Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2015 24 Hours of Daytona Preview

For the 53rd time, sports cars make their way to Daytona International Speedway for the twice-around-the-clock endurance race to kickoff the North American road racing season. Fifty-three cars are entered for the 53rd 24 Hours of Daytona.

The defending winners of Christian Fittipaldi, João Barbosa and Sébastien Bourdais are back in the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP as they lead 16 entries in the Prototype class. The last time three drivers won back-to-back 24 Hours of Daytona was in 1986 and 1987 when Al Hobert, Derek Bell and Al Unser, Jr. won driving a Porsche 962. Chip Robinson joined the trio for the 1987 victory.

The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP was fastest at the Roar Before the 24 test earlier in the month with Jordan and Ricky Taylor being joined by Max Angelelli as Angelelli and Wayne Taylor Racing celebrate their 10-year anniversary from their only 24 Hours of Daytona victory to date. They were 0.129 seconds quicker than the #5 Corvette DP. Third fastest from the test was the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS PS2-Honda of Oswaldo Negri, John Pew, A.J. Allmendinger and Matt McMurray. Negri, Pew and Allmendinger were all apart of Shank's 2012 victory. McMurray became the youngest driver to ever run the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year when he was 16 years old.

The Ganassi Racing Ford-Riley were fourth and fifth at the test. Scott Pruett and Joey Hand are joined by Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam in the #01 while Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray will drive the #02. A victory for Pruett will give him a record-breaking sixth, 24 Hours of Daytona victory. Dixon, Hand and Kimball all have victories at Daytona. Dixon won with Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears in 2006, Hand won with Pruett, Graham Rahal and Memo Rojas in 2011 and Kimball won with Pruett, Rojas and Juan Pablo Montoya in 2013.

The DeltaWing was a surprise sixth overall at the Roar with Memo Rojas moving over to the #0 from Ganassi and will be joined by Katherine Legge, Gabby Chaves and Andy Meyrick. The #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvett DP is a sleeper with Richard Westbrook, Michael Valiante and Mike Rockenfeller and was seventh at the Roar. The #31 Whelen Engineering Action Express Corvette DP of Eric Curran, Dane Cameron, Max Papis and Phil Keen was eighth in testing ahead of the #7 Starworks BMW-Riley with an all-star line-up of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Brendon Hartley, Rubens Barrichello, Tor Graves and Scott Mayer. The #57 Krohn Racing Ligier-Honda of Tracy Krohn, Nic Jönsson, Alex Brundle and Olivier Pla rounded out the top ten at testing.

Extreme Speed Motorsports has entered two HPD ARX-04bs with Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and David Heinemeier Hansson in the #1 with Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and Jon Fogarty in the #2. RG Racing will have four drivers splitting the #66 BMW-Riley as team owner Robert Gewirtz is joined by Shane Lewis, Mark Kvamme and David Cheng. The #50 Highway to Help BMW-Riley had an accident in testing but have repaired their car and will have Dorsey Schroeder return to the cockpit alongside David Hinton, Jim Pace and Byron DeFoor.

Mazda prepares for their sophomore season with the Skyactiv-D Prototypes as Joel Miller, Tom Long, Ben Devlin and Sylvain Tremblay will be in the #07. Tremblay is also entered in the #70 with Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez and James Hinchcliffe.

In Prototype Challenge, last year's winners the #54 CORE Autosport Oreca was on top in testing as Colin Braun, Jon Bennett, James Gue and Mark Wilkins all return looking to go back-to-back. Second fastest in class was the #11 RSR Racing Oreca of Bruno Junquiera, Chris Cumming, Jack Hawksworth and Gustavo Menezes. Starworks' #8 PC entry was third in testing as Ranger van der Zande, Alex Popow, Mirco Schultis, Mike Hedlund and Felipe Albuquerque are entered.

BAR1 Motorsports has two entries. Johnny Mowlem, Tom Papadopoulos, Tomy Drissi, Brian Adler and Martin Plowman are entered in the #16.  Plowman is also entered in BAR1's #61 entry as are Marc Drumwright, Ivo Breukers, Shelby Blackstock and Remo Ruscitti. PR1/Mathiasen have Andrew Palmer, Tom Kimber-Smith, Mike Guasch and Andrew Novich entered in the #52. The #38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry will feature James French, Jerome Mee and James Vance. Finally, JDC/Miller Motorsports have entered Chris Miller, Stephen Simpson, Rusty Mitchell and Mikhail Goikhberg in the #85.

Porsche won last year in GTLM and they were on top of the test with the #912 Porsche 911 RSR of Jörg Bergmeister, Earl Bamber and Frédéric Makowiecki. Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet will return to defend their GTLM victory and will be joined by Marc Lieb in the #911 Porsche. Aston Martin returns with the #98 Vantage V8 being shared by Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana, Darren Turner, Stefan Mücke and Mathias Lauda. The Aston Martin was second fastest in the test, sandwiched between the Porsches.

The #3 Corvette C7.R of Jan Magnussen, Antonio García and Ryan Briscoe was fourth quickest in the test ahead of the #62 Risi Competizione. Pierre Kaffer, Davide Rigon, Giancarlo Fisichella and Olivier Beretta will pilot the Risi Ferrari 458 Italia. The #25 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing BMW Z4 GTE will see Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner joined by DTM winners Augusto Farfus and Bruno Spengler.

Team Falken Tire Porsche ended 2014 with a victory in Petit Le Mans. Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers will be joined by Patrick Long at Daytona and were seventh in test. Behind the Team Falken Tire Porsche was the #4 Corvette with Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner being joined by Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud. AF Corse have enter the #51 Ferrari with world champions Giancarlo Bruni and Toni Vilander being joined by 2005 Daytona winner Emmanuel Collard and François Perrodo. The #24 RLLR BMW will see John Edwards and Lucas Luhr joined by Jens Klingmann and Graham Rahal.

GTD, the largest class in this year's 24 Hours of Daytona with 19 entries, was led by the Riley Technology Dodge Viper SRTs during the test. The #33 of Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating, Al Carter, Marc Goosens and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen led the #93 of Dominik Farnbacher, Kuno Wittmer and Cameron Lawrence. Carter and Keating are also entered in the #93. The #58 Brumos Porsche Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 America was third in the test with Madison Snow, Jan Heylen, Patrick Dempsey and Phillip Eng as the drivers. The #28 Konrad Motorsport Porsche of Klaus Bachler, Christoper Zoechling, Christian Engelhart, Lance Willsey and Rolf Ineichen was fourth during the test. Porsche rounded out the top five with the #81 GB Autosport entry of Mike Skeen, Damien Faulkner, Kuba Giermaziak, Rory Butcher and Mike Avenatti.

TRG has entered two Aston Martin V12 Vantages. The #007 of James Davison, Christina Nielsen, Christoffer Nygaard and Brandon Davis was sixth at the test. Flying Lizard Motorsports will field the #45 Audi R8 LMS with Markus Winkelhock, Robert Thorne, Satoshi Hoshino and Tomonobu Fujii and were seventh in the test. The #22 Alex Job Porsche features regulars Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen and Andrew Davis and those three will be joined by V8 Supercars' Shane Van Gisbergen. Paul Miller Racing sees Audi factory driver René Rast joining Christopher Haase, Bryce Miller and Dion von Moltke. The #009 TRG-Aston Martin rounded out the top ten at the test with Derek DeBoer and Max Riddle the only drivers entered to date. More drivers could still be added to the #009 driver line-up.

A few other notable entries in GTD include the #44 Magnus Racing Porsche with Andy Lally, John Potter, Marco Seefried and Martin Ragginger. Defending class winners Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell and Jeff Segal will all be in the #63 Scuderia Corse Ferrari with Anthony Lazzaro. Defending GTD champions Turner Motorsport has entered the #97 BMW Z4 with Michael Marsal, Markus Palttala, Andy Priaulx and Boris Said.

First practice for the 2015 24 Hours of Daytona will be at 9:25 a.m. ET on Thursday. There will be a 30-minute practice session at 1:20 p.m. ET with qualifying taking place at 4:00 p.m. ET Thursday. The final session on Thursday will be a 90-minute session beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Final practice before the start of the 2015 24 Hours of Daytona will be at 11:25 a.m. ET on Friday and last one hour.

Green flag for 24 Hours of Daytona will be at 2:10 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Fox will show the start of the race at 2:00 p.m. ET. At 4:00 p.m. ET, coverage will shift to Fox Sports 2 and Fox Sports 1 will close out Saturday coverage starting at 8:00 p.m. ET and will close out the night at 10:00 p.m. will have overnight coverage with Fox Sports 1 picking up coverage at 7:00 a.m. ET Sunday morning and going through the checkered flag, ending at 2:30 p.m. ET.