinery always helps. The stand-out has to be Kern, the Porsche employee has always gone well whatever he’s raced, but this is very different to the GT cars he has made his name in.
#26 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine D08 – Cameron Shields / Charles Crews / Ugo de Wilde / Nolan Siegel
The second of the Muehlner Duqueines, with yet another group of race winners amongst the ranks. De Wilde has taken the top spot in the ELMS, while Shields was a champion in his native Australia before moving over to the Road to Indy ladder. Crews, meanwhile, has experience of LMP3 in the ELMS but hasn’t raced at Daytona for 14 years.
#33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P320 – João Barbosa / Seb Priaulx / Lance Willsey / Malthe Jakobsen
The Duqueines are done, and now the Ligiers come out in force. If it’s anything like the Prototype Challenge race, the Ligiers will enjoy something of a speed benefit, especially round the banking.
That’s something Priaulx knows well, having competed in the three-hour season-opener for the support series. He joins full-season entrants Barbosa – who’s taken three overall wins at Daytona – and Willsey, who is moving into the WeatherTech Championship after winning spells the Prototype Challenge and Lamborghini Super Trofeo. Danish youngster Malthe Jakobsen completes the quartet.
#36 Andretti Autosport Ligier JS P320 – Jarett Andretti / Josh Burdon / Rasmus Lindh / Gabby Chaves
Anchored by another member of the Andretti dynasty, Jarett, son of the late John Andretti, has scored a GT4 America title in recent history and a few top fives in the IMSA LMP3 class.
He’s joined by Burdon – a handy GT racer making tracks into Prototypes, while Lindh is expanding his horizons in America having previously stuck to the various series that make up the Road to Indy ladder. Chaves has raced all sorts in recent years, including spells in Indycar and racing the DeltaWing in the early era of the WeatherTech series.
#38 Performance Tech Motorsport Ligier JS P320 – Dan Goldburg / Hikaru Abe / Garett Grist / Nico Pino
Yet another experienced team bringing its experience to LMP3, Goldburg comes fresh from the Prototype Challenge race, and is joined by a marvellously random cast of support drivers.
Pino, for example, is a 17-year-old in his second-season of sportscar racing, having focused previously on single-seaters. Grist has done the rounds on the Road to Indy ladder and took a class win at Petit Le Mans a few years ago, while Abe is something of a dark horse in an international line-up.
#54 CORE Autosport Ligier JS P320 – Jon Bennett / Colin Braun / George Kurtz / Nic Jonsson
Legends of IMSA, Core Autosport offer a very familiar line-up with some new faces in the mix too. Bennett and Braun have partnered for class titles together and their relationship has married longer than many marriages.
Their vast experience is complemented by Nic Jonsson – an experienced Silver more commonly known as the co-driver of Tracy Krohn for many years. The new face comes in the shape of Kurtz, an increasingly good Bronze racer who is possibly better known as the founder of Crowdstrike – a company offering, amongst many things, cyber security solutions.
#74 Riley Motorsport Ligier JS P320 – Felipe Fraga / Gar Robinson / Kay van Berlo / Michael Cooper
Speaking of legends, Riley Motorsport might not quite be at that level yet, but they’re a team you’d never discount too soon considering just how many titles its quartet has gathered.
Robinson is the reigning IMSA LMP3 class champion, while Fraga was a very close second competing for TF Sport in the GTE Am class of the WEC. Cooper is a Pirelli World Challenge champion and serial winner, while van Berlo was narrowly beaten to the Porsche Carrera Cup North America title last year, adding to his wins in other Porsche spec series.
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