Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview - GT Le Mans

Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview - GT Le Mans

IMSA

Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview - GT Le Mans

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With its all-pro heritage, the GT Le Mans class, aka The Artist Formerly Known as ALMS GT, could be the most talent-rich category at the Rolex 24. New factory racecars from Corvette and Porsche will add a layer of interest to the proceedings, and there are plenty of other manufacturers with designs on winning the TUDOR Championship’s Super Bowl.

 

GT LE MANS STRATEGY We asked Doug Fehan, program manager for the 2013 ALMS GT championship-winning Corvette Racing team, to share his thoughts on how he and the team will approach race strategy in the GTLM class with all of the new classes, cars and concerns about 24 hours of racing with so many new variables to consider.

 

It’s going to be…different. Different from what we’ve known at Sebring or Le Mans because this is the first time we’ve all come together to race under the same roof. There are a lot of different speeds between the cars, a long race, and a lot of gentlemen drivers thrown into the deep end of the pool. We had this conversation with the drivers at each of our tests. And it hasn’t been a protracted conversation but it’s been… we try and have it be a meaningful conversation.

 

And you can talk to drivers until you’re blue in the face, but each instance that occurs that yields a negative result usually has a reason behind it, not all of which is in the driver’s control. We want our drivers to be aware that this isn’t the same old series they’ve come to know with the same drivers they’re familiar with. Nothing should be taken for granted. So clearly, we’re going to spend a serious amount of time after we’re on track and they get accustomed to what it’s like to have 67 or 70 cars – on a track that is, by the way, that’s not that big when you think about it.

The reality of it is that it takes place at Daytona, so you have this preconception of this mammoth racetrack, when in fact, it’s not a particularly big racetrack for that many cars. We will have to have additional classes among ourselves where we openly talk about what we want to try and do. We’ve had it already, we will do it again. And you can’t drive it home hard enough that… there’s no racing that really goes on here for the first 20 hours. At 20 hours, you can kind of sense where you are and then determine how you might want to run the last four; but prior to that, putting together any sort of strategy from the green flag, I mean, you’re only fooling yourself. The idea is to run that first 20 and just not put yourself in a position – that’s under your control – that would not jeopardize the car. And that means, whether it’s a backmarker or a passing a LMP car, try and pick just a good spot for it. If you lose two seconds that lap, so what? Doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to us – I’m talking about management – we’re far better off than you trying to stick it in there and have contact because the guy didn’t see you. You just can’t do that. You really have to pay attention to what you’re doing on the racetrack. That’s what it boils down to. Just paying attention. And we will be driving that point home continuously throughout the week.

 

Generally speaking, you’re looking at around an hour on a tank of fuel for most GTLM cars. Some places it goes as short as 55 minutes, other times it’ll go like an hour five, hour six, hour seven. But it’s generally about an hour, and we’ll be getting the exact time down to a closer number when we start running during practice.


 

GT LE MANS CAR BY CAR PREVIEW 

 

Car Number: 3

Team: Corvette Racing

Car: Chevrolet Corvette C7.R

Drivers: Jan Magnussen / Roskilde, Denmark, Antonio Garcia / Barcelona, Spain, Ryan Briscoe / Mooresville, N.C.

Driver(s) To Watch: Garcia

RACER Says:

The brand-new C7.R replaces the C6.R that Mags and AG used to take the final ALMS GT title, and based on the car’s speed at the Roar Before The 24, claiming a win in its first race isn’t out of the question. Briscoe’s new to the team, and GTLM cars, but his V8 Supercars experience will help. If the No. 3 is near the lead in the final hours, Garcia’s the one to have in the car. Few are faster or more resilient.

 

Car Number: 4

Team: Corvette Racing

Car: Chevrolet Corvette C7.R Drivers: Oliver Gavin / Yardley Hastings, England, Tommy Milner / Lake Mary, FL, Robin Liddell / Edinburgh, Scotland

Driver(s) To Watch: All

RACER Says:

If hunger is the difference between first and second, the No. 4 C7.R might have the edge over its sister car. Ollie and Tommy had a tougher-than-expected 2013 season, especially coming off their ALMS Gt title in 2012, and will be looking to start their season off in style. The addition of Scotland’s Liddell was a brilliant move, giving the No. 4 the stronger three-man roster of GT experts within the Corvette Racing camp.

 

Car Number: 55

Team: BMW Team RLL

Car: BMW Z4 GTE

Drivers: Bill Auberlen / Redondo Beach, CA, Andy Priaulx / Guernsey, England, Joey Hand / Sacramento, CA, Maxime Martin / Brussels, Belgium

Driver(s) To Watch: All

RACER Says:

Daytona might be the perfect track to turn everything the BMW Z4 does well into major liabilities. The stubby, high-downforce V8s should win on the infield, but that’s not where the race will be won. Speed matters, and with the long runs on the banking, the RLLR cars are at a disadvantage. The No. 55’s driver lineup is stellar, but they’ll have to look at Daytona as little more than a points gathering exercise. The fact that the Rolex 24 will mark the GTLM Z4’s first 24-hour race is another item to consider. Finishing with either car would be a big deal.

 

Car Number: 56

Team: BMW Team RLL

Car: BMW Z4 GTE

Drivers: Dirk Muller / Tagerwilen, Switzerland, John Edwards / Cincinnati, OH, Graham Rahal / Carmel, IN, Dirk Werner / Hanover, Germany

Driver(s) To Watch:

RACER Says: Edwards

Muller’s a star, Edwards is a stud and Rahal, who has some ALMS GT experience to draw from, has been right on the pace in testing. We know Muller will anchor the car and Werner has never gotten enough praise, but I’m most excited to see how 2009 Atlantic Series champ Edwards fares in his first full season behind the wheel of a factory BMW. The kid should be chasing IndyCar titles with Penske or Ganassi, making his career in sports cars a bittersweet thing for those of us who want to see the fastest drivers in the fastest type of cars. The No. 55 lineup is a more experienced unit, but with the aforementioned limitations and questions regarding the Z4, I’m not sure if matters.


Car Number: 57

Team: Krohn Racing

Car: Ferrari F458 Italia

Drivers: Tracy Krohn / Houston, TX, Nic Jonsson / Buford, GA, Andrea Bertolini / Italy, Peter Dumbreck / Banbury, England

Driver(s) To Watch: Dumbreck

RACER Says:

Bertolini, who ALMS fans might recall from the limited outings made in a factory Maserati MC12 beginning back in 2005 before joining Ferrari’s rotation, should be quick, and Dumbreck – one of the fastest and most versatile GT racers on the international scene – is a great addition. If we’re lucky, and regardless of where the No. 57 sits on the timing and scoring page, let’s hope we get to see Dumbreck in the car when some of the other GTLM animals are in theirs…it should be electric.

 

Car Number: 62

Team: Risi Competizione

Car: Ferrari F458 Italia

Drivers: Matteo Malucelli / Italy, Giancarlo Fisichella / Rome, Italy, Gianmaria Bruni / Rome, Italy, Olivier Beretta / Monte Carlo, Monaco

Driver(s) To Watch: Bruni

RACER Says:

Life is good when ex-F1 driver Fisichella is your weak link. Beretta has been drinking from the Fountain of Youth, Malucelli, despite his relative youth, has plenty of experience and pace, and Bruni…BRUNI. Gimmi is pure fireworks, and with a re-motivated Ferrari behind the former ALMS GT champs at Risi, there’s every reason to believe the team is capable of an upset at Daytona. Provided Fisichella can be bothered to push, big things could come from Giuseppe Risi’s outfit.

 

Car Number: 91

Team: SRT Motorsports

Car: SRT Viper GTS-R

Drivers: Dominik Farnbacher / Ansbach, Germany, Marc Goossens / Geel, Belgium, Ryan Hunter-Reay / Dallas, TX

Driver(s) To Watch: Farnbacher, Goossens

RACER Says:

The factory SRT Viper team has increased the reliability of its cars with every endurance race it has tackled, and that should bode well for the V10-powered behemoths. They didn’t have much speed to show at the Roar, and a subsequent weight reduction and engine air restrictor break could help for the race. Goossens is a zombie – methodical, always moving forward, always attacking, and his full-time teammate Farnbacher is a carbon copy of the Goose, but with a touch of youthful exuberance added in. RHR is fast, a gamer, and one of the best all-rounders competing today. With the newness of the Corvettes and Porsches in mind, the SRT Vipers, and this lineup, is definitely a sleeper for the win.

 

Car Number: 93

Team: SRT Motorsports

Car: SRT Viper GTS-R

Drivers: Robert Bell / United Kingdom, Jonathan Bomarito / Monterey, CA, Kuno Wittmer / Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Driver(s) To Watch: Bell, Wittmer

RACER Says:

Bomarito deserves to be in the “Drivers To Watch” list, but as a former Rolex 24 class winner, we already know how good the Californian has become in GT machinery. His regular teammate Wittmer, as his performances showed in 2013, is now worthy of everyone’s attention as a star on the rise. The French-Canadian is a relative unknown on the international GT scene, but the former open-wheel standout has the goods to become a GTLM champion. And then there’s Bell, easily one of the most electric GT drivers on the planet. Barring something silly or unexpected taking them out of the running, the low-profile gang piloting the No. 93 could rock the establishment with their speed and competitiveness.


Car Number: 97

Team: Aston Martin Racing

Car: Aston Martin Vantage V8

Drivers: Stefan Mucke / Berlin, Germany, Darren Turner / Banbury, England, Pedro Lamy / Lisbon, Portugal, Richie Stanaway / Tauranga, New Zealand, Paul Dalla Lana / Toronto, Canada

Driver(s) To Watch: Turner, Stanaway

RACER Says:

Strong car, strong team, and strong lineup. Almost. Turner is AMR’s designated hunter/killer, and Stanaway, who drew the ire of every Magnus Racing fan at the Lime Rock Grand-Am season finale, is exceptionally quick. But he’s young and far from at the peak of his decision-making powers. Add Lamy to that category and, as a pro-am driver, the somewhat speed-limited abilities of PDL among the pro lineups, and the team will have to pin its hopes on reliability, attrition, and pray its drivers make wise choices if a positive result is to be earned.

 

Car Number: 911

Team: Porsche North America

Car: Porsche 911 RSR

Drivers: Nick Tandy / Bedford, United Kingdom, Richard Lietz / Ybbs, Austria, Patrick Pilet / Auch, France

Driver(s) To Watch: Tandy

RACER Says:

The Porsches were quick during the Roar, but gained some weight in a performance adjustment by the series afterward. They also have a bit more power, yet with the axle failures they suffered at the test, more weight and power are the last things you’d want to subject them to for 24 hours. Like the No. 93 SRT Viper, the No. 911’s roster isn’t loaded with household names, but they’re more than capable of winning in equal conditions. Tandy is a star on the rise and a sentimental favorite. If the new 991-based GTLM cars can survive the punishment, keep an eye on this car as a spoiler.

 

Car Number: 912

Team: Porsche North America

Car: Porsche 911 RSR

Drivers: Patrick Long / Thousand Oaks, CA, Michael Christensen / Karlslunde, Denmark, Jorg Bergmeister / Germany

Driver(s) To Watch: Christensen

RACER Says:

The tandem of Pat and Jorg were a nightmare to deal with in the ALMS, and the partnership continues in the TUDOR Championship. Long was once a young pup coming up through the Porsche ranks and now, in a nice bit of synergy, he and Jorg have the young Dane Christensen to mentor on the No. 912 at Daytona. The kid is undoubtedly quick, and will be put to the test while dealing with a lot of cars and drivers he’s never come across. Between the two Porsches, the No. 911 is a lights-out solution in every category. Christensen is a bit of an unknown in that regard, making the No. 912 less of a certainty for success. If he can match their pace over full stints and avoid serious mistakes, Michael will emerge with a wealth of experience to carry forward this season.

IMSA TUNE-IN:

Tune in for the 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona at the following times:

 

Saturday, Jan. 25

2-4 p.m. ET on FOX (Live)
4-9 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 2 (Live)
 
Overnight (Jan. 25-26)
9 p.m. – 7 a.m. ET on IMSA.com (includes live images, in-car cameras and announcers)
 
Sunday, Jan. 26
7 a.m. – 3 p.m. on FOX Sports 1 (Live)

 

Tune in for the Daytona season opener at the following time:

Friday, Jan. 24

6 p.m. on FOX Sports 2 (Same Day)

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