Wednesday, January 27, 2016

2016 24 Hours of Daytona Preview

The 54th 24 Hours of Daytona takes place this weekend and the event has 54 entries across four classes. Old faces are in new places. The Prototype class begins its final season in its current format. The Ford GT makes its long awaited debut and GTD is finally GT3-spec. Let's take a class-by-class look at the entries.

This will be Ganassi's final race in the Prototype class and he has brought the band back together to defend its crown as well as assembled an all-star foursome. Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson return to drive the #02 Ford-Riley and look to make it consecutive victories in the two-around-the-clock endurance race. The #01 Ford-Riley sees Ganassi bringing Alexander Wurz out of retirement for one race to be joined by defending World Endurance Drivers' champion Brendon Hartley, WEC Ford GT driver Andy Priaulx and Formula Three driver Lance Stroll.

Christian Fittipaldi and João Barbosa enter the 2016 season looking for their third consecutive championship. Filipe Albuquerque and Scott Pruett will join the defending champions in the #5 Action Express Corvette DP. Pruett enters looking for a record-breaking sixth 24 Hours of Daytona victory. He is currently tied with Hurley Haywood for the most all-time. Dane Cameron, Eric Curran, Simon Pagenaud and Jonny Adam will drive the #31 Action Express Corvette DP.

Wayne Taylor Racing returns will Ricky and Jordan Taylor being joined by Max Angelelli and Rubens Barrichello in the #10 Corvette DP. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Wayne Taylor's first 24 Hours of Daytona victory. Both his sons are still looking for their first victory in the event and Angelelli has not won since he, Wayne Taylor and Emmanuel Collard won in 2005. Barrichello was a late addition to the driver line-up. The Brazilian ran last year for Starworks in a BMW-Riley with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Hartley, Tor Graves and Scott Mayer.

Taylor's two co-drivers for that 1996 victory are both entered to race in this year's race. Scott Sharp returns with the #2 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier-Honda and co-drivers Johannes van Overbeek, Pipo Derani and Ed Brown. Jim Pace was the first driver in that 1996 winning trio and he will be in the underdog of the Prototype class: The #50 Highway to Help BMW-Riley. Pace's co-drivers are Dorsey Schroeder, Bryan DeFoor, David Hinton and Thomas Gruber.

Besides the ESM Ligier, the other two LMP2 cars belong to Michael Shank Racing and SMP Racing. Shank will run the #60 Ligier-Honda with Oswaldo Negri, Jr., John Pew, A.J. Allmendinger and Olivier Pla. SMP Racing brings their BR01-Nissan over to make its North American debut. Maurizio Mediani, Nicolas Minassian, Mikhail Aleshin and Kirill Ladygin will drive the #37 BR01-Nissan.

Ryan Dalziel, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay will drive the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP.  The DeltaWing returns with Katherine Legge, Sean Rayhall, Andy Meyrick and Andreas Wirth driving the #0 entry. Mazda returns with two prototypes. The #55 Mazda has Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez and defending Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot entered and the #70 Mazda is slated to be driven by Joel Miller, Tom Long and Ben Devlin.

Prototype Challenge
Eight cars are entered in the PC class.

PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports won last year and the #52 Oreca sees only one returning driver from last year's winning team. Tom Kimber-Smith has Robert Alon, José Gutierrez and Nicholas Bouille joining him this year.

CORE Autosport finished second last year after an accident in the closing minutes while leading the class. Jon Bennett and Colin Braun will have Martin Plowman and Mark Wilkins join them in the #54 Oreca.

JDC/Miller Motorsports finished third last year and three drivers return from last year: Chris Miller, Stephen Simpson and Mikhail Goikhberg. Kenton Koch is the new driver to the #85 Oreca.

Starworks has entered two impressive driver line-ups. The #8 Oreca sees Renger van der Zande, Alex Popow, Chris Cumming and Jack Hawksworth listed with the #88 Oreca scheduled to have Mark Kvamme, Sean Johnston, Maro Engel and Felix Rosenqvist drive.

BAR1 Motorsport also has two entries. Tomy Drissi, Marc Drumwright, Ricardo Vera, Brendan Gaughan and Johnny Mowlem are entered in the #20 Oreca. Five drivers are listed for the #26 Oreca: Ryan Eversley, Adam Merzon, Don Yount, Ryan Lewis and Jon Falb.

Performance Tech Motorsports rounds out the PC entry list with the #38 Oreca. James French, Jim Norman, Josh Norman and Brandon Gdovic are the drivers.

GT Le Mans
Eleven cars are entered in the GTLM class.

Jan Magnussen and Antonio García will look to make consecutive victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona; however, Mike Rockenfeller joins the Dane and Spaniard in the #3 Corvette, replacing Ryan Briscoe. The #4 Corvette sees Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin returning with Marcel Fässler joining the Anglo-American duo.

Briscoe has moved on to the Ford GT program run by Chip Ganassi. The Australian will split the #67 Ford with Richard Westbrook and Stefan Mücke, who will drive a Ford GT in WEC later this year. Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais will drive the #66 Ford. This marks the 50th anniversary of the Ford GT40 winning the 24 Hours of Daytona with Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby.

Defending GTLM champion Patrick Pilet returns to drive the #911 Porsche 911 RSR with Nick Tandy and Kevin Éstre. Pilot and Tandy won the 24 Hours of Daytona in GTLM in 2014 with Richard Lietz as their co-driver. Earl Bamber leads the #912 Porsche driver line-up with Frédéric Makowiecki and Michael Christensen joining the New Zealander.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has two BMWs entered with stout line-ups. Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner will drive the #25 BMW and DTM drivers Augusto Farfus and Bruno Spengler will join the American and German. Lucas Luhr and John Edwards will be the full-time drivers in the #100 BMW. For Daytona, Kuno Wittmer and Graham Rahal will be the third and fourth drivers in the #100.

Three Ferrari 488 GTEs are scheduled to make their debut. Risi Competizione entered the #62 Ferrari for Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander, Davide Rigon and Olivier Beretta. Scuderia Corsa has entered a car in GTLM along with their traditional GTD entry. Alessandro Pier Guidi, Alexandre Prémat, Daniel Serra and Memo Rojas will drive the #68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari. SMP Racing not only brought over a BR01. Their #72 Ferrari features Viktor Shaitar, Andrea Bertolini, Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado.

GT Daytona
The largest class in the 2016 24 Hours of Dayton will be GT Daytona, which will feature 22 cars from seven manufactures.

Riley Motorsports won last year's race and returns with two Dodge Vipers. Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating, Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Miller will be in the #33 Viper while Keating joins Gar Robinson, Jeff Mosing, Eric Foss and Damien Faulkner in the #93 Viper.

Defending GTD drivers' champions Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler have moved from Scuderia Corsa to the #11 O'Gara Motorsport Lamborghini and will be joined by Richard Antinucci and Edoardo Piscopo.

Replacing Bell and Sweedler in the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari will be Christian Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan. Jeff Segal and Robert Renauer join the Dane and Italian for Daytona. The only other Ferrari in GTD is the #51 Spirit of Race entry of Peter Mann, Raffaele Gianmaria, Matteo Cressoni and Marco Cioci.

Besides O'Gara Motorsport, four other Lamborghini Huracáns are entered. Change Racing has entered the #16 Lamborghini for Spencer Pumpelly, Corey Lewis, Justin Marks and Kaz Grala. Konrad Motorsport has entered two Lamborghinis. Emanuele Busnelli and Jim Michaelian are entered in Konrad's #21 Lamborghini. Rolf Ineichen, Lance Willsey, Franz Konrad, Fabio Babini and Marc Basseng will drive the #28 Lamborghini. Paul Miller Racing switched over from Porsche. Bryce Miller, Mirko Bortolotti, Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow will drive the #48 Lamborghini.

Stevenson Motorsports moves up to IMSA from Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge with two Audi R8s. Robin Liddell, Andrew Davis, Lawson Aschenbach and Matt Bell will drive the #6 Audi with Kenny Habul, Boris Said, Dion von Moltke and Tristan Vautier in the #9 Audi. Magnus Racing has switched to Audis. Andy Lally and John Potter return in the #44 Audi and will be joined by Marco Seefried and René Rast. Flying Lizard Motorsports and Krohn Racing have partnered for the #45 Audi to be driven by Nic Jönsson, Pierre Kaffer, Christopher Haase and Tracy Krohn.

Five Porsches are entered. Alex Job Racing has entered the #22 Porsche for Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen, David MacNeil, Shane Van Gisbergen and Gunnar Jeannette. Ian James and Mario Farnbacher return in the #23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche and they will be joined by Alex Riberas and Wolf Henzler. VLN stalwarts Frikadelli Racing makes its Daytona debut with Klaus Abbelen, Frank Stippler, Sven Müller, Duncan Huisman and Sabine Schmitz in the #30 Porsche. Patrick Lindsey and Jörg Bergmeister will drive the #73 Park Place Racing Porsche. Matt McMurry and Norbert Siedler round out the Park Place driver line-up. Black Swan Racing has entered the #540 Porsche for Nicky Catsburg, Tim Pappas, Patrick Long and Andy Pilgrim.

Turner Motorsport entered two BMWs. Bret Curtis and Jens Klingmann will drive the #96 M6 GT3 with Ashley Freiberg and DTM champion Marco Wittmann joining Curtis and Klingman. Michael Marsal, Markus Palttala, Maxime Martin and Jesse Krohn will drive the #97 BMW.

Aston Martin has two entries. The factory team has brought their leading FIA WEC GTE-Am team of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda to Daytona. Richie Stanaway will be the fourth driver in the #98 Aston Martin Vantage V8. TRG-Aston Martin returns after forming a partnership with Formula One driver Sergio Pérez. James Davison, Santiago Creel, Antonio Pérez, Ricardo Pérez and Lars Valjoen are entered to drive the #007 Aston Martin. Sergio Pérez is also listed as a driver but he was listed for the #007 at the test two weeks ago but did not participate.

On track action in preparation for the 24 Hours of Daytona begins at 9:25 a.m. ET Thursday with a one-hour practice. A thirty-minute session will follow later that day at 1:20 p.m. ET. Qualifying will begin at 4:00 p.m. ET and a 90-minute night practice will round out Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET. A final one-hour practice will be at 10:45 a.m. ET Friday.

The 24 Hours of Daytona will begin at 2:40 p.m. ET Saturday. Fox Sports 1 coverage will begin at 2:00 p.m. ET before switching to Fox Sports 2 at 4:00 p.m. ET. Online coverage will begin at 10:00 p.m. ET and run until 7:00 a.m. ET Sunday when FS1 picks up coverage. FS2 will take over at 10:30 a.m. ET before switching over to FS1 at 1:00 p.m. ET for the conclusion of the race.