Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview - PC

Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview - PC

IMSA

Rolex 24 at Daytona Preview - PC

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RACER‘s final class preview for the 52nd Rolex 24 at Daytona features the spec PC prototype category. The identical Chevy V8-powered ORECA FLM09 chassis produced amazing racing in the American Le Mans Series, and more is expected to come under the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship banner.

 

This Pro-Am division features mostly strong teams and drivers; it’s hard to find entries that have no chance at victory. The biggest variable in the PC race might be the car itself.

 

It hasn’t done a 24-hour race at Daytona, in its revised aerodynamic form, and on the spec Continental tires. There’s no reason to believe reliability will be an issue as the platform is based off a proven P2 design, but at double the length of the 12 Hours of Sebring – the longest race the PC cars usually contest – and a high probability for contact, it’s a topic worth monitoring.

 

PC STRATEGY

 

We’ve asked Peter Baron, who owns Starworks Motorsport and calls strategy for his cars, to share his insights on what he needs from his drivers to make it to the finish line at Daytona.

 

I think the key for the PC car – and I’m sure everybody else that was there at the Roar feels the same – is these cars are the most fragile ones in the series right now. Any substantial hit from any other class of car will result in significant damage. And then we can make things worse with these things by hopping curbs at the Bus Stop and chicanes and off-track excursions, and that, really, is where you decrease your odds of lasting. The strategy with these cars is: whoever can keep the thing on the blacktop, is not hopping curbs, and not hitting cars is going to be a race winner, regardless of speed.

 

If you have a rocket ship out there and guys are jumping curbs and things like that, that’s a ticking time bomb. So our goal is to be extremely safe and just run a conservative race and let it come back to us.

 

With the DP cars, those things are battle wagons. You can hit guys, drive the wheels off of it for 24 hours, hop curbs, get hit, do whatever you want. That’s not an option for us.

 

The whole concept of how you call the race – pitting, fuel strategy and all that – remains the same. It’s just the driving tactic that’s different. Our car is working exceptionally well on the Continental tires right now. We were clicking off 1:42s for the test with 40-lap tires on. So we’re pretty confident about double stinting tires in the PC car.

 

And then we’ll see how the tire strategy with the new pit stop procedure plays out. We’re hoping to see something in the 25-lap range on a tank of fuel and will know more when practice gets going.

 

PROTOTYPE CHALLENGE CAR BY CAR PREVIEW

Car Number: 7
Team: Starworks Motorsport
Car:
ORECA FLM09
Drivers: Alex Popow / Caracas, Venezuela, Martin Fuentes / Mexico City, Mexico, Isaac Tutumlu / Barcelona, Spain, Kyle Marcelli / Ontario, Canada, Pierre Kaffer / Germany
Driver(s) To Watch:
Marcelli, Kaffer
RACER Says:
One of the better PC lineups in the race. Marcelli and Kaffer will be hard on the throttle when needed, and they have a top Am driver in Popow. Strategy is one of Starworks’ strongest suits, and team owner Baron has done this race many, many times. It could make a difference.

 

Car Number: 8
Team: Starworks Motorsport
Car:
ORECA FLM09
Drivers:
Mirco Schultis / Germany, Erix Lux / Buffalo, NY, Renger van der Zande / Dodewaard, Netherlands, Sam Bird / Roehampton, United Kingdom
Driver(s) To Watch:
van der Zande, Bird
RACER Says:
The No. 8 is Starworks’ most competitive entry and one of the leading candidates for the PC win if nothing impedes their progress. Renger has been impressive since joining the category, and Bird, making his sports car debut at the Roar, put everyone on notice by posting some of the fastest laps at the test. It’s a polished Pro-Am lineup – possibly missing a few tenths on average to one or two of their competitors with more aggressive Pro-Am rosters – but they should be in contention for victory.

 

Car Number: 25
Team:
8Star Motorsports
Car:
ORECA FLM09
Drivers:
Enzo Potolicchio / Caracas, Venezuela, Tom Kimber-Smith / Berkshire, UK, Mike Marsal / New York, NY, Rob Huff / England
Driver(s) To Watch: Kimber-Smith
RACER Says: Team owner Potolicchio has assembled an intriguing squad for the Rolex 24. He’s about as fast of an Am as you’ll find in a prototype, and both Marsal and Huff should complement 8Star’s effort. TKS is the ringer here. If we’re lucky, he’ll be in the car for the run to the finish. There are very few PC entries that don’t have a chance at winning the Rolex 24, so it might sound repetitive, but 8Star is one to keep an eye on.


Car Number: 38
Team:
Performance Tech Motorsports
Car: ORECA FLM09
Drivers:
Ryan Booth / Charleston, SC, Raphael Matos / Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Tomi Drissi / Hollywood, CA, Gabriel Casagrande / Brazil, Júlio Campos / Brazil
Driver(s) To Watch:
Booth, Matos
RACER Says:
The No. 38’s entry list reads like a list of random names thrown together, but the drivers involved are deceptively good. Booth was stellar in last year’s IMSA Lites championship and has a big future in the TUDOR Championship, Matos has been a star for years, and with two of his fellow Brazilians added to the car – both come from the Brazilian Stock Car Series – it’s a tight unit. A dark horse entry, no doubt.

 

Car Number: 52
Team:
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports
Car:
ORECA FLM09
Drivers: Mike Guasch / Pleasant Hill, CA, David Cheng / Sammamish, WA, Frankie Montecalvo / Highlands, New Jersey, Gunnar Jeannette / West Palm Beach, FL
Driver(s) To Watch:
Jeannette
RACER Says:
The defending PC champions are back and looking strong with Guasch, who claimed the title in the No. 52 car, and have added the driving duo of Jeanette and Montecalvo, which was a smart call by team owner Bobby Oergel. Gunnar and Frankie know the PC cars inside and out–Jeanette is a rocket, Guasch is a force of nature among the Ams, and if they can limit Cheng’s exposure, there’s no reason they can’t win.

 

Car Number: 54
Team:
CORE autosport
Car: ORECA FLM09
Drivers:
Jon Bennett / Charlotte, NC, James Gue / Alpharetta, GA, Colin Braun / Charlotte, NC, Mark Wilkins / Toronto, Canada
Driver(s) To Watch: All
RACER Says: The titans of PC. Gue was a nice add to the team, and coupled with two lights-out drivers in Braun and Wilkins, this is yet another team that can win.

 

Car Number: 87
Team:
BAR1 Motorsports
Car:
ORECA FLM09
Drivers: Sean Rayhall, James Kovacic, Doug Bielefeld, Gaston Kearby, and Tonis Kasemets
Driver(s) To Watch: Rayhall, Kovacic
RACER Says:
BAR1 came on strong at the close of the 2013 season, and is back with a promising, albeit compromised squad for the Rolex 24. Rayhall, at just 18, is a badass. If Jordan Taylor’s the next Scott Pruett, Rayhall’s the next Jordan Taylor. Aussie Kovacic is quick like a bunny and should impress on his return to the team. Kasemets is a pro and has been through the wars. But a five-driver PC lineup with two inexperienced Ams, at this race, isn’t a recipe for success. Sometimes finding the money – the paying drivers required to make the grid – is what’s necessary.

 

Car Number: 08
Team:
RSR Racing
Car: ORECA FLM09
Drivers:
Chris Cumming / Vancouver, BC, Canada, Alex Tagliani / Lachenai, QC, Canada, Rusty Mitchell / Midland, TX, Conor Daly / Indianapolis, IN
Driver(s) To Watch:
Tagliani, Daly
RACER Says:
RSR owner Paul Gentilozzi, by the looks of it, has assembled the closest thing to a no-compromises Pro-Am effort that you’ll find for the Rolex 24. No big dollar/low talent Ams to drag the team down, and no one to blunt whatever progress the Pros make throughout the race. Gentilozzi has hired Tagliani, who drove for him in Champ Car, to lead the No. 08 and added rising open-wheel star Conor Daly to the mix, who will make his sports car debut this weekend. Mitchell, an Indy Lights veteran who turned towards sports cars, fits into the RSR puzzle rather nicely and Cumming has both DP and PC experience on his side. If Conor uses patience during his stints, this entry could be in the conversation as the checkered flag approaches on Sunday.

 

Car Number: 09
Team:
RSR Racing
Car: ORECA FLM09
Drivers:
Duncan Ende / Los Angeles, CA, Bruno Junqueira / Belo Horizonte, Brazil, David Heinemeier Hansson / Copenhagen, Denmark, Gustavo Menezes / Los Angeles, CA
Driver(s) To Watch:
All
RACER Says:
Gentilozzi has put together a downright nasty driving team for the No. 09. Ende and Junky starred in the PC class on multiple occasions last year, DHH has become a player in whatever he drives and Menezes returns to the team with a full season of German F3 experience added to his CV. Every chamber in the No. 09 is loaded, making it one of the easy favorites to find Victory Lane.

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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