Sunday, January 31, 2021

Best of the Month: January 2021

One month is into the books and 2021 has had a fair start. 

A few schedule amendments have been made in multiple series. A few races have already been canceled. Some have fortunately only been postponed. Everyone is still making their way in this uncertain world. There have been a few of the highlight events. The Dakar Rally took place. The Supercross season has started. Rallye Monte-Carlo opened the World Rally Championship. The 24 Hours of Daytona has just concluded. 

It might have been a different January, but it was still one with plenty to talk about. Let's get to it.

Glad to be Back
There are two thoughts every January: It is great to have motorsports back... and motorsports never really went away. 

At the start of a Northern Hemisphere winter, things dial back and there will be a few weeks of nothing as we have Christmas and New Year's. But out of 52 weeks of a year, there are about 48 weeks with some type of action. Formula One races into December now. It's just what they do. The FIA World Endurance Championship has run into December. Formula E doesn't normally start until December. Asian Le Mans Series can race in December. 

Then we get to the New Year and the Dakar Rally begins, as does Supercross. Not long after that, the Dubai 24 Hour takes place, Formula E might have another round, Rallye Monte-Carlo kicks off the World Rally Championship season and then there is the 24 Hours of Daytona. 

Once we get to Daytona, February is on our door step, which means the start of NASCAR's marathon season, testing ramps up for Formula One, IndyCar, MotoGP and many other series, and then it is March and the season begins to hit its stride and remains moving at a good pace until the end of October. 

Outside those final few weeks of December and possibly the first weekend of January, the only other time there is nothing going on is Easter Weekend, and some years there are two or three events that weekend. This year, the FIA WEC season will begin at Portimão on Easter Sunday. 

There is a lull, but there are plenty of other things to fill the gap. I want to celebrate Christmas and do family stuff. I want to watch football and hockey. It is ok to have three weeks off, and it is not a big deal when events resume. 

With that Said...
The 24 Hours of Daytona remains the first major event of the season. This year was different with the Roar test pushed back to the weekend before the actually race, but I think that didn't cause any problems and could be the way of the future. 

It felt odd when the Roar would be January 3-5 or 7-9 and then the race was three weeks later. It makes more sense for all the teams to go down there at once and leave everything set up before the race itself. It does make teams confirm their lineups earlier. Instead of having three or four drivers cycle through a car, all the teams had their lineups set and whoever was testing was likely going to be racing. 

I am not sure the qualifying race stuck. What's the point of having a 100-minute race to set the grid for a 24-hour race? When did starting position matter that much for a 24-hour race? IMSA has been trying to make the Roar an event for the last couple of years, whether that has been instituting a special qualifying session to determine garage position or now a 100-minute race to determine the grids, but this kind of came off flat. 

Some teams pulled out of the race early to avoid damage and when most classes have ten cars or fewer, there is no reason why a team couldn't win from sixth in class in a 24-hour race. I am sure there is a better way to use these 100 minutes, whether that is adding those to an existing race (Road America) or creating another race on the schedule (I am open to another street race, notably Nashville with IndyCar or a return to Barber Motorsports Park). An extra round likely will not happen, but a man can dream. 

Race of Champions
In unexpected pandemic news, the Race of Champions announced it will return in January 2022 with the event being held in Sweden for the first time and this edition will take place on snow and ice. Next year's event will be the first ROC event since Mexico City hosted the 2019 edition. The track will be at Pite Havsbad, about 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle.

The 2022 edition aims to be fully sustainable and carbon-neutral with electric cars also being a part of the competition. Organizers stated the event will be able to take place in safe conditions even if pandemic restrictions extend into 2022. 

I am excited that ROC is returning, and I am excited for a new venue, however, could they have gifted this competition anymore to the Scandinavian nations? I am going to save you the time and spoil the results because we are going to see at least one Swede in the final of the Champion of Champions competition and the other finalist will either be a Swede, a Finn or Finland will sweep the finalists. 

Either way, Sweden and Finland will likely meet in the Nations' Cup final. Perhaps Norway sneaks in to either of these finals. 

It is cool to do something different, but this is an incredible advantage to the Scandinavians, who have already had great success in this competition. Swedes and Finns combine for nine Champion of Champions victories out of 29 competitions. 

In the Nations' Cup, Finland has won twice while three Nordic/Scandinavian combination teams combine for three other victories. That is five out of 19 Nations' Cup for Scandinavian drivers. Other than Germany, which has won the Nations' Cup eight times, the only other country with multiple Nations' Cup victories is France with two. Spain, the United States, England and a French-Spanish-Brazilian All-Star team all have won it once. 

At least we should have individual teams for Sweden, Finland, Norway and even Denmark. We shouldn't have a Team Nordic with Tom Kristensen and Petter Solberg competing together. There are plenty of Swedes to choose from. Johan Kristoffersson won with Kristensen in Team Nordic in 2019 and Kristoffersson was a part of the announcement of the 2022 event. I bet he will be there. Sweden also has Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist. Mattias Ekström is still around in Rallycross. The host has plenty of options. 

As for the Finns, I doubt ROC could afford Kimi Räikkönen, but Finland still has Valtteri Bottas and WRC competitor Kalle Rovanperä. There are also BMW driver Jesse Krohn, sports car veteran Toni Vilander and 2004 Champion of Champions and 2006 Nations' Cup winner Heikki Kovalainen could make a return. 

Norway is a little thinner on options, but WRC competitor Andreas Mikkelsen should top the list. Perhaps Petter Solberg or Mads Østberg could make a return. Porsche could let Dennis Olsen compete. Denmark has plenty of drivers. Besides Kristensen, you could have Nicki Thiim, Marco Sørensen, Kevin Magnussen, Jan Magnussen, Michael Christensen, Christina Nielsen, Dennis Lind, Christian Lundgaard or Frederik Vesti compete. 

The conditions and the challenge have actually drawn more interest from drivers. Scott McLaughlin wants to team with Scott Dixon for New Zealand, a move I fully support. Lucas di Grassi has shown some interest. Australians Daniel Ricciardo and Chad Reed got in on the conversation after hearing about the Dixon/McLaughlin pairing. James Hinchcliffe seems game, as does Alexander Rossi. The advantage might be in the favor of the Scandinavians, but the world is not deterred. 

I do think France are the sleepers, because they can pull Yvan Muller out of retirement. Muller is famous for having ten Andros Trophy ice racing championships in France. He also has four World Touring Car championships and a British Touring Car Championship crown, but we are talking ice racing here. Combine Muller with Aurélien Pants, the defending Andros Trophy champion, Nicolas Prost, Yann Ehrlacher or Nathanaël Berthon and they could steal the show. 

As the self-appointed general manager of the United States in Race of Champions, this Swedish snow and ice event presents a difficult task. One, the United States is not setup to succeed in a snow and ice event, not in Race of Champions. Ice hockey? You bet. Figure skating? Maybe. Curling? Apparently. Race of Champions? Competing in a head-to-head motorsports event in unfamiliar race cars in winter's worst weather conditions? That is not going in our favor. 

Who to pick? Honestly, I am not sure I can consider any top circuit racers. I think most options would just cause embarrassment. I thought about dirt racers because they are always racing on slick conditions and battling car control. I have always wanted to see a rally driver attempt to drive a Midget car so why not try the reverse and put a dirt driver on icy conditions in rally cars and buggies? 

But I know we have some ice in this country. Not a lot of places do ice racing. A lot of places can't do ice racing. But some do and the first one that sprang to mind was Wisconsin. And there are notable Wisconsinites, Matt Kenseth and Paul Menard. I don't know how much ice racing Kenseth has done, but Menard has competed on a regular basis and started in ice racing as a teenager. Menard might not fit the mold of champion, but he might give the USA its best chance at victory since Colin Edwards carried Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon to victory in 2002. 

Race of Champions is also an old man's game, and not just an old man's game but a retired man's game. 

Consider that David Coulthard won overall in 2018, six years after his last competitive race over a 43-year-old Petter Solberg and Coulthard also won in 2014 over Pascal Wehrlein. Tom Kristensen made the final four times in five competitions and lost one of those years to Juan Pablo Montoya. 

When the 2022 competition rolls around, Kenseth will be about two months away from turning 50 and Menard will only be 41 years old, but a handful of years removed from full-time NASCAR competition. It might not be the sexiest duo the United States could produce, but it is the duo the United States needs.

February Preview
The big February event is the Daytona 500, and we will have a full-blown NASCAR preview ahead of Speedweeks and the start of the season, but we are going to cover a few bases here. 

This is going to be the 63rd Daytona 500. 

Denny Hamlin has won the last two Daytona 500s. No driver has won three consecutive Daytona 500s. No team has won three consecutive Daytona 500s, which Joe Gibbs Racing could do. Toyota has won three Daytona 500s. Hamlin has been the driver for all three of those Daytona 500s. 

Hamlin will be the only multi-time Daytona 500 winner in the 2021 field. Other past winners include Derrike Cope, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Austin Dillon.

The most years between Daytona 500 victories is ten, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. from 2004 to 2014. Cope, Harvick, Newman or McMurray could break that record. 

Kyle Busch's 58 Cup victories are the most for a driver without a Daytona 500 victory. 

Since 2005, only five of 16 Daytona 500s have been exactly 500 miles (2008, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017). Ten have had green-white-checkered finish and one (2009) was rain-shortened. However, the longest stretch without a 500-mile finish is three years. 

Last year's Daytona 500 was the longest at 209 laps, 522.5 miles.

Chevrolet has won the last three Daytona 500s scheduled for February 14 and General Motors has won the last six Daytona 500s scheduled for February 14. The last non-GM brand to win the Daytona 500 on February 14 was Plymouth in 1971 with Richard Petty.

The last time the reigning NASCAR Cup champion won the Daytona 500 was Jeff Gordon in 1999. That was also the last time the driver to win the season finale from the year prior won the Daytona 500. 

The last pole-sitter to win the Daytona 500 was Dale Jarrett in 2000. 

Joey Logano has won one of the Daytona 500 qualifying races each of the last two years. The only driver to win a Daytona 500 qualifying race in at least three consecutive years was Dale Earnhardt, who won one of the qualifying races in each year of the 1990s.

Team Penske has won one of the Daytona 500 qualifying races in each of the last three years. Hendrick Motorsports is the all-time leader with 16 qualifying race victories. Richard Childress Racing has 15 qualifying race victories and Joe Gibbs Racing has ten.

Other events of note in February:
NASCAR will remain at Daytona for a road course race and then run at Homestead.
Asian Le Mans Series will have its entire season, a doubleheader at Dubai and a doubleheader at Yas Marina, within two weeks. 
Supercars begins its season with a sprint round at Bathurst. 
The World Rally Championship will contest Arctic Rally - Finland for the first time.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

2021 24 Hours of Daytona Preview

Another January has brought us to Daytona for the 24-hour race that opens the motorsports season in the United States, and it leads off the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. 

This IMSA season will see a fifth class introduced with LMP3 machinery joining the grid. LMP3 will compete in seven races, but Daytona will only count to the Endurance Cup, same as the LMP2 class. 

Daytona opens the season before the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 20. The series will take two months off before DPi, LMP3 and GTD will race at Mid-Ohio on May 16. On June 6, DPi, LMP2 and GTD will race at Belle Isle. All five series will be on track together again for the Six Hours of the Glen on June 27. Mosport will host all but LMP2 on July 4.

The second half of the season beings with the GT-only race from Lime Rock Park on July 17, but all five class will return to competition at Road America on August 8. The second GT-only race will be at Virginia International Raceway on August 22. Laguna Seca hosts the final race of summer on September 12th with LMP3 being the only class not competing. Long Beach will be the penultimate round on September 25 with only DPi, GTLM and GTD on track. Petit Le Mans ends the season on October 9.

There are 47 entries for the 24 Hours of Daytona. DPi has seven entries, three of which are either new teams or teams with new cars. LMP2 has ten cars while LMP3 has attracted seven entries. GTLM sees five entries and GTD will be the largest class on the grid fielding 19 cars.

This preview will go over each entry, the chances that entry will have at Daytona while also giving a brief season preview for the full-time entries. 

Daytona Prototype international
#01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Drivers: Renger van der Zande, Kevin Magnussen, Scott Dixon

Why this car could win: Chip Ganassi Racing has six overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 12 years competing in the premier class. Van der Zande has won the last two years, both driving a Cadillac. Dixon has three overall victories, including one last year in a Cadillac. Magnussen is coming over after seven years in Formula One where he started 119 races and had one podium finish. Magnussen was second quickest in testing. Marcus Ericsson is serving in a reserve role and could race if one of the other three drivers are forced out of the car.

Why this car will not win: Ganassi will be in its first race with the Cadillac and it could need a year to get up to speed, like we saw with the Ford GT program. This will be Magnussen's first sports car race. This is by far the longest race he will have ever started. 

What to expect for the full season: With van der Zande in the team, I think Ganassi should be challenging for a few victories and could be a championship sleeper. Magnussen will be learning the tracks, but he has the right co-driver and the right car for the job. The biggest thing for Magnussen is to not allow his emotions to get the best of him, especially around Mr. Ganassi. 

#5 JDC-Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Drivers: Loïc Duval, Tristan Vautier, Sébastien Bourdais

Why this car could win: The #5 Cadillac was in the top five of seven of nine races last year, including three consecutive podium finishes to start the season. Bourdais won this race in 2014. Duval won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2013 and he has finished on the overall 24 Hours of Daytona podium twice in the last three years. This is Vautier's third season with JDC-Miller Motorsports. 

Why this car will not win: Though the car had three podium finishes, it never looked better than third in any of the races. Vautier has yet to finish on the podium in the DPi class. Duval has not had the same type of sports car success since leaving Audi.

What to expect for the full season: Duval will be learning a bunch of circuit while Vautier has a handle of the schedule. I don't think this team will be a championship challenger but could continue to be a podium threat. 

#10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05
Drivers: Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, Alexander Rossi, Hélio Castroneves

Why this car could win: Wayne Taylor Racing has won three of the last four years at Daytona. The one year it didn't win, Albuquerque was a part of that lineup. Taylor and Castroneves are moving over from Team Penske after a championship season. Albuquerque won two championships in 2020. Three-quarters of this lineup have experience with the Acura. Taylor and Albuquerque were both in the top six at testing.

Why this car will not win: While Wayne Taylor Racing has had great Daytona success, Acura has not. Acura it has been plagued with mechanical issues in endurance races at the worst possible times. 

What to expect for the full season: Taylor and Albuquerque will push for the championship. They should win multiple races and I think find some success in endurance races. 

#31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Drivers: Pipo Derani, Felipe Nasr, Mike Conway, Chase Elliott

Why this car could win: Derani and Nasr are incredible drivers and they are bringing in Conway, who is coming off the World Endurance Drivers' Championship. The #31 Cadillac probably should have had two endurance race victories in 2020. This was the fastest car in testing, and it won the qualifying race to earn pole position. Conway, Derani and Nasr were third, seventh and ninth in testing, the only team to put three drivers in the top ten of the DPi class.

Why this car will not win: Elliott is an unknown in a prototype and he was the slowest in DPi in testing. The other three drivers could carry the load if needed, but you are only as strong as your weakest link. We also saw tempers boil over at Sebring with Derani and in a 24-hour race he will have to keep his cool.

What to expect for the full season: Avoiding the poor results that cost Derani a shot at the title in 2020. I expect this team to be at the point in all the endurance races and pick up multiple victories. This will be championship contender until the final race. 

#48 Ally Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Drivers: Jimmie Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi, Simon Pagenaud, Mike Rockenfeller

Why this car could win: Kobayashi is two-for-two in 24 Hours of Daytona starts and he is also coming off a World Endurance Drivers' Championship season. Kobayashi was the fastest in the test. Pagenaud has an abundance of endurance racing experience. Rockenfeller has won this race before and he has an Le Mans victory to go with it. This is the all-star car with the biggest name in Johnson. Cadillac has won the last four 24 Hours of Daytona. 

Why this car will not win: This is the least experienced team together. Only Kobayashi has experience in the Cadillac, but he had a stable base in a full-time Wayne Taylor Racing entry in his two prior Daytona starts. Rockenfeller hasn't driven a prototype since 2015, though he was a Corvette's endurance driver from 2016-2019. Rockenfeller's Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters results have also dipped in recent seasons. Pagenaud has never finished outside the top five in four of his five Daytona starts in the top class. Johnson hasn't run an endurance race since 2011 and he is coming off two-and-half rotten years in NASCAR. Pagenaud and Johnson were both in the bottom five of testing.

What to expect for the full season: This is not a full-time team. Though nothing has been announced beyond Daytona, perhaps we could see this car in other endurance races, especially since Johnson is no longer a full-time NASCAR driver and he will only be driving in 13 IndyCar races.

#55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda RT24-P
Drivers: Harry Tincknell, Oliver Jarvis, Jonathan Bomarito

Why this car could win: This team is familiar with one another. Bomarito and Tincknell won Sebring together last year. Jarvis was a runner-up last year in this race. Bomarito and Tincknell won at Daytona in July, leading a Mazda 1-2 and Jarvis was third at Sebring. There will only be one Mazda to focus on this year.

Why this car will not win: It is Mazda and time and time again we see something bite this team out of nowhere. The speed is there, and we have seen improved results from Mazda in endurance races, but you have to remain a little skeptical Mazda can pull this out. 

What to expect for the full season: Tincknell and Jarvis will be full-time, and they will be competitive, but not a frequent podium finisher. I think a victory or two with three or four podium finishes is the range for this duo, but that likely will not be enough for a championship. 

#60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-05
Drivers: Dane Cameron, Olivier Pla, Juan Pablo Montoya, A.J. Allmendinger

Why this car could win: Cameron and Montoya have worked together before and won a championship. Pla is back in prototypes after being a member of the Ford GT program and got to run some endurance races with Mazda over the previous two seasons, including a runner-up finish at Daytona last year. Allmendinger is a Daytona veteran and he won this race with Shank in 2012.

Why this car will not win: Cameron and Montoya are familiar with the Acura endurance woes. Pla and Allmendinger will both be learning this car. Allmendinger has spent the last three years running only in GT Daytona. MSR will also be getting back into prototype racing and might need a race or two to get up to speed. None of the four drivers were better than 13th in the test.

What to expect for the full season: Cameron and Pla are a capable pairing. I think they can win races, but with MSR stepping into a competitive DPi class there will be some frustrating days that cancel out the good. 

#8 Tower Motorsports by Starworks Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: John Farano, Gabriel Aubry, Timothé Buret, Matthieu Vaxivière

Why this car could win: Aubry has been a race winner in the FIA WEC and he won in LMP2 at Watkins Glen in 2019. Buret has been a regular ELMS competitor for the last few seasons. Vaxivière is quick in many different types of sports cars and has stood on the LMP2 podium at Le Mans in each of the last two years. Farano was 2018 ELMS LMP3 champion with RLR Msport. 

Why this car will not win: The #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca might be slightly better.

What to expect for the full season: Farano and Aubry are a solid combination. This is a good chance for Aubry to audition himself for a DPi or LMDh ride in 2022. Somebody has got to be a favorite to take the LMP2 championship. This is the clubhouse leader.

#11 WIN Autosport Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Tristan Nunez, Thomas Merrill, Steven Thomas, Matthew Bell

Why this car could win: Nunez is coming over from Mazda. Bell won the Prototype Challenge championship last year with two victories, five podium finishes and six top five finishes form six races. Thomas was sixth in the Prototype Challenge championship last year and had a runner-up finish at Atlanta.

Why this car will not win: This is a new team. This is a big step up for Thomas and Merrill. This car could have a strong couple of hours but fade into the night.

What to expect for the full season: Thomas plans on being full-time, but his full-time co-driver has yet to be confirmed. I expect this to be a learning year for Thomas. 

#18 Era Motorsport Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Dwight Merriman, Ryan Dalziel, Kyle Tilley, Paul-Loup Chatin

Why this car could win: Merriman and Tilley have experience driving with one another. Dalziel is a Daytona veteran who has seen it all. Chatin comes over from Europe and has two championships in ELMS.

Why this car will not win: There are stronger teams top to bottom. Tilley was 18th in testing, the best in this team. 

What to expect for the full season: Era Motorsport has only committed to Daytona.

#20 High Class Racing Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Dennis Andersen, Andres Fjordbach, Ferdinand Habsburg, Robert Kubica

Why this car could win: Andersen and Fjordbach have spent the last few seasons racing together in the LMP2 class in ELMS and WEC. Habsburg and Kubica were in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters last year. Habsburg was competitive in Formula Three, while Kubica has won a Formula One race. This team has shown pace in testing and was second in the qualifying race.

Why this car will not win: Andersen and Fjordbach have yet to have any reasonable success in LMP2 racing and with Habsburg and Kubica being new to the car and the race. I don't think it can win this race first time out.

What to expect for the full season: This car will not be full-time in IMSA.

#29 Racing Team Nederland Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Frits van Eerd, Giedo van der Garde, Charles Milesi, Job van Uitert

Why this car could win: It has won race in the World Endurance Championship and it was in the top five of all but one race last season. Race Team Nederland has been in the top five of 13 of the 16 WEC races over the last two seasons. Milesi, van Uitert and van der Garde were all in the top ten of testing. 

Why this car will not win: This car can win the race. Milesi is an unknown and he is young, but van der Garde, van Uitert and van Eerd have 24-hour experience. 

What to expect for the full season: It is not a full-time car. 

#47 Cetilar Racing Dallara P217-Gibson
Drivers: Andrea Belicchi, Antonio Fuoco, Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto

Why this car could win: Belicchi, Lacorte and Sernagiotto have raced together at Le Mans three of the last four years. Lacorte and Sernagiotto have been together for all of those four years. They were full-time in WEC last year and Fuoco is transitioning to sports car racing after having won races in GP3 and Formula Two.

Why this car will not win: The team's best finish in WEC last season was fifth, plus it is the only Dallara in the field.

What to expect for the full season: Daytona-only.

#51 RWR Eurasia Ligier JS P217-Gibson
Drivers: Cody Ware, Austin Dillon, Salih Yoluç, Sven Müller

Why this car could win: If it takes the green flag it has a shot and Yoluç has made great strides over the last few seasons. He notably won the GTE-Am class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ware and Rick Ware Racing were successful in the Asian Le Mans Series. Müller is a Porsche factory driver and he has starts in this event.

Why this car will not win: This is tougher than the Asian Le Mans Series. Müller is a late-substitute for Mathieu Jaminet after Jaminet tested positive for COVID-19. Müller has no time in this car. Dillon's best finish in a NASCAR Cup car on a road course is 16th. This is Yoluç's first run in an LMP2 car. The three drivers that were at the test were in the bottom ten of the class, the only team to have multiple drivers in the bottom ten.

What to expect for the full season: I don't know if it will be full-time, but if it is I would not expect much. 

#52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Scott Huffaker, Mikkel Jensen, Ben Keating, Nicolas Lapierre

Why this car could win: Huffaker won multiple races last year with Patrick Kelly in this car. Lapierre is one of the best in an LMP2 car in the world with a ridiculous number of class victories at Le Mans. Jensen has won an LMP2 champion in the European Le Mans Series and he won on his IMSA debut last year at Petit Le Mans with Tower Motorsport by Starworks. Jensen and Keating won the qualifying race and Lapierre top testing in class. 

Why this car will not win: Keating is splitting his race between LMP2 and GTD again. However, I think Huffaker, Jensen and Lapierre could win on their own. 

What to expect for the full season: PR1/Mathiasen has not confirmed full-time plans, but I hope Huffaker gets a shot. This team will go to Le Mans with 2020 champion Patrick Kelly. There is a chance Kelly could return at some point in 2021. 

#81 DragonSpeed Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Garett Grist, Ben Hanley, Rob Hodes, Rinus VeeKay

Why this car could win: DragonSpeed has won this race in the LMP2 class the last two years. Hanley won last year; Grist has spent the last two years in ELMS' LMP3 class. Last year, Grist and Hodes were co-drivers in ELMS. VeeKay was the 2020 IndyCar rookie of the year and he got stronger as the year went along with a pole position and podium finish at the Harvest Grand Prix weekend highlighting his season.

Why this car will not win: Compared to Colin Braun, Harrison Newey and Henrik Hedman, these are three inexperienced co-drivers around Hanley, as all three make their 24 Hours of Daytona debuts. 

What to expect for the full season: Hodes and Grist will run the Endurance Cup with the co-driver in the other three races still unknown. 

#82 DragonSpeed Oreca 07-Gibson
Drivers: Eric Lux, Christopher Mies, Devlin DeFrancesco, Fabian Schiller

Why this car could win: Mies has won a slew of endurance races in GT classes for Audi. DeFrancesco makes his Daytona return after previously having competed in the Prototype class. Lux has been in this race before. 

Why this car will not win: It is a bit of a makeshift team. This is Mies' first prototype race. DeFrancesco will be unfamiliar with the car and this will be Schiller's Daytona debut.

What to expect for the full season: This will be a Daytona-only entry, but there is chance DragonSpeed runs two cars at Sebring. 

#6 Mühlner Motorsport Duqueine M30 - D08-Nissan
Drivers: Laurents Hörrs, Mortiz Kranz, Kenton Koch

Why this car could win: Hörrs and Kranz won the IMSA Prototype Challenge season opener at Daytona held last week and they won the qualifying race. Kranz was second in testing and Hörrs was fourth. Hörrs won the Michelin Le Mans Cup championship last year. Koch won this race in the PC class back in 2016.

Why this car will not win: While showing speed in the two races from Daytona, those were sprints compared to a 24-hour event. Hörrs and Kranz are both make Daytona debuts. This is only a three-driver lineup, and I believe LMP3 rules require a fourth. The team will have to put an untested driver in the car. There are more experienced teams in this class and that experience could pay off. 

What to expect for the full season: Mühlner is spreading itself over multiple LMP3 championships, from IMSA's top series to Prototype Challenge, Michelin Le Mans Cup to ELMS. This could be the LMP3 sleeper or this team finds a little magic at Daytona and then falls into the pack for the rest of the season. 

#7 Forty7 Motorsport Duqueine M30 - D08-Nissan
Drivers: Gabby Chaves, Mark Kvamme, Ryan Norman, Charles Finelli

Why this car could win: Chaves has been quick in DPi competition and he and Norman are reigning touring car champions in the Michelin Pilot Challenge Series. They won three races last year. Kvamme has been a Daytona regular in recent years and competed in the Prototype Challenge class. Finelli has spent time racing in the Road to Indy system.

Why this car will not win: This team is too top heavy with Chaves and Norman. Finelli will be getting his first taste of the 24 Hours of Daytona. Kvamme does not compete regularly. Both Finelli and Kvamme were toward the bottom of testing results.

What to expect for the full season: This appears to be a Daytona-only entry.

#33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P320-Nissan
Drivers: João Barbosa, Lance Willsey, Yann Clairay, Wayne Boyd

Why this car could win: Barbosa is a three-time overall winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona. Boyd won the LMP3 championship in the ELMS last year with three victories and four podium finishes from five races. Clairay drove in IPC in 2018 and won a race with Extreme Speed Motorsports. Willsey competed in IPC last year.

Why this car will not win: Clairay hasn't competed since 2018. Willsey's IPC results are run of the mill.

What to expect for the full season: Barbosa and Willsey will be full-time in this entry, but this duo does not match the quality of some of the other teams in this class. Barbosa could work his magic and pull out a podium finish and perhaps a victory. 

#38 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P320-Nissan
Drivers: Mateo Llarena, Cameron Cassels, Rasmus Lindh, Ayrton Ori

Why this car could win: Performance Tech has been successful in the LMP2 class and it was a strong Prototype Challenge team. Lindh is an emerging young talent in the open-wheel ladder system and spent 2020 in IPC. Ori has some junior formula experience, as well as dabbling in some ARCA races. Llarena drove in F4 United States and Porsche Supercup in last year. 

Why this car will not win: This is a young lineup with three teenagers. Lindh, Ori and Llarena are all making their debut in an endurance race. This car lacks a veteran leader.

What to expect for the full season: Performance Tech was a championship winning team in the Prototype Challenge class. It is stepping down from LMP2. With the right drivers, it could be a team to keep an eye on. 

#54 CORE Autosport Ligier JS P320-Nissan
Drivers: Jon Bennett, Colin Braun, George Kurtz, Matt McMurry

Why this car could win: Bennett and Braun were one of the best duos in the Prototype Challenge class. They nearly won the Prototype championship with an LMP2 car. McMurry has won championships the last two years in LMP2 and GTD. Braun was third fastest in testing with McMurry in tenth and Bennett in 14th.

Why this car will not win: Kurtz has run in GT racing almost exclusively and this will be his first 24 Hours of Daytona. Even with Kurtz, I think this is one of the class favorites. 

What to expect for the full season: Bennett and Braun are the championship favorites. That is setting the bar high, but they have done it before. They can do it again in LMP3. 

#74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320-Nissan
Drivers: Spencer Pigot, Gar Robinson, Scott Andrews, Oliver Askew

Why this car could win: It has two past Indy Lights champions in Pigot and Askew, who are both were fine in IndyCar. Askew is also a silver-rated driver. Robinson has been running in GTD and has plenty of endurance racing experience. Andrews won two races in the IMSA Prototype Challenge series. Askew led testing with Pigot in fifth and Andrews in seventh. 

Why this car will not win: Team principal Bill Riley believes it could take a "survival-like mentality" to win in LMP3. The #74 Ligier missed the qualifying race due to electrical issues. There are some unknowns, but LMP3 is a tested class around the world. Daytona is a different animal and LMP3 will have two fastest class to contend with along with GT Le Mans cars, which are about equal. There are a lot of moving pieces for this to go wrong. 

What to expect for the full season: Robinson will be paired with Felipe Fraga for the rest of the season. Fraga was unable to make it to Daytona due to COVID-19 protocols. Fraga and Robinson should push for the championship. I expect them to win races.

#91 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320-Nissan
Drivers: Dylan Murry, Jim Cox, Austin McCusker, Jeroen Bleekemolen

Why this car could win: McCusker won the IMSA Prototype Challenge in 2019 while Murry was fifth in the championship that year with one victory. Cox and Murray were co-drivers in Michelin Pilot Challenge last year and were fourth in the championship. They won the season opener at Daytona with Bleekemolen.  Bleekemolen is arguably the best driver in this class. He won three consecutive GTD Endurance Cup championships with Riley.

Why this car will not win: The sister Riley entry is better, and I think the amateurs in this car are among the weakest in the field.

What to expect for the full season: Cox and Murry will be full-time. I think their teammates will be better. I know Murry has been good in LMP3 cars before, but this is a higher level than IPC. 

GT Le Mans
#3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R
Drivers: Antonio García, Jordan Taylor, Nick Catsburg

Why this car could win: Corvette won six of 11 races last year, including five with Garciá and Taylor. García has won the championship three of the last four years. The #3 Corvette ended 2020 with five consecutive pole positions and the car was on the podium nine times. 

Why this car will not win: Corvette has not won the 24 Hours of Daytona since 2016 and it has only one podium finish at Daytona in the last four years. Also, the #3 Corvette struggled in endurance races last year. Its only podium finish was second at Petit Le Mans.

What to expect for the full season: Since becoming a full-time Corvette driver in 2012, García's championship finishes have been third, first, third, third, third, first, first, third and first. So, I would guess the #3 Corvette will either finish first or third.

#4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R
Drivers: Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy, Alexander Sims

Why this car could win: Tandy is a tremendous additional to the program, as is Sims, and combined with Milner's knowledge of the Corvette this trio should be giving the #3 Corvette a run for its money. Tandy led testing and the #4 Corvette won the qualifying race. 

Why this car will not win: The #4 Corvette has finished outside the top five in class in three of the last four years and it has not been on the podium in the 24 Hours of Daytona since its victory in 2016. Tandy has not won in the 24 Hours of Daytona since 2014. This will be a new lineup with two-thirds of the drivers learning the car. 

What to expect for the full season: I think Milner and Tandy will win multiple races and really push the #3 Corvette for the championship. 

Drivers: John Edwards, Jesse Krohn, Augusto Farfus, Marco Wittmann

Why this car could win: Edwards, Krohn and Farfus won this race last year. Farfus has won this race the last two years. Edwards and Krohn were GT Le Mans vice-champions but they were Endurance Cup champions. They were on the podium of all four endurance races last year.

Why this car will not win: Three consecutive victories in this race is asking a lot for BMW, especially for Farfus. 

What to expect for the full season: This will be an Endurance Cup-only entry. I think BMW will get the most it can out of these four races and will shoot to take four victories. 

Drivers: Connor De Phillippi, Bruno Spengler, Philipp Eng, Timo Glock

Why this car could win: De Phillippi and Eng won this race two years ago. De Phillippi and Spengler won at the Six Hours of Atlanta last year and were fourth in the championship. Eng has plenty of experience in this car and Glock has spent the better part of the last decade in Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters.

Why this car will not win: I give a slight edge to the #24 BMW. 

What to expect for the full season: Similar to the sister car. With this not being a full-time program, the goal is to win at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta, and take the Endurance Cup championship. The BMW camp has something to race for.

#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE Evo
Drivers: James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi, Davide Rigon, Jules Gounon

Why this car could win: It is an experience lineup with Calado, Pier Guidi and Rigon all having experience driving with one another at AF Corse. Pier Guidi won in the GTD class in 2014 and he is coming off a GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup championship. Gounon has won the 24 Hours of Spa and he won the Bathurst 12 Hour last year. 

Why this car will not win: Since becoming an endurance race-only team, Risi Competizione has not had the same level of success at Daytona as it once did in other endurance races. Pier Guidi, Gounon and Rigon were all in the bottom seven in testing.

What to expect for the full season: This is a Daytona-only entry, though I wish Risi would return to full-time competition. 

#79 WeatherTech Racing Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR-19
Drivers: Cooper MacNeil, Richard Lietz, Kévin Estre, Gianmaria Bruni.

Why this car could win: This is basically a factory Porsche lineup with Lietz, Bruni and Estre. These are three drivers who have won many endurance races and all three have won the World Endurance GT Drivers' Championship. MacNeil is a strong silver driver and can carry his weight. These drivers were balanced in testing with Bruni, Estre and MacNeil ending up tenth, 11th and 12th respectively. 

Why this car will not win: It is not officially a factory Porsche. This is a partnership between Proton Competition and WeatherTech Racing and it will have to go against the dominant Corvettes, and two BMWs that have won the last two years at Daytona.

What to expect for the full season: MacNeil will be full-time with a rotation of factory Porsche drivers serving as his co-driver. This will be a three-car class for majority of the season, with BMW committed to only the endurance races. MacNeil and his co-driver can win a race or two. I don't think this car can beat the Corvettes for the championship, but it can have some respectable races. At least, that is the hope. I want to see this car mix it up with Corvette for at least half the races this year. 

GT Le Mans
#1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo
Drivers: Bryan Sellers, Corey Lewis, Madison Snow, Andrea Caldarelli

Why this car could win: They won it last year. It is plain and simple. Paul Miller Racing has put together an outstanding endurance racing program for the last four seasons. Lamborghini has won this race the last three years. These drivers all mesh with one another.

Why this car will not win: It is hard to repeat and Lamborghini winning three on the spin is not in Paul Miller Racing's favor. Eventually, Lamborghini will not come out on top in this class. Surprisingly, Caldarelli was the best driver in class for this entry and he was only 39th in testing.

What to expect for the full season: Another respectable year. Sellers and Snow will win a race or two. Last year, the team ran an abbreviated schedule due to the pandemic. If they are full-time, they will be in the top five of the championship. They will be good at the endurance races.

#9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Zach Robichon, Laurens Vanthoor, Matt Campbell, Lars Kern

Why this car could win: We have already seen this team win races with Robichon. Campbell and Vanthoor are a great pair of Porsche factory drivers to have and Kern has endurance racing experience where he could be a sleeper in this team.

Why this car will not win: Pfaff has had an odd last 12 months with the pandemic and this being a Canadian based team. It has been through a lot. There are other strong Porsches in this field. It has to first be the first Porsche to be first in class.

What to expect for the full season: It really depends on how the pandemic goes and border restrictions. The Canadian-based Pfaff is going to try and compete full-time, but if things change it would not be surprising if this team took a step back. If this car is full-time, it is Vanthoor and Robichon and nobody should bet against Laurens Vanthoor. Pfaff will win races.

#12 Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus RC F GT3
Drivers: Frankie Montecalvo, Zach Veach, Robert Megennis, Townsend Bell

Why this car could win: Bell and Montecalvo have experience together. Veach has dabbled in sports car racing. Megennis has won in Indy Lights and he got to run some European Le Mans Series races and the Indianapolis 8 Hours last year.

Why this car will not win: I think this is the second-best Lexus car. Veach and Megennis are new to the program. There are going to be some growing pains in this race and with 20 cars in this class you cannot afford that.

What to expect for the full season: Montecalvo and Veach will be full-time. Veach is trying to boost his career after a tough three years in IndyCar. I don't expect Montecalvo and Veach to beat the sister Lexus, but if they can be within three positions of the #14 Lexus in the championship and pull out a few podium finishes, it will be a good year. 

#14 Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus RC F GT3
Drivers: Jack Hawksworth, Aaron Telitz, Oliver Gavin, Kyle Kirkwood

Why this car could win: Hawksworth and Telitz were a match made in heaven in 2020 and adding Gavin only makes this team better. Kirkwood lost 2020, as he was scheduled to drive in Indy Lights. He very well should be preparing for a rookie season in IndyCar. He has won in almost everything he has stepped into. 

Why this car will not win: Lexus does not have a great record at Daytona. This will be Gavin's first race in the car, and he has limited testing time, though he was fastest among these drivers over the weekend. Kirkwood is still relatively new to the car.

What to expect for the full season: This could be a championship winning team. I honestly believe Hawksworth and Telitz are two IndyCar caliber drivers. Lexus is going to win races and I expect this car to be leading the way. It just has to clean up its poor days. 

#16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Patrick Long, Ryan Hardwick, Jan Heylen, Klaus Bachler

Why this car could win: This team just won the 12 Hours of Sebring. Long and Hardwick were quite championship contenders and nearly stole the GTD crown. Bachler and Heylen add great depth to this lineup. This team won pole position for the qualifying race.

Why this car will not win: The team had to go to a backup car after an accident in the Saturday night test session. It has also been 12 years since Long's only class victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona. This race just seems to elude him. This is a good lineup. It should be a contender.

What to expect for the full season: Wright Motorsports was consistent throughout 2020 and rarely put a wheel put a wheel wrong with eight top five finishes from 11 races. Long and Hardwick can go for the championship, but it has to win more than one race. 

#19 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo
Drivers: Albert Costa, Misha Goikhberg, Franck Perera, Tim Zimmerman

Why this car could win: Grasser has won this race before. Goikhberg has plenty of experience in the 24 Hours of Daytona in the prototype class. Perera won at Daytona in this class in 2018. Costa has been competitive in the SRO European series. 

Why this car will not win: I don't think it is even the best Grasser car in the field, plus I feel like this lineup doesn't have an established relationship and they will all still be learning to work together.

What to expect for the full season: Goikhberg and Perera are set to full-time in 2021 and this could be a sleeper. Grasser is highly successful around the world. The last few years have rejuvenated Perera's career. This team could sneak a race victory. This entry only makes GTD tougher.

#21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020
Drivers: Matteo Cressoni, Simon Mann, Nicklas Nielsen, Daniel Serra

Why this car could win: This car was quick in testing. Serra competes full-time in GTE-Pro in WEC and he has two class victories at Le Mans. Nielsen is coming off the Endurance Trophy for GTE-Am drivers and he won the ELMS GTE title the year before. Serra and Cressoni were in the top five in testing. 

Why this car will not win: Testing pace has been encouraging, but something can always go wrong. It is a long race, and this will be Mann's first time in the 24 Hours of Daytona. 

What to expect for the full season: This is a one-off. 

#23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3
Drivers: Roman de Angelis, Ian James, Darren Turner, Ross Gunn

Why this car could win: Turner and Gunn are Aston Martin factory drivers. Turner has won at Le Mans and he has won an ELMS championship. James and de Angelis were teammates last year and picked up two podium finishes. It ended 2020 with a runner-up finish at Sebring with James, de Angelis and Turner.

Why this car will not win: This is a deep class. De Angelis was 53rd in class, best of the Heart of Racing Team lineup. 

What to expect for the full season: The team has not confirmed its full-time lineup. Aston Martin had scattered results in 2020, but it showed potential. However, I think 2021 will look similar to 2020 in terms of results.

#28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo
Drivers: Daniel Morad, Michael de Quesada, Billy Johnson, Maximilian Buhk

Why this car could win: Alegra won this race four years ago in a Porsche. Morad and de Quesada were in the car that day. Johnson has spent some time in a Mercedes-AMG since the Ford GT program shut down. Buhk has multiple championships in SRO GT World Challenge Europe Series competition. Buhk, Morad and Johnson were all in the top 22 in testing.

Why this car will not win: This is Buhk's first time in the 24 Hours of Daytona and Johnson is new to the team. Morad and de Quesada both competed less than usual in 2020.

What to expect for the full season: No full-time lineup has been announced, but Alegra will contest the full season. I think Morad and de Quesada would be a good pairing and be a frequent top five finisher.

#42 NTE Sport Audi R8 LMS GT3
Drivers: J.R. Hildebrand, Andrew Davis, Alan Metni, Don Yount

Why this car could win: Hildebrand is an IndyCar veteran and Davis has victories with many different teams in many different cars across sports car racing. Yount has been a regular competitor in the IMSA endurances races over the last five years. 

Why this car will not win: It is a very new team. This will be Hildebrand's first endurance race. Davis was the top driver in testing, and he was only 66th out of 75 GTD drivers. 

What to expect for the full season: The team hopes to compete in the four Endurance Cup races. 

#44 Magnus Racing with Archangel Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 Evo
Drivers: Andy Lally, John Potter, Spencer Pumpelly, Mario Farnbacher

Why this car could win: Lally and Potter have won this race before, as has Pumpelly. They have all raced together and are adding the back-to-back reigning GTD champion in Farnbacher while switching to the manufacture that has won the last two championships. They were second in this race last year.

Why this car will not win: Magnus Racing has taken a step back over the last few seasons. It has not won a race since 2017. This is a good team, but it has experienced some teething problems with the Acura and struggled in testing.

What to expect for the full season: Magnus Racing was anonymous in too many races in 2020. I cannot say it will be a championship contender. I think a few races could break Magnus Racing's way, but it will not match what Meyer Shank Racing did in this class. 

#57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo
Drivers: Russell Ward, Indy Dontje, Philip Ellis, Maro Engel

Why this car could win: Ward, Dontje and Ellis have been Michelin Pilot Challenge teammates. Engel has been one of the best Mercedes-AMG drivers in GT3 competition over the last few years. Engel was sixth in testing. Ellis and Dontje were 14th and 17th respectively.

Why this car will not win: I just don't feel it. I don't think this lineup has enough 24-hour experience to win this race against this level of field. For some reason, I think this is a team that has a great first quarter of the race and then fades.

What to expect for the full season: Winward Racing will not be full-time in IMSA's top class, but it should compete in Michelin Pilot Challenge Series competition. 

#63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020
Drivers: Ryan Briscoe, Bret Curtis, Marcos Gomes, Ed Jones

Why this car could win: All the Ferraris looked strong in testing. Briscoe won this race overall last year and he was a championship challenger to the wire with Wayne Taylor Racing. Jones won the Gulf 12 Hours earlier this month. Gomes won pole position in GTD for this race in 2019 and he ran at Le Mans last year in GTE-Am. Gomes was also third in testing.

Why this car will not win: This is a mixed bag of a lineup. Briscoe has limited GT3 experience, though he did run the Indianapolis 8 Hours. Jones spent much of 2020 on the sidelines. Curtis has not run the 24 Hours of Daytona since 2017.

What to expect for the full season: It is not clear whether Scuderia Corsa will be full-time or what drivers will be full-time. 

#64 Team TGM Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Ted Giovanis, Hugh Plumb, Matt Plumb, Owen Trinkler

Why this car could win: All these drivers have experience in the Michelin Pilot Challenge Series. Hugh Plumb and Trinkler were the 2018 GS class champion. 

Why this car will not win: This is a big step up into IMSA and I feel like the class is too deep for this to be a race winner. We got 20 cars in this class. It would be something if it finished in the top ten. Team TGM did skip the qualifying race to save the car.

What to expect for the full season: It will only be at Daytona in GTD, but Team TGM should be full-time in Michelin Pilot Challenge. 

#75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo
Drivers: Kenny Habul, Luca Stolz, Raffaele Marciello, Mikaël Grenier

Why this car could win: Marciello won twice in GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup on his way to finishing third in the championship. Marciello and Habul were runners-up in the 2018 Bathurst 12 Hour. Habul, Stolz and Grenier drove together in Intercontinental GT Challenge and won their class at Suzuka in 2018. Stolz was seventh in testing with Marciello in 13th and Grenier in 17th.

Why this car will not win: This is the team's first race in three years. I think this class is deeper than it was when SunEnergy1 Racing last competed.

What to expect for the full season: Daytona is the team's only announced race. 

#88 Team Hardpoint EBM Porsche 911 GT3 R
Drivers: Earl Bamber, Rob Ferriol, Katherine Legge, Christina Nielsen

Why this car could win: Bamber is one of the best GT drivers around. He won the IMSA title two years ago and he has been on the GTLM podium the last two years. Nielsen has won this class championship twice. Legge has won multiple races in GTD. Nielsen topped testing in the GTD class. Ferriol picked up a top five finish with Team Hardpoint at Sebring.

Why this car will not win: It picked up some damage in the qualifying race and this is EBM's first IMSA race. Ferriol struggled in 2020, having six finishes of tenth or worse in nine starts.

What to expect for the full season: This is a new team, but it will have Bamber at the wheel first time. Bamber is going to win races and no one would be surprised if this team is competing for a championship in year one. 

#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3
Drivers: Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley, Colton Herta, Aidan Read

Why this car could win: Aubelren and Foley are a proven duo and adding Herta takes this car to a higher level. Ried has run in the Asian Le Mans Series in the LMP2 class. Auberlen and Foley won the qualifying race. 

Why this car will not win: Turner's best finish in an endurance race last year was sixth at Daytona. 

What to expect for the full season: Auberlen and Foley could be a championship contender. It does seem the low of the BMW is lower than other manufactures in GTD. The car won two races and had seven finishes outside the top five in 2020. 

#97 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3
Drivers: Charlie Eastwood, Ben Keating, Max Root, Richard Westbrook

Why this car could win: Westbrook is a consummate professional and he is a great leader for this team. Eastwood had a wonderful run in WEC last season, winning at Le Mans, but losing the championship in a crushing fashion in the final race of the season. Keating is a strong amateur driver and was within a tenth of Westbrook in testing. 

Why this car will not win: Root has experience in SRO competition, but he is new to endurance racing. Aston Martin has not had great runs in IMSA since the TRG program nearly five years ago. Westbrook was only 43rd in testing. Keating will have to spend some time in an LMP2 car.

What to expect for the full season: This is a one-off and TF Sport will turn its focus to LMP2 racing in 2021 in the European Le Mans Series. 

#111 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo
Drivers: Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen, Marco Mapelli, Stein Schothorst

Why this car could win: Bortolotti and Ineichen won this race in 2018 and 2019 with Grasser. Mapelli nearly won this race last year, finishing runner-up with Magnus Racing. Bortolotti was third in an Audi with WRT. Schothorst ran three of the four IMSA endurance races last year with Grasser.

Why this car will not win: Lamborghini has won this race three years in a row. All things must come to an end. The odds are not in Grasser's favor.

What to expect for the full season: This car will not be full-time, yet. Grasser is considering a second full-time entry. 

Practice will begin on Thursday January 28 at 11:05 a.m. ET with a one-hour session. There will be a 30-minute session at 3:20 p.m. ET for silver and bronze drivers in GTD and LMP3 and bronze LMP2 drivers. After that 30 minutes, all drivers from those three classes can participate until 4:20 p.m. At 3:35 p.m., DPi and GTLM teams will be allowed to take to the track. At 7:15 p.m., there will be an hour and 45-minute practice session for all classes. A one-hour warm-up session will be held at 11:20 a.m. ET on Friday January 29. 

Kamui Kobayashi and Renger van der Zande are both shooting to join Peter Gregg as drivers to win three consecutive 24 Hours of Daytona, though Gregg's stretched over four years, as no race was held in 1974 due to the energy crisis. Wayne Taylor Racing could become the first team to win Daytona overall in three consecutive years since Chip Ganassi Racing did it from 2006-08. Cadillac could join Porsche as the only engine manufactures to win this race overall in at least five consecutive years. 

Green flag for the 59th 24 Hours of Daytona will at 3:40 p.m. ET on Saturday January 30. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Musings From the Weekend: A New Broadcasting Horizon

Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani won the qualifying race for the 24 Hours of Daytona. Ben Keating and Mikkel Jensen took the top spot in LMP2, Moritz Kranz and Laurents Hörr won in LMP3, Nick Tandy and Alexander Sims won in GTLM and Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley won in GTD. Jenson Button has a new job, and a new team and he is returning to driving. The IndyCar season opener has shifted back another week. Portimão will open the FIA World Endurance Championship on Easter Sunday. MotoGP will have two races in Qatar and go to Portimão two weeks after Easter Sunday. MotoGP's Argentina and Austin rounds are indefinitely postponed. There was some television news involving an important network for motorsports fans in the United States. Here is a rundown of what got me thinking. 

A New Broadcasting Horizon
On Friday, NBC Universal confirmed at the end of 2021 NBC Sports Network would shut down. The channel has been the home to the National Hockey League, Premier League, Olympic events, the Tour de France and the three of the major motorsports series in the United States: NASCAR, IndyCar and IMSA, as well as taking on MotoGP in 2020. 

While 2021 will remain unchanged, this announcement means changes will be coming in the near future. 

NBC Universal confirmed some of the sport properties will shift broadcasting homes from NBCSN to the USA Network, and notably cited Premier League and NASCAR as being future USA programming. The key word is "some." USA is your typical cable television channel filled with syndicated episodes of NCIS and Law & Order for days on end for our parents to watch. It has its own programming but will carve out some room for the sports properties on the weekends. It is not going to be wall-to-wall sports. Some will lose out. 

NASCAR will be fine. Its contract runs through 2023. 

IMSA is a little shakier. Its contract runs through 2024, but I am sure it will manage. 

IndyCar finds itself on the hot seat. Its three-year contract with NBCSN ends at the end of the 2021 season. While nine races of the 2021 will be on NBC, the other eight will air on NBCSN. IndyCar's relationship with NBCSN dates back 12 years to when the property was still Versus and IndyCar took a gamble jumping from ESPN, an aircraft carrier ruling the sports sea, to the tugboat that was Versus in 2009. There were many regrets about the decision in the moment, but three years later the network was rebranded after Comcast purchased NBC Universal. After seven years carrying the weight as the cable partner while ABC got the glory of the Indianapolis 500, IndyCar fully moved in with NBC at the start of 2019. It was a move many were glad to see happen. 

In 2019, the Indianapolis 500 received major event status. It had a three-hour pre-race show between NBCSN and NBC and a post-race show to boot. IndyCar got half its schedule on network television. And then the pandemic hit. While 2020 still saw half the races on network television, the season didn't start to June, the Indianapolis 500 was moved to August and IndyCar was competing for real estate with a delayed Premier League season and Stanley Cup playoffs. 

The 2019 momentum was gone. IndyCar still had a good year in 2020 all things considered, but growth was not practical when the season opener and the largest event were each booted back three months. It was no one's fault. It was out of everyone's control.

But the last thing you want to hear in a contract year is your current arrangement, which you are largely happy with, will not be an option. IndyCar found something good, and it will have to change. That doesn't mean a complete divorce from its current partner. The future might not be so bad, but there are not many amazing options. 

IndyCar will either have to adjust with the change of course of its current partner or look elsewhere. NBC is willing to air half the races on network television. It is just a matter of where the other half go. USA did show the first Harvest Grand Prix race in 2020, on a Friday afternoon nonetheless. But we come back to "some" in the press release. USA could become a sports network from Friday at 7:00 p.m. ET through the end of Sunday, but it could be one Premier League game at 10:00 a.m. ET on Saturday ahead of race for NASCAR's second division and then a Premier League on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. ahead of a Cup race before getting back to more NCIS reruns. 

This Sunday, USA had Law & Order SVU on from 10:00 a.m. through 11:00 p.m. I guess it could cut that down to four hours and still be ok, but IndyCar might not be in the plans if Law & Order reruns draw better ratings. If USA isn't an option, there is always CNBC. It can squeeze between infomercials and Shark Tank. Then there is the Peacock option where some races are only available via the Comcast-owned streaming service. I am not sure we are there yet where the series can live on a streaming platform. I doubt the sponsors are there. 

While the sound of hopping between obscure NBC Universal properties sounds bleak, it might not be much better elsewhere. 

IndyCar could slink back to ABC, get Indianapolis on network plus a handful of races, but ESPN is trying to bolster ESPN+, and I am not sure IndyCar is going to win out for ESPN2 coverage against college basketball. CBS has not shown much interest in motorsports over the last 20 years and its cable sports channel is about ten steps back from where NBCSN is at now. Plus, CBS is also throwing things on streaming platforms. Look at its UEFA Champions League coverage on CBS All Access. 

Fox is the only one not getting into the streaming game, but IndyCar would be second fiddle to NASCAR for the first half of the year and the broadcast integrity will be brought down to a third-grade level. Perhaps an outside party like Turner Sports could get involved, but races on TBS or TNT would be equal to having races on USA. Why not stick with what you got in that case then? 

Though IndyCar's broadcast plan for 2022 and beyond is unclear, here is one thing I am sure about: The Indianapolis 500 will be on a network channel. Roger Penske is not going to put the entire series on cable. It is just a matter of how much that partner embraces IndyCar. With ABC, it had to take on four more races. NBC has the entire schedule and chooses to put half the schedule on network.

Let's be clear the series will not get every race on network unless it decides to shorten the season to ten or 11 races. Multiple networks could carve up IndyCar, but there is only one race that matters and only one network can get that a year. The networks aren't lining up to show the Indianapolis 500. IndyCar isn't in a position where two networks can split the series and trade the Indianapolis 500 every other year. 

Let's also not forget for a little over a year there has been more of an effort for an IndyCar-NASCAR shared weekend and it was forced in 2020 due to the pandemic, but now it is planned for 2021. One of the reasons for that is a shared television partner in NBC. Roger Penske has his fingers in both cakes, in fact he owns one of them. Roger Penske is going to look out for himself and rarely do we see Penske make the wrong choice. He is going to do what is best for business and I think he sees the value of IndyCar and NASCAR staying close to one another and sharing a partner.

The start of the 2020s could not have been much bleaker. We are all coming off a lost year and are starting 2021 hoping the tide will soon turn. Another significant change is the last thing anyone wants to see right now, but IndyCar is faced with one and its 2021 season opener is still floating in the air. The world continues onward during these difficult times and industries are still trying to innovate. People are still looking for different ways to consume programming and the companies are trying to keep up. 

IndyCar has to find a place for itself during all this uncertain. It can still get a good deal, but we might have to accept it requires a change from something we were comfortable with.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about the Daytona qualifying race, but did you know...

Sébastien Ogier won Rallye Monte-Carlo for a record eighth time and it was Ogier's 50th WRC victory.

Shane van Gisbergen won the New Zealand Grand Prix, as he swept the three races that made up the Toyota Racing Series opening weekend from Hampton Downs.

Eli Tomac and Cooper Webb split the two Houston Supercross races.

Coming Up This Weekend
The 24 Hours of Daytona.
Supercross will be in Indianapolis for the first race of another three-race residency.
The Toyota Racing Series will remain at Hampton Downs for round two of the championship.

Friday, January 22, 2021

All-Time One-Time Starter Grid: Formula One

Our final All-Time One-Time Starter Grid brings us to the pinnacle of motorsports. 

While IndyCar and NASCAR are full of cameo appearances, Formula One has fewer one-time participants. Only 161 drivers have started only one Formula One race. 

There are some notable names, some Le Mans winners, some Formula 5000 champions, a few men who were known for their exploits on two wheels and some who were known for what they did on ovals. 

This grid might not have the same level of standout talent that we saw over the previous two days, but this group includes promising drivers who never got a full shot or whose opportunities came elsewhere. One thing that has been taken more into consideration with this version than with IndyCar and NASCAR is the race result itself in these lone Formula One starts. 

We will look at two-dozen drivers who are a footnote in the Formula One history book, but whose résumés are much longer than that.

Row 12

24. Timmy Mayer
Claim to Fame: 1962 SCCA Formula Junior National Champion, fourth in the 1964 Tasman Series champion.
Only Start: October 7, 1962, United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen
Result: Retirement
What happened: Mayer and his brother Teddy teamed up with Peter Revson ahead of the 1962 season in SCCA Formula Junior. After Mayer won that champion, he and his brother purchased a Cooper T53 to run at the United States Grand Prix. He qualified 12th, the fastest privateer and only 1.6 seconds off of factory Cooper driver Tony Maggs in the newer Cooper T60. Mayer also qualified directly ahead of Roger Penske, who was making his second Formula One start. An ignition failure ended Mayer's race after 31 laps.
Odds of a second start: Mayer lost his life in practice ahead of the 1964 Tasman Series season finale in Longford, Tasmania. Mayer was believed to be a future star. Bruce McLaren's eulogy to his fallen teammate remains a remarkable memorial to his friend, but also a snapshot of why race car drivers compete and risk it all.

"The news that he had died instantly was a terrible shock to all of us, but who is to say that he had not seen more, done more and learned more in his few years than many people do in a lifetime? To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one's ability, for I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone."
23. Joie Chitwood
Claim to Fame: One of the earliest daredevil performers of the 20th century, Chitwood also competed in dirt car racing, starting out in sprint cars before graduating to the level of IndyCars. He made seven Indianapolis 500 starts, finishing fifth on three occasions. 
Only Start: May 30, 1950, Indianapolis 500
Result: 5th
What happened: Chitwood qualified ninth and he spent much of the race in the top ten. He drove the first 84 laps before stepping out of the car for Tony Bettenhausen, who had fallen out of the race on lap 31. Bettenhausen drove the final 54 laps and was fifth when the red flag came out for rain. The race did not restart and Chitwood and Bettenhausen split the two points. Bettenhausen would run every Indianapolis 500 that counted toward the world championship, scoring points in another three, including a runner-up finish in 1955. But this was Chitwood's only Formula One start, and his final Indianapolis 500 start, and he got a point for it. He is one of six drivers to have only one start and finished in the points.
Odds of a second start: Chitwood passed away on January 3, 1988, aged 75.

Row 11

22. Neville Lederle
Claim to Fame: South African driver who competed primarily on the continent of Africa. 1963 South African Drivers' champion. 
Only Start: December 29, 1962, South African Grand Prix at East London
Result: 6th
What happened: As was common back in the 1960s, the South African Grand Prix saw an influx of drivers from the host nation and neighboring Rhodesia fill the grid. Of the 17 drivers that qualified for the 1962 South African Grand Prix, seven were from one of the two African nations and the only one that was full-time was Tony Maggs. Lederle led the local crowd in qualifying, ending up tenth in his Lotus-Climax. Lederle did not match the speed of the leaders. He suffered a cracked cylinder during the race, but he was able to manage and get to the finish while the likes of Jim Clark and John Surtees both retired with mechanical failures. Lederle was four laps down but he finished sixth, scoring a point.
Odds of a second start: Lederle passed away two years ago at the age of 90 in South Africa. 

21. Eric Thompson
Claim to Fame: Two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner, including a third overall finish in 1951. Also had a class victory in the Spa 24 Hours.
Only Start: July 19, 1952, British Grand Prix at Silverstone
Result: 5th
What happened: Thompson was one of four factory Connaught drivers entered at Silverstone and Thompson qualified ninth on the grid, third of the Connaught contingent. Ferrari had taken the top three spots on the grid and Alberto Ascari and Piero Taruffi ran away with this one, but Thompson kept the car running and ended up fifth, the final car in the points after Nino Farina's Ferrari had to stop to change spark plugs and Robert Manzon burned a clutch early in the race.
Odds of a second start: Thompson retired from racing after 1955. He worked as an insurance broker for Lloyd's of London until the 1980s when he resigned and spent his later life operating a bookshop and selling rare books on the history of motorsports. He passed away on August 22, 2015, aged 95.

Row 10

20. Marco Apicella
Claim to Fame: 1994 Japanese Formula 3000 champion, International Formula 3000 veteran with 52 starts, no victories but seven runner-up finishes and ten total podium finishes. 
Only Start: September 12, 1993, Italian Grand Prix at Monza
Result: Retirement
What happened: Commonly mistaken as the shortest Formula One career, Apicella got a tryout with Jordan for his home race at Monza, stepping in for Thierry Boutsen, who retired after his home Belgian Grand Prix. Apicella was 23rd in qualifying, but about a half-second off teammate Rubens Barrichello. Heading into the first corner, two separate accidents occurred. Derek Warwick and Aguri Suzuki came together and behind that, J.J. Lehto collected both Jordan drivers, ending Apicella's race before completing two turns. Fellow Italian Emanuele Naspetti replaced Apicella at Portugal and Apicella never got another crack at Formula One after only racing for a few hundred meters. But this is not the shortest Formula One career. Ernst Loof made it all off six feet in the 1953 German Grand Prix after a fuel pump failure ended his race. 
Odds of a second start: Most of Apicella's career occurred after his one and only Formula One start. He competed primarily in sports car racing in the 2000s and made five 24 Hours of Le Mans starts. In his final two Le Mans appearances both cars retired after completing only one lap. Formula One is long behind him.

19. John Cannon
Claim to Fame: Can-Am and Formula 5000 competitor. Famously won the 1968 Can-Am race at Laguna Seca in the wet in a year-old McLaren over the likes of Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren. He was the 1970 SCCA Formula 5000 champion.
Only Start: October 3, 1971, United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen
Result: 14th
What happened: The 1971 United States Grand Prix had a cloud of politics hanging over the proceedings as USAC had scheduled its race in Trenton on the same day, preventing the likes of Mario Andretti, Mark Donohue and others from competing at Watkins Glen. Andretti and Donohue each qualified for the USGP, hoping rain would delay Trenton, but clear weather prevailed on Sunday.

Politics aside, Cannon had gotten the opportunity to drive for BRM alongside Jo Siffert, Howden Ganley and Helmut Marko. Cannon qualified 24th out of a 29-car field and he brought the car home three laps down, but up ten positions from his starting position.
Odds of a second start: Cannon competed into Formula 5000 through the 1970s. He flew experimental aircraft in his years after racing. He died from injuries suffered in a testing accident on October 18, 1999. He was 66 years old.

Row 9

18. Warwick Brown
Claim to Fame: 1975 Tasman Series champion, 1977-78 Rothmans International Series champion. Second in the 1978 Can-Am Championship.
Only Start: October 10, 1976, United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen
Result: 14th
What happened: After all Brown's Formula 5000 success, he got the opportunity to run at Watkins Glen with Wolf-Williams Racing, the one-year marriage of Walter Wolf Racing and Frank Williams Racing Cars. The team struggled all season with the Wolf-Williams FW05, which was just a re-badged Hesketh 308C. Brown did qualify ahead of teammate Arturo Merzario and Brown was the final classified car, albeit it five laps down. 
Odds of a second start: Brown is 71 years old, but he has not competed for the better part of the last 40 years.

17. George Amick
Claim to Fame: Amick was in the top ten of the USAC National Championship in his first four seasons, with his best championship finish being second in 1958. He won three races in his career. 
Only Start: May 30, 1958, Indianapolis 500
Result: 2nd
What happened: Amick had finished ninth, fourth and third in the USAC National Championship in his first three years of competition, but he did not make the Indianapolis 500 in any of those years. Heading into the 1958 season, Amick had three career victories. He only qualified 25th at Indianapolis. The race started with a nine-car accident on the opening lap, which claimed the life of Pat O'Connor and took out four of the top five starters. Amick quickly found himself at the front of the field, leading on lap 27 and trading the top spot with Jimmy Bryan and Tony Bettenhausen throughout the first 100 miles. Amick soon slipped a few positions and Bryan would battle Johnny Boyd until Boyd had long pit stops take him out of contention for victory. Bryan led the final 75 laps with Amick finishing 27.63 seconds back in second. 
Odds of a second start: Amick lost his life in an accident on the final lap of the only IndyCar race held at Daytona International Speedway on April 4, 1959. He was 34 years old.

Row 8

16. Graham McRae
Claim to Fame: Three-time Tasman Series champion, 1972 SCCA Formula 5000 champion, 16th-place finisher in the 1973 Indianapolis 500 and that result earned him Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors.
Only Start: July 14, 1973, British Grand Prix at Silverstone
Result: Retirement
What happened: McRae had shown great skill in Formula 5000 and he was given the opportunity to drive for Frank Williams at Silverstone. He had a good initial start, but a throttle issue took him out before even completing a lap.
Odds of a second start: McRae will turn 81 years old on March 4, but similar to Warwick Brown, he has spent most of the second half of his life not behind the wheel of a race car. McRae may have made his first Formula One start a year earlier. He was offered to substitute for Jackie Stewart at the 1972 Belgian Grand Prix as Stewart was suffering from an ulcer, but McRae turned down Tyrrell's offer due to his busy Formula 5000 schedule. 

15. Jo Schlesser
Claim to Fame: Seven-time 24 Hours of Le Mans starter, including two starts in the Ford GT40 program. He had finishes of ninth and 13th in 1964 in his two NASCAR Cup Series starts, the latter being in the Daytona 500. 
Only Start: July 7, 1968, French Grand Prix at Rouen
Result: Retirement
What happened: This is a bit of a technicality, because Schlesser competed in two races prior, but both of those were the German Grand Prix in Formula Two machinery when those races happened simultaneously. The 1968 French Grand Prix is Schlesser's only start in a Formula One car and the record books indicate he has only one career start. 

Honda had developed the RA302, a car with an air-cooled engine and magnesium body. John Surtees had refused to drive the car due to safety concerns and Schlesser was given the ride. The car qualified 17th out of 18 entrants. On the third lap of the race, with rain starting to fall, Schlesser spun into an embankment on the exit of Six Frères corner. The car burst into flames and Schlesser was unable to escape, losing his life at the age of 40. Surtees went on to finish second behind first-time winner Jacky Ickx. Honda attempted to run the RA302 again at Monza, but Surtees again refused. Honda withdrew from Formula One after the season. 
Odds of a second start: See above.

Row 7

14. Masahiro Hasemi
Claim to Fame: 1980 Japanese Top Formula Champion. Three-time Japanese Touring Car Champion. 1992 24 Hours of Daytona winner.
Only Start: October 24, 1976, Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji
Result: 11th
What happened: In the frantic championship decider between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, the first Japanese Grand Prix to count toward the world championship featured four local drivers and Hasemi led the way, qualifying tenth in his Kojima-Ford, only 1.11 seconds off Mario Andretti on pole position and ahead of Jacques Laffitte, John Mass, Patrick Depailler and Tom Pryce. In the wet conditions, Hasemi did not have the same pace and ended up seven laps down, but the final car running. He was initially credited with the fastest lap in the race, but a few days after the event, the circuit found that Laffite had set fastest lap on lap 70. Hasemi remains the last Japanese driver to have won the Japanese Grand Prix, having won the race in 1975.
Odds of a second start: Hasemi competed until 2001 in Super GT. He is 75 years old. Thirty years ago, I might have given him a small percentage that he could make a one-off return for a back-marker team in the Japanese Grand Prix, but not today.

13. Nello Pagani
Claim to Fame: 1949 125cc world champion and 1949 500cc vice-champion. Winner of the Pau Grand Prix in 1947 and 1948, the first driver to win the Pau Grand Prix twin and the first to win it in consecutive years. 
Only Start: June 4, 1950, Swiss Grand Prix at Bremgarten
Result: 7th
What happened: Pagani might not have run the 1950 Swiss Grand Prix had it not been for José Froilán González suffering an injury ahead of the race. Pagani started the weekend qualifying 24.7 seconds off pole-sitter Juan Manuel Fangio, but he completed 39 of 42 laps and was seventh on the road, ahead of regulars Harry Schell and Louis Chiron. Not to mention, he did finish ahead of Fangio, who retired due to an engine failure on lap 32.
Odds of a second start: Pagani's final grand prix on two wheels was in 1955. He lived until the age of 92, passing away on October 19, 2003.

Row 6

12. Kunimitsu Takahashi
Claim to Fame: Four-time grand prix motorcycle race winner. Four-time All-Japan Sports Prototype Champion. 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans GT2 class winner.
Only Start: October 23, 1977, Japanese Grand Prix.
Result: 9th
What happened: It had been 13 years since Takahasi's last grand prix motorcycle race, but after finishing second in the 1977 Japanese Top Formula Championship, he drove a three-year old Tyrrell 007 at Fuji. He started 22nd out of 23 cars, but he finished only two laps down in ninth, the top Japanese driver in the field and ahead of Jody Scheckter, who had won three races that season, including the race prior in Canada.
Odds of a second start: Similar to Hasemi, I would have held some hope of Takahashi getting a crack at a Japanese Grand Prix 30 years ago. He competed in Super GT until 1999. But now, he will remain focused on his championship-winning Team Kunimitsu in Super GT.

11. Roland Ratzenberger 
Claim to Fame: Second in the 1985 Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch behind Johnny Herbert. Japanese Formula 3000 race winner. 1993 24 Hours of Le Mans C2 class winner.
Only Start: April 17, 1994, Pacific Grand Prix at TI Circuit
Result: 11th
What happened: Ratzenberger signed a five-year deal with Simtek ahead of the 1994 season. He failed to qualify for 1994 season opener at Interlagos, missing out on the 26th grid spot by 1.5 seconds to his teammate David Brabham. For the Pacific Grand Prix, Ratzenberger was four-tenths to the good over Bertrand Gachot, who ironically drove for Pacific Grand Prix. Brabham retired after two laps, but Ratzenberger saw the checkered flag, finishing 11th, five laps down. 
Odds of a second start: Ratzenberger lost his life on April 30, 1994 in a qualifying accident ahead of the San Marino Grand Prix. His wing broke off entering the Villeneuve corner after previously having gone off course. It was only his third grand prix weekend. 

Row 5

10. Dieter Quester
Claim to Fame: 1970 Macau Grand Prix winner. Four-time European Touring Car champion. Third in the 1971 European Formula Two Championship behind Ronnie Peterson and Carlos Reutemann. 1973 24 Hours of Le Mans T 5.0 class winner. Two-time Dubai 24 Hour winner.
Only Start: August 18, 1974, Austrian Grand Prix at the Österreichring
Result: 9th
What happened: Surtees was not having a great 1974 season and Quester was added as third Surtees entry for his home race. Quester made the field in 25th, the final qualifier, while teammates Derek Bell and Jean-Pierre Jabouille each failed to qualify. Prior to Austria, the only top ten finish for Surtees was when Carlos Pace was fourth in Brazil. The Surtees was not going to contend for points, but Quester remained on the track while the likes of Ronnie Peterson, Jacky Ickx, Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi and Jody Scheckter all retired. Quester was three laps down, but he finished ninth.
Odds of a second start: Quester last competed in the 2018 HSR Classic Daytona in November 2018 at the age of 79. He turns 82 on May 30 this year. I think his time has passed. 

9. Leo Kinnunen
Claim to Fame: 1970 24 Hours of Daytona winner with Pedro Rodríguez and Brian Redman. Three-time Interserie champion. Two-time Norisring Trophy winner. Last driver to compete with an open-face helmet in a Formula One race.
Only Start: June 9, 1974, Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstrop
Result: Retirement
What happened: Kinnunen had been looking for a Formula One breakthrough for a handful of years, initially having a shot at Lotus with help from Jochen Rindt. After Rindt lost his life in an accident at Monza, negotiations broke down. Kinnunen was able to get a Surtees chassis and compete for the privateer AAW Racing Team. The team struggled with the weight of the car and Kinnunen failed to qualify for the Belgian Grand Prix. He qualified for the Swedish round in 25th out of 26 cars. The engine only lasted eight laps. He would attempt for more races but failed to qualify for all four and the team closed its doors. 
Odds of a second start: Kinnunen died on July 26, 2017, about a week and a half before his 74th birthday.

Row 4

8. Stéphane Sarrazin
Claim to Fame: Two-time Le Mans Series champion. Four runner-up finishes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Three FIA World Endurance Championship race victories. Twenty-six points in the World Rally Championship. Thirty-seven Formula E starts.
Only Start: April 11, 1999, Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos
Result: Retirement
What happened: Luca Badoer had started the season for Minardi at Australia, but Badoer injured his hand in testing ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Minardi drafted in Sarrazin, then Prost Grand Prix test driver, for the second round of the season. 

Prost gave Sarrazin his blessing telling Sarrazin, "Don't worry, as the Minardi is slow, you'll be at the back. There's no pressure, just try to learn." 

Despite jumping into the unfamiliar car, Sarrazin qualified 18th, nearly seven-tenths faster than teammate Marc Gené in 21st. The race started well with Sarrazin passing Williams driver Alex Zanardi and the BAR of Jacques Villeneuve. He was up to 11th ahead of Prost driver Olivier Panis when his front wing failed entering the final corner and causing a massive shunt.
Odds of a second start: Sarrazin has been scaling back his sports car involvement in recent years. He is only 45 years old, and he was respectable in Formula E considering he had been out of single-seater racing for almost 15 years when he joined that series. I don't think it is going to happen. 

7. Jean-Louis Schlesser
Claim to Fame: Two-time World Sportscar Champion with 15 World Sportscar race victories. 1981 24 Hours of Le Mans GTP 3.0 class winner and second overall. Two-time Dakar Rally winner. Nephew of Jo Schlesser.
Only Start: September 11, 1988, Italian Grand Prix at Monza
Result: 11th
What happened: This might be the most famous one-off Formula One start of them all. Schlesser was called in to replace an unfit Nigel Mansell at Williams. He qualified 22nd, well off teammate Riccardo Patrese, but he drove a respectable race and was up to 11th entering the final stages. On lap 49, Ayrton Senna was about to lap Schlesser for the second time. Entering Variante del Rettifilo, Schlesser went wide to give Senna the inside. Schlesser however locked up his tires and to avoid going off course he turned in and made contact with Senna's rear wing, spinning Senna and breaking the suspension of the McLaren. 

With Senna out of the race, Ferrari took a 1-2 finish with Gerhard Berger ahead of Michele Alboreto in the first grand prix held after the passing of Enzo Ferrari. It was the only race McLaren did not win in the 1988 season. 
Odds of a second start: Schlesser was still competing in the Africa Eco Rally up until 2014, but he has not done much circuit racing over the last 30 years. Odds are slim-to-none. 

Row 3

6. Markus Winkelhock
Claim to Fame: Fourth in the 2003 Formula 3 Euro Series championship behind Ryan Briscoe, Christian Klien and Olivier Pla. Third in the 2005 Formula Renault 3.5 Series championship behind Robert Kubica and Adrián Vallés. 2012 FIA GT1 World Champion. 2017 Intercontinental GT Challenge champion. 2018 Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe Pro-Am champion. Three-time 24 Hours Nürburgring winner. Two-time Spa 24 Hours winner. 
Only Start: July 22, 2007, European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring
Result: Retirement
What happened: Winkelhock had spent 2006 as a Midland test driver and was kept on when Spyker took over the organization. Christijan Albers left the team after Silverstone and it opened the door for Spyker to run two German drivers at the Nürburgring with Adrian Sutil and Winkelhock. Winkelhock knew it was only going to be a one-race deal, as Sakon Yamamoto was planning to take over the car after Germany.

Winkelhock was over 1.5 seconds off his teammate in qualifying and rounded out the grid in 22nd. As the cars rolled off on the reconnaissance lap, storm clouds approached the circuit. While every team faced a difficult decision, only one came to the pit lane for wet tires: Winkelhock. 

The race started dry, but it only took a few corners for the deluge to commence. Twenty-one cars gingerly made it around the course on lap one, hoping not to throw away the race without getting a chance to change tires. Winkelhock did not have to make that stop and he inherited the lead with a 33-second gap over Felipe Massa. 

The rain continued to fall and caused many cars to spin off track. The conditions led to a red flag at the end of lap seven. Winkelhock had led six laps. Not long after the cars stopped, the rain subsided, and the sun came out. The race restarted and Massa quickly retook the lead. Winkelhock fell down the order and hydraulic issues ended his race after 13 laps.

Odds of a second start: It is still possible. Winkelhock is only 40 years old and he has been a strong GT sports car driver ever since his one-and-only Formula One start. It will likely not happen. I can't see it happening, but Winkelhock could probably be respectable. 

5. Oscar Gálvez
Claim to Fame: Five-time Turismo Carretera champion with 43 victories. 
Only Start: January 18, 1953, Argentine Grand Prix at Buenos Aires
Result: 5th
What happened: Gálvez was brought in as the fourth Maserati driver alongside countrymen Juan Manuel Fangio and José Frolián González, and Italian Felice Bonetto. Gálvez qualified in the middle of the field but almost three seconds ahead of Bonetto. Ferrari proved to be the top team on this day with Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi finishing 1-2. González prevented a Ferrari sweep of the podium in third ahead of Mike Hawthorn and Gálvez stayed up with the front of the pack finishing fifth, one-lap down like the three cars ahead of him. He picked up two points in his only start. 
Odds of a second start: Gálvez succumbed from pancreatic cancer at the age of 76 on December 16, 1989. 

Row 2

4. Gérard Larrousse
Claim to Fame: Two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner. 1969 Tour de Corse winer. 1971 12 Hours of Sebring winner. 
Only Start: May 12, 1974, Belgian Grand Prix at Nivelles-Baulers
Result: Retirement
What happened: Scuderia Finotto was a privateer operation that leased two Brabham BT42s during the 1974 season. Larrousse qualified 28th ahead of Graham Hill, who was driving a Lola for his own team. Larrousse completed 53 of 85 laps in a low attrition race. His retirement due to a tire failure made him only the seventh car out of the 31-car field. A further six cars would retire over the final 32 laps.
Odds of a second start: Though Larrousse the driver never started another Formula One race, Larrousse the name competed in eight Formula One seasons as a constructor from 1987-1994. The team's only podium finish was third in the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix with Aguri Suzuki and those four points vaulted the team to sixth in the 1990 Constructors' Championship. Larrousse retired after his second Le Mans victory in 1974. He turns 81 years old on May 23.

3. André Lotterer
Claim to Fame: Three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner. Two-time Super GT GT500 champion. 2011 Formula Nippon champion. Twenty-four Formula Nippon/Super Formula victories. 2012 World Endurance Drivers' Champion. Ten FIA World Endurance Championship victories. Six Formula E podium finishes.  
Only Start: August 24, 2014, Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps
Result: Retirement
What happened: Lotterer's Formula One debut was facilitated with some help from Caterham team advisor Colin Kolles, who Lotterer drove for in a privateer Audi at Le Mans. Twelve years after being a Jaguar test driver, Lotterer made his first race weekend appearance stepping in for Kamui Kobayashi. He qualified ahead of teammate Marcus Ericsson, but he completed one lap before electrical issues took him out of the race. Lotterer was offered a chance to race at Monza the following week but turned it down when told he would not drive in the first practice because Roberto Mehri would get that session. Caterham offered Lotterer a race seat for Abu Dhabi but declined that offer as well.  
Odds of a second start: I hold out hope because of how good Lotterer has been, but he is a Porsche driver and he is committed to its Formula E program for now. I expect Lotterer will play a role in Porsche's LMDh program. He turns 40 years old on November 19. It would not be crazy if a second opportunity fell into lap. It likely will not happen, but he would deserve a second shot.

Row 1

2. Dorino Serafini
Claim to Fame: 1939 European 500cc champion. Runner-up in the 1950 Mille Miglia. 
Only Start: September 3, 1950, Italian Grand Prix at Monza
Result: 2nd
What happened: Serafini stepped into the Ferrari for the 1950 season finale after Luigi Villoresi was out with an injury. He qualified sixth and was running respectably in third entering the second half of the race. On lap 47, he stepped out of the car to allow Alberto Ascari to finish the race after Ascari had retired due to an engine failure. Ascari brought the car home in second, earning both drivers a podium finishes and they split the six points. 
Odds of a second start: Serafini passed away on July 5, 2000, about two and a half weeks prior to his 91st birthday. Serafini, along with George Amick, will likely remain the only drivers to finish on the podium in every start of a Formula One career. 

1. Bobby Unser
Claim to Fame: Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner. Two-time IndyCar champion. Seventh all-time in IndyCar victories with 35. Ten-time Pikes Peak International Hill Climb winner. 1975 IROC champion.
Only Start: October 6, 1968, United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen
Result: Retirement
What happened: Unser's first Formula One start was going to be the 1968 Italian Grand Prix. With help from Mario Andretti, Unser landed a ride with BRM. The two drivers were going to try and compete in the Italian Grand Prix and the Hoosier Hundred, which was going to be held the day before the grand prix. At that time, all practice sessions were qualifying sessions, meaning Andretti and Unser could set a time on Friday, leave to race in the United States on Saturday, and return for the grand prix on Sunday. 

However, the Automobile Club d'Italia had a rule prohibiting any driver from competing within 24 hours of the start of the grand prix. Andretti qualified 10th and Unser 21st but neither driver returned after the Hoosier Hundred.

When Formula One headed to Watkins Glen, BRM drafted in Unser for a second time. Andretti won pole position while Unser qualified 19th. Unser's engine lasted 35 laps, three laps longer than Andretti's clutch in the Lotus. 

Odds of a second start: Good golly, zero percent, but I bet Bobby Unser still believes he would be the best driver on the Formula One grid today. He turns 87 years old on February 20. 

In summation...

This field combines for five overall 24 Hours of Le Mans victories...

Another six 24 Hours of Le Mans class victories...

Two 24 Hours of Daytona overall winners...

One 12 Hours of Sebring overall winner...

Three 24 Hours Nürburgring overall victories...

Two Spa 24 Hours overall victories...

Two Dubai 24 Hour overall victories...

Three Indianapolis 500 victories...

Eight Formula 5000 champions from across the world...

One grand prix motorcycle world champion...

One Macau Grand Prix winner...

Two Dakar Rally victories...

Ten Pikes Peak International Hill Climb victories...

And these 24 drivers combine for 24 Formula One starts.