Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview - Prototype

Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview - Prototype

IMSA

Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview - Prototype

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What’s the right choice of car and chassis for the Rolex 24 at Daytona? How will many of the new cars, engines and components hold up across 24 hours of hard racing and the contact that seems all but inevitable to take place?

 

If you’re the gambling type, the worst thing you can do for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season opener is to put all your money on one car. Unlike the past few years where picking the overall podium finishers was fairly easy, the 2014 edition of the race defies prediction. Our advice: wait until the sun comes up Sunday morning before holding that conversation.

PROTOTYPE STRATEGY

We asked the defending Rolex 24 overall winners at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates to preview what race strategy might be like for the DP competitors, and asked ALMS P1 champions Muscle Milk Pickett Racing to do the same for the P2 class. We’ll start with Ganassi Racing managing director (and race strategist) Mike Hull’s assessment:

We’ve spoken about the dangers involved with this year’s race, not so much in reference to multiple classes, as more to the point of more cars. Based on what we saw at the Daytona test, there will be more gaggles of cars racing with each other, no matter what class they might be in. Some of those cars will be mixed in terms of just being, track position wise, on the same portion of the racetrack at the same time. So we think the race is going to require a continued reminder to everybody involved, the drivers, the crew members, the managers, the engineers, everybody, that acute awareness is key the entire time.

 

Everyone should be on high alert every step of the way, and that’s mainly down to the quality of the cars. That’s one thing the series has truly gained by the combining of the two series; now you’ve enhanced the quality of the entrants. And when you enhance the quality of the entrant’s base, that means you have a better group of race drivers at any point in time in an endurance race on the racetrack at the same time. You have better teams in the pits. You have more teams tuned in generally to race strategy. And I think the management level of all of those things as a resource for the series should not go unnoticed.

 

So that’s a long way of saying, yeah, I think it’s going to be more difficult, but I think the mindset you have to take is you’re racing in a series that is now making, or establishing itself to step up in terms of its presence with the quality of people that will be racing. The difference – the thing that’s in common – is the fact that people will have problems, and they’ll respond to problems the way they’ve trained their organizations to do so. For all that’s new about this championship, and all that’s new we’ll need to take under consideration, some things like problems will happen as expected.

 

By the end of the race, the strong will still prevail, and that’s maybe different from some recent races where the top teams chased each other the entire time. We’ll have to see what fuel mileage is like to know how long we can go with our Ford EcoBoost engines, and pit stops will be critical once again. It feels like there’s a lot more ways to make mistakes and lose time this year, and we’re going to do our best to focus on getting the normal things right. The more normal and routine you can make the race, the better off you should be.

I don’t know what the depth of the strength will actually be at the end of the event, but it’ll be fun to see who managed to survive. Along with our partners, we’ve put in a lot of work to be one of them. If only I had a crystal ball to tell you how we’ll do…

 

Muscle Milk Pickett Racing team manager/engineer/strategist Brandon Fry delves into what he expects during the team’s transition to P2 at Daytona:

 

On one side, one thing that will be different for us, and I need to take into account as I’m trying to work on the timing of the race and certainly the drivers need to keep it in mind, is we don’t have a P1 car that’s going to go blasting by everyone at an obnoxious closing rate. Understanding that is going to be a lot more important than it used to be. In races in the past, you might look at something and say, okay, fine, if we pit now and we end up in the back of the grid we’re going to streak through the field and we’ll be through these lower classes in two or three laps. This isn’t the case here.

 

You’ve got cars whereby the speed difference isn’t that great and you’ve got a track whereby the cornering speed of a P2 car isn’t able to be used when you get choked up through the infield. And then the GTDs fly around the ovals so fast that, yeah, you make up time on them but you don’t make up the huge chunks of time that we’re sort of used to with a P1 car.

 

As far as going racing with a lot of cars, multiple classes, doing the pass around system, trying to manage where you are in that and what is the right play to make, I think a lot of that might not be as much of a difference for the ALMS teams as it will the Grand-Am teams.

 

We’ve had four or five classes for a long time, huge numbers of cars and many of the same issues at Sebring or Petit that Daytona will have. It’s the speed and in some ways the closeness in significant portions of the track that you really have to wrap your head around as the big adjustments to make, I think.

 

We’re going to have more power and less fuel in our tanks, so my best guess is it’s going to be about 23 or 24 laps per stint. You get in the race and you’ll get in more traffic and you’ll try to start saving some fuel and get 25 laps or so.

 

I try to go back and look at years past in the 24 Hours and watch it but you try to watch it from the strategy point of view. I think it’s going to be an interesting race this year. You always have a lot of yellows and you’ve got a lot of cars this year. So are we going to have a race that really gets going or are we going to see one yellow another of yellow? I certainly hope not. But nonetheless, we’ll have to adjust our strategy if it happens.


 

PROTOTYPE CAR BY CAR PREVIEW

Car Number: 0
Team:
DeltaWing Racing Cars
Car:
DeltaWing DWC13
Drivers:
Andy Meyrick / Cheshire, UK, Katherine Legge / Guildford, UK, Alexander Rossi / Nevada City, CA, Gabby Chaves / Bogota, Colombia
Driver(s) To Watch:
Rossi, Chaves
RACER Says:
The Delta Wing coupe has been fast in pre-season testing, but the car’s lack of endurance racing mileage is the greatest concern. Can the engine go 24 hours? With its light weight, do the odds of racing with 60+ cars increase its chances of sustaining significant damage if contact is made? The DWC13 chassis has a strong assembly of drivers, with American F1 hopeful Rossi and Colombian IndyCar driver in training Chaves serving as pilots of interest. One can only hope reliability and a lack of bashing and banging will allow them to get turns in the car.

Car Number: 1
Team:
Extreme Speed Motorsports
Car: HPD ARX-03b
Drivers:
Scott Sharp / West Palm Beach, FL, Ryan Dalziel / Orlando, FL, David Brabham / Maidenhead, UK Driver(s) To Watch: Dalziel
RACER Says:
With the retirement of Allan McNish, everyone’s favorite Scottish Terrier of sports car racing, his countryman Dalziel is primed to grab the moniker and run with it. Ryan’s relentless, and with Brabham in the team, he has a fast and smart ally. Team co-owner Sharp is no slouch, and with the 2014-spec P2 cars lacking the frightful speed their higher-power, wider-tired predecessors had, extracting maximum speed is no longer reserved for the elite-level drivers. If Sharp can execute, Brabs and Dalziel can carve through the field if needed. The HPD chassis and Honda engine package are highly refined, although some if the new-for-2013 issues with the direct-injection version of the marque’s 2.8-liter twin-turbo V6 make me wonder if running for 24 hours is a guarantee. It’s too early to say whether a P2 or DP will win the Rolex 24, but if the P2s have an edge, and barring the unforeseen, the No. 1 might be holding the ticket to Victory Lane.

Car Number: 2
Team:
Extreme Speed Motorsports
Car:
HPD ARX-03b
Drivers: Ed Brown / Boca Raton, FL, Johannes van Overbeek / Oakland, CA, Simon Pagenaud / Poiters, France, Anthony Lazzaro / Atlanta, GA
Driver(s) To Watch:
Pagenaud
RACER Says:
Having a pro-am driver like team co-owner Ed Brown in the car is a liability, and there’s no reason to pretend otherwise. That doesn’t mean he will give anything less than 100 percent when he’s driving, but pitted against all-pro lineups, it’s an issue. JvO has been solid during his move from a lifetime of GT racing to prototypes, and Lazzaro is a cagey – and fast – pro who’s been through the wars. In strict sprint race terms, the No. 2 has no chance, but there’s also the distinct chance that if they can run a clean race, their patience might be rewarded with a strong result. Be sure to watch the timing and scoring screen for when Simon’s in the car. If you can make your way to Daytona, witnessing the Frenchman flog a prototype should not be missed.

Car Number: 5
Team:
Action Express Racing
Car:
Corvette DP Drivers: Joao Barbosa / Porto, Portugal, Christian Fittipaldi / Sao Paolo Brazil, Sebastien Bourdais / Le Mans, France, Burt Frisselle / Aspen, CO
Driver(s) To Watch:
Barbosa, Bourdais
RACER Says:
If the DPs have the edge, it will likely be a Corvette DP and no team has more mileage on the 2014 package than AXR. The program is more focused than ever, Fittipaldi has been sharper than expected, Frisselle is capable and with the dynamic duo of Joao and Seb, the No. 5 will be running at its absolute limit. Using the standard caveat (I.E.: if nothing takes them out of contention), this might be a smart one to put some money on for overall honors.

Car Number: 6
Team: Muscle Milk Pickett Racing
Car: ORECA
Drivers:
Klaus Graf / Dornhan, Germany, Lucas Luhr / Koblenz, Germany, Alexander Brundle / United Kingdom Driver(s) To Watch: Brundle
RACER Says:
We know Graf and Luhr are beasts, making the exploits of young Alex Brundle and interesting one to follow. He’s fast, but does he have the experience to weave through traffic during a triple stint without any missteps? The ALMS P1 champs will be eager to find out… Everything Greg Pickett does is done correctly and with high expectations, meaning the team is wanting for nothing, other than more testing time. MMPR would be an automatic favorite, if not for the limited track time with the ORECA chassis and Nissan engine. Compared to some teams that are rolling into Daytona with familiar machinery, Pickett’s program turned it first laps with their new P2 car earlier this month. The limited info in their setup book could be the one thing keeping them from the result they desire, but don’t write them off.

Car Number: 9
Team:
Action Express Racing/DELTA
Car:
Corvette DP
Drivers: Brian Frisselle / Aspen, CO, Burt Frisselle / Aspen, CO, John Martin / Australia, Fabien Giroix / France Driver(s) To Watch: Brian Frisselle, Martin
RACER Says:
Giroix is the key to the funding from sponsor Millennium, and the 53-year-old has plenty of experience, but he won’t help the team to keep pace with the all-pro lineups. Brian Frisselle continues to be an excellent albeit underrated driver, and Martin is an absolute animal. The Aussie’s another run-to-the-fence-and-watch star in the Prototype class.

Car Number: 10 Team: Wayne Taylor Racing
Car:
Corvette DP Drivers: Wayne Taylor / Apopka, FL, Max Angelelli / Monte Carlo, Monaco, Ricky Taylor / Apopka, FL, Jordan Taylor / Apopka, FL
Driver(s) To Watch:
Taylor brothers
RACER Says: The final DP champions shook the monkey from their back at last year’s Rolex 24 with a solid second-place finish, and with the Taylor brothers bringing plenty of heat, plus veteran Angelelli bringing his fighting spirit to the cockpit, this is another strong candidate for the win if DPs hold the advantage. The only question is team owner and former race winner Wayne Taylor, who’s making a one-off return to drive with his kids and business partner. If they keep his stints short, conditioning won’t be an issue. Provided Wayne’s latest farewell doesn’t impede the team’s progress, look for his sons to do special things. Jordan looks like he might have inched ahead of his brother on pace, and now we’ll have a chance to find out whether that’s true or if Ricky can match or exceed him.


 

Car Number: 31
Team: Marsh Racing
Car: Corvette DP
Drivers:
Eric Curran / Holyoke, MA, Boris Said / Escondido, CA, Bradley Smith / Oxford, England, Max Papis / Como, Italy
Driver(s) To Watch:
Curran 
RACER Says:
Hard to place lofty expectations on a team making its prototype debut after years of GT racing. Said and Papis will anchor the team. Smith, the latest Sunoco Challenge winner from the U.K., is making his series (and DP) debut at the worst possible time and poses the greatest risk for the Teddy Marsh-led team to catch an early flight home. Curran has been impressive in everything he’s driven, and brings a lot of high-powered GT experience to the team. Is he ready to set an hour of qualifying laps to keep pace with a Sebastien Bourdais? Probably not, but he’ll get there eventually.

Car Number: 42
Team:
OAK Racing
Car:
Morgan
Drivers:
Oliver Pla / Toulouse, France, Roman Rusinov / Russia, Gustavo Yacaman / Colombia, Oliver Webb / United Kingdom
Driver(s) To Watch:
Pla, Yacaman
RACER Says:
We know the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans P2-winning car and engine combo is capable of adding another 24-hour victory to the French constructor’s CV, but will the team’s limited track time at Daytona and the new faces on its driver roster diminish its potential? Pla is the clear leader among the drivers and Rusinov will be right there with him. Yacaman is an interesting character. He had a tough 2013 season transitioning to DP, made big strides when Michael Shank brought in a veteran specifically to mentor him, and now finds himself in a no-nonsense team without that gentle hand of support and encouragement beneath him. We’ll see how far he’s come at the Rolex 24 – the team will expect no mistakes. Webb is another interesting choice, and finds himself in the same position Yacaman was in 2013 after shifting from open-wheel to sports cars. The Briton is quick, but lacks experience in these cars and this kind of racing.

Car Number: 50
Team:
Highway To Help
Car: Riley DP
Drivers:
Bryon DeFoor / Ooltewah, TN, Jim Pace / Ridgeland, MS, Frank Beck / Scottsdale, AZ, David Hinton / Clearwater, FL
Driver(s) To Watch:
RACER Says: The Rolex 24 usually has at least one fun entry loaded with guys that have no hope of winning, yet fans still cheer for them. This is that team.

Car Number: 60
Team: Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian
Car:
Riley DP
Drivers: John Pew / Palm Beach, FL, Oswaldo Negri, Jr. / Aventura, FL, AJ Allmendinger / Charlotte, NC, Justin Wilson / Dacona, Colorado
Driver(s) To Watch:
Negri, Allmendinger, Wilson
RACER Says:
The new Ford EcoBoost turbo DP engines have been powerful and the cars they’ve powered have been quick at Daytona, but reliability is the all-encompassing question for MSR and the pair of Ganassi entries. If the twin-turbo V6 isn’t an issue, your 2012 Rolex 24 winners are certainly capable of repeating the feat on Sunday. Pro-am driver John Pew delivers all you could ask of him, and with three hunter/killer teammates, the No. 60 will fly, but for how long? If would be great for the series and for the Blue Oval to have some form of success to promote coming out of the season opener.

Car Number: 70
Team: SpeedSource
Car:
Mazda
Drivers:
Sylvain Tremblay / Parkland, FL, Tom Long / Raleigh, NC, James Hinchcliffe / Indianapolis, IN
Driver(s) To Watch:

RACER Says:
Like the brand’s GX program at last year’s Rolex 24, learning is the name of the game for Mazda and its partners at SpeedSource. The cars look great, and the team has put in an unfathomable number of hours preparing them for their debut, but the superlatives stop there. Each driver offers something unique to watch, but speed and reliability are the greatest weaknesses/areas for the team to improve with the brand-new P2 diesels. Every lap they complete will help to improve the car at future rounds, and finishing would be a bigger accomplishment than anything else that takes place in the race.

Car Number: 78
Team:
Starworks Motorsport
Car:
Riley DP
Drivers: Scott Mayer / Franklin, WI, Alex Popow / Caracas, Venezuela, Brendon Hartley / New Zealand
Driver(s) To Watch:
Hartley
RACER Says:
Peter Baron’s Rolex 24 DP effort came together late and has a lot of drivers slotted in to cover the costs. Hartley, who won for Starworks last year and has been signed to Porsche’s P1 program, is a stud. You could also see one or two IndyCar drivers in the car, but fighting for the overall win will be hard with too many drivers and not enough pros/sports car experts behind the wheel.


Car Number: 90
Team:
Spirit Of Daytona
Car:
Corvette DP
Drivers:
Richard Westbrook / London, England, Michael Valiante / Vancouver, BC, Canada, Mike Rockenfeller / Germany
Driver(s) To Watch:
All
RACER Says:
SDR rocked the time sheets at the Roar and looks like a team that’s ready to go out and take the Rolex 24 by force. The team weathered a tough 2013 season and has completed a thorough makeover, which was obvious in testing where the No. 90 Corvette DP became the car to beat. Westbrook is a beast, Rocky is a beast and a former overall winner here and Valiante is equally matched to his teammates. Based on 2013, SDR could be considered a dark horse, but they just might be the strongest, least compromised DP entry in the field. If you’re spreading your money around, put some on the Troy Flis-owned team for the win.

Car Number: 99
Team:
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing
Car:
Corvette DP
Drivers: Alex Gurney / Irvine, CA, Jon Fogarty / Bend, OR, Memo Gidley / San Francisco, CA, Darren Law / Phoenix, AZ
Driver(s) To Watch:

RACER Says:
Consistency is what this team is known for, and its car, drivers and almost everything else about for former DP champs remains unchanged from 2013. They’ve been hampered by a late start to testing and a limited budget dropping them down to the four NAEC rounds. Star drivers fill the No. 99, but it’s hard to picture the team finding the pace to assert themselves. It would take some unique circumstances for this Corvette DP team to be in a position to win at the end of 24 hours, but Lord would it make a lot of people happy to see it happen.

Car Number: 01
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Car:
Riley DP
Drivers: Scott Pruett / Auburn, CA, Memo Rojas / Mexico City, Mexico, Jamie McMurray / Joplin, MO, Sage Karam / Nazareth, PA
Driver(s) To Watch:
McMurray, Karam
RACER Says:
Same note as MSR. Reliability is the concern here. If the car stays in motion for 24 hours, it’s hard to count them out for the win. Jamie McMurray continues to impress and Karam is making the right impression on the Ganassi team by charging hard and using his brain. You know Pruett and Rojas will be at the top of their game, but not even they know what to expect once the green flag waves at 2:10 p.m. on Saturday.

Car Number: 02
Team:
Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Riley DP
Drivers: Scott Dixon / New Zealand, Tony Kanaan / Salvador, Brazil, Marino Franchitti / Scotland, Kyle Larson / Sacramento, CA
Driver(s) To Watch:
Kanaan, Larson
RACER
Says:
Two IndyCar Series champions, who also double as Indy 500 winners, a sports car champion and an oval track prodigy. Sounds like a lovely concoction of badass drivers that feels a bit old school. Dixon is The Man, coming off an epic charge to win his third IndyCar title last year and TK finally got his win at the Brickyard. With Juan Montoya leaving the Ganassi fold, it would appear the team has lost its hunter/killer, but if you were fortunate to watch TK in a factory Acura P2 car in the late 2000s, you know he’s more than capable of playing that role for Chip. Larson’s the x-factor here, and speed won’t be a problem. Dealing with constant traffic and making split-decision passes under braking and through corners will be his greatest challenge. If their Ford EcoBoost turbo holds together, this is another entry with winning potential.

Car Number: 07
Team: SpeedSource
Car:
Mazda Drivers: Joel Miller / Hesperia, CA, Tristan Nunez / Boca Raton, FL, Tristan Vautier / St. Petersburg, FL
Driver(s) To Watch:

RACER Says:
All three of the No. 07 drivers would be major threats in a P2 with a proven engine package. Miller and Nunez have the goods to become breakout stars, but it will be tough to showcase their skills during a development season for the manufacturer.

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)

MX-5 Cup | Watkins Glen – Round 8

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