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USCC: 2015 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona preview

Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates ran 1-2 in Friday’s opening day of the Roar Before The Rolex 24, a three-day test at Daytona International Speedway to open the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season, as well as the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup. Ganassi has won the event six times.

 

Joey Hand recorded the fastest lap of the day, 1:39.397 in the No. 01 Ford EcoBoost/Riley co-driven by Scott Pruett, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam. Scott Dixon was second fastest, turning a lap of 1:39.406 in the No. 02 Target Ford EcoBoost/Riley shared by fellow Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson.


Defending Rolex 24 champion Action Express Racing, returning its winning lineup of Christian Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais. Bourdais, was fifth quickest on Friday, running 1:39.578 in the No. 5 Corvette DP.

 

Pedro Lamy (No. 98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8), Marc Goossens and Renger van der Zande led the respective GT Le Mans (GTLM), GT Daytona (GTD) and Prototype Challenge (PC) classes.

 

While Porsche North America led the way in GTLM in the afternoon session, it was Lamy’s lap of 1:44.414 in the No. 98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 that was fastest on the day. Porsche North America also got off to a strong start in its quest to win a second straight Rolex 24, with Nick Tandy second fastest on the day at 1:44.486 in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR.

 

Two new prototypes made their official Daytona International Speedway debuts Friday with Tequila Patrón ESM shaking down its No. 2 HPD ARX-04b/Honda and Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian and Krohn Racing turning laps with their new Ligier JS P2s.

 

Inaugural TUDOR Championship GTLM champion Kuno Wittmer will drive a Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R for Riley Motorsports in the GTD class of the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, the team announced Friday. Dominik Farnbacher, Marc Goossens, Al Carter, Sebastiaan Bleekemolen and Cameron Lawrence also will join forces with season-long drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen in a pair of Dodge Vipers sponsored by TI Automotive and ViperExchange.com. Goossens set the fastest time of the day in GTD at 1:46.948.

 

Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Corvette DP rose to the top of the time sheets in Saturday morning’s Practice 3 at 1:39.181. The No. 60 Michael Shank Ligier was second quickest, 0.161 sec back, followed by the No. 5 Action Express entry. CORE autosport’s No. 54 topped PC at 1:41.769. The No. 98 Aston remained fastest in GTLM with a time of 1:44.476.

Practice 4 saw the same three cars at the top of the P-class timesheets, the order shuffled to Shank, Action Express, and Taylor. CORE remained atop PC. The No. 25 BMW Team RLL Z4 GTE topped GTLM at 1:45.000. The No. 5 Action Express returned to the top in Practice 5, posting a time of 1:39.933. The No. 01 Ganassi Riley was 0.015 sec slower, followed by the No. 90 Visit Florida.com Corvette DP.

Jordan Taylor’s 1:39.181 (129.218 mph) ended up being the fastest lap of the day. “These days you need to have the fastest car because when you get to the final hour [of the race] you need to race everyone,” said Taylor. “Five years ago we wouldn’t focus on a lap-time car; we’d just make it as comfortable as possible. Now you need to work on lap times and race pace because you know you’re going to come to that last hour having to race for the win.”

 

Sebastien Bourdais ran the second-fastest lap of the day in the closing minutes of night practice (Practice 6), running 1:39.310 (129.050 mph) in the No. 5 Action Express car. He was followed by Ozz Negri in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier, 1:39.342 (129.009 mph).

 

Other class leaders were Colin Braun in Prototype Challenge (PC), running 1:41.769 (125.932 mph) in the No. 54 CORE autosport Oreca; Earl Bamber in GT Le Mans (GTLM), 1:44.316 (122.857 mph) in the No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR; and Marc Goossens in GT Daytona (GTD) at 1:47.373 (119.360 mph) in the No. 33 TI Automotive/ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R.

 

Starworks Motorsport waited until the closing minutes of Sunday’s final Roar Before the Rolex 24 practice at Daytona International Speedway to make a headline. With the track nearly dry following scattered showers throughout the day, the team bolted a set of slick tires on the No. 7 Dinan/Riley and sent out veteran Formula One star Rubens Barrichello – who promptly posted the fastest lap of the day by nearly five miles per hour.

 

Barrichello lapped the 3.56-mile circuit in 1:47.230 (119.519 mph). While he admits the lap was a fluke, the 11-time Formula One winner feels the team made major strides in preparation for the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 24-25.

 

“I’m not excited so much about the time, because that means nothing, but the fact we got the car a little bit better is very encouraging,” said Barrichello, who will co-drive with 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Brendon Hartley, Scott Mayer and Tor Graves. “We have a lot to do yet (before the Rolex 24), but I’m enjoying driving very much. Many people left because they were thinking the track was not going to dry. We stayed on the track because we needed the mileage. We put slick tires on right at the end, and I was able to get a fast lap. The cars I am running in Brazil are fantastic, but I was missing going 180 mph – because we don’t reach that in Brazil. It’s really good to be here, and I’m looking forward to the Rolex 24.”

 

Richard Westbrook was second in the afternoon session, running 1:51.785 (114.649 mph) in the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP, while defending Rolex 24 winner Sebastien Bourdais led the morning session with a lap of 1:51.835 (114.597 mph) in the Action Express Racing Corvette DP.

 

Starworks Motorsport also had fast honors on the day in PC, with van der Zande turning a lap of 1:54.601 (111.831 mph) in the No. 7 Oreca. Earl Bamber led GT Le Mans (GTLM) with a lap of 1:54.246 (112.179 mph), while Andy Lally paced GT Daytona (GTD), running 1:58.582 (108.077 mph) in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT America.

 

Jordan Taylor’s 1:39.181 (129.218 mph) remained the fastest time of the weekend. Other class leaders were Colin Braun (PC), running 1:41.769 (125.814 mph) in the No. 54 CORE autosport entry; Bamber (GTLM), 1:44.316 (122.857 mph) in the No. 912 Porsche 911; and Goossens (GTD), 1:46.948 (119.834 mph) in the No. 33 TI Automotive / ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R.

 

Six days after announcing its return to the TUDOR Championship, defending GTD champion Turner Motorsport arrived at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday to shake down its No. 97 BMW Z4. Markus Palttala ran a total of 37 laps on the day, leading the final session.

 

The Roar Before the Rolex 24 has proven to be an indicator of success in the Rolex 24 with three of the four class leaders in last year’s Roar finishing in the top two positions in the Rolex 24. Of those, Action Express Racing and Porsche North America went on to win the race in the Prototype and GT Le Mans (GTLM) classes, respectively.

 

While defending Rolex 24 PC winner CORE autosport posted the fastest time of the weekend in its class, Starworks Motorsport and RSR Racing each also led multiple sessions throughout the three-day test. No PC cars elected to go out in the final session of the weekend.

 

IndyCar veteran and former American Le Mans Series competitor Simon Pagenaud is driving the #4 C7.R for Corvette Racking. “It’s been a real pleasure to join the Corvette Racing team,” said Pagenaud. “The Corvette C7.R is a beautiful car – really a super-cool race car. It’s very close to what I feel in a single-seater. I have to get used to the brakes and how it feels with the weight compared to an IndyCar.”

 

Former Ganassi driver Memo Rojas is piloting the No. 0 DeltaWing Racing DWC13."This is my first day in the DeltaWing,” said Rojas. “It's a very unique feeling, because I’m driving one of the most revolutionary cars in the history of motor racing. But as unique as it looks, it drives really well. Most drivers, including myself before I drove it, think ‘how does it turn?’ I can tell you – it turns very well. We were third quickest and I had a quick lap. But this is just the first test. There’s a lot of work to do. I’m really happy working with all the crew, with Tim Keene, who I know very well, and with (race engineer) Alan Mugglestone."

 

 

Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, notable entries:

Prototype (P)

 

#0 DeltaWing Racing

Memo Rojas (Mexico), Katherine Legge (UK), Gabby Chaves (US)

NOTES: Rojas is a four-time GRAND-AM champion and three-time Rolex 24 winner, all with Ganassi. Chaves was the 2014 Indy Lights champion. Legge has been with the DeltaWing program since its inception.

 

#1 Extreme Speed Motorsports, HPD ARX-04b

Scott Sharp (US), Ryan Dalziel (Scotland), David Heinemeier-Hansson (Denmark)

NOTES: DHH won GTE Am at Le Mans last year and took the season FIA World Endurance championship in class as well, driving for Aston Martin. Honda’s 04b is a closed coupe, replacing the open-cockpit 03b ESM ran last year. Dalziel won the 2010 Rolex 24 driving a Riley-Porsche for Action Express.

 

#2 ESM

Ed Brown (US), Johannes van Overbeek (US), Jon Fogarty (US)

NOTES: Fogarty won the GRAND-AM championship in 2007 and 2009, competing for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing. He remained a Gainsco driver last year, but the team withdrew from competition after Memo Gidley was badly injured in a crash at the Rolex 24. He joined Action Express as the third driver in one of its cars for the 12 Hours of Sebring, but otherwise remained out of competition last year Fogarty was the all-time leader in GRAND-AM pole positions.

 

#5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP

Joao Barbosa (Portugal), Christian Fittipaldi (Brazil), Sebastian Bourdais (France)

NOTES: The winning team and drivers from last year.

 

#7 Starworks Motorsport Riley MK XX-Dinan BMW

Brendon Hartley (New Zealand), Rubens Barrichello (Brazil)

NOTES: Hartley raced for Starworks during the 2013 GRAND-AM season before spending last year as an FIA WEC Porsche factory LMP1 driver, still his full-time ride. Barrichello is the all-time leader in Formula 1 starts.

 

#10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing

Jordan Taylor (US), Ricky Taylor (US), Max Angelelli (Monaco)

NOTES: Wayne’s sons joined by his former co-driver

 

#31 Action Express

Eric Curran (US), Dane Cameron (US), Max Papis (Italy)

NOTES: Cameron was the 2014 Tudor Series GTD champion. Papis has raced at Le Mans, in Formula 1, the NASCAR Truck Series, and has three IndyCar wins.

 

#50 Fifty-Plus Racing Riley-BMW

Dorsey Schroeder (US)

NOTES: TV analyst Schroeder has also had a long racing career, including winning the Trans-Am championship in 1989.

 

#57 Krohn Racing Ligier JS P2-Judd

Tracy Krohn (US), Olivier Pla (France), Nic Jonsson (US), Alex Brundle (UK)

 NOTES: Krohn is one of two teams to have switched to the Ligier following its impressive debut last year. Pla ran seven Tudor races with OAK Racing last year and won two FIA WEC events for G-Drive Racing. OAK started running the Ligier late last year at Circuit of the Americas, the same course at which it made its WEC debut for G-Drive. Jonsson won the 2011 Continental Tire ST championship. Brundle came in second in 2013 FIA WEC LMP2 competition.

 

#60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ligier JS P2-Honda

John Pew (US), Oswaldo Negri, Jr. (Brazil), AJ Allmendinger (US), Matt McMurry (US)

NOTES: This team, the other to switch to a Ligier for 2015, won the 2012 Rolex 24 with IndyCar regular Justin Wilson joining the other three drivers.

 

#70 SpeedSource Mazda (diesel)

Jonathan Bomarito (US), Tristan Nunez (US), Sylvain Tremblay (Canada), James Hinchcliffe (Canada).

NOTES: Bomarito’s 2014 co-driver Kuno Wittmer won the Tudor championship in GTLM, driving an SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R which Bomarito co-drove for the entire year except for the final race.. Hinchcliffe is the mayor of Hinchtown and drives IndyCar.

 

#80 VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP

Richard Westbrook (UK), Michael Valiante (Canada), Mike Rockenfeller (Germany)

NOTES: Rockenfeller won the 2013 DTM championship driving for Audi Sport Team Phoenix. He also won both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Daytona in 2010; Le Mans in an Audi Sport North America R15 TDI  with Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas and Daytona in Action Express Racing’s Riley-Porsche with Joao Barbosa, Terry Borcheller, and Ryan Dalziel.

 

#01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Riley-Ford

Scott Pruett (US), Joey Hand (US), Charlie Kimball (UK), Sage Karam (US)

NOTES: Pruett has won five Rolex 24’s and three GRAND-AM championships, all at Ganassi. He won last year’s 12 Hours of Sebring. He finished sixth in the 1998 Champ Car series standings and won the GTS class at the 2001 Le Mans. Hand won the Rolex 24 in 2011 and the ALMS GT title that same year. He became the first American full-time factory driver (BMW) in the DTM in 2012. Kimball has been and IndyCar racer for Ganassi since 2011, winning one race (2013). Karam was the 2013 Indy Lights champion.

 

#02 Ganassi

Scott Dixon (New Zealand), Tony Kanaan (Brazil), Kyle Larson (US), Jamie McMurray (US)

NOTES: Dixon and Kanaan are two of the kings of IndyCar. Larson and McMurray are full-time drivers for Ganassi in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup.

 

#07 SpeedSource (diesel)

Tom Long, Sylvain Tremblay

 

 

 

Prototype Challenge (PC)

(all Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet)

 

#8 Starworks Motorsport

Mirco Schultis (Germany), Renger van der Zande (Netherlands), Alex Popow (Venezuela)

NOTES: Popow was ALMS PC-class champion in 2012.

 

#11 RSR Racing

Chris Cumming (Canada), Bruno Junqueira (Brazil), Jack Hawksworth (UK)

NOTES: Junqueira was a three-time runner up in the Champ Car World Series. Hawksworth finished 17th in this rookie IndyCar season last year, including a podium in Houston.

 

#16 BAR1 Motorsports

Tomy Drissi (US)

NOTES: Drissi was 2009 Trans-Am series champion

 

#52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports

Mike Guasch (US)

NOTES: Guasch won the ALMS 2013 PC-class championship

 

#54 CORE autosport

Jon Bennett (US), Colin Braun (US), Mark Wilkins (Canada), James Gue (US)

NOTES: CORE won the PC class in the 2014 Rolex 24.

 

#61 BAR1 Motorsports

Martin Plowman (UK)

NOTES: Plowman is a full-time driver for OAK Racing in the FIA WEC and won the LMP2 class at Le Mans last year.

 

 

 

GT Le Mans (GTLM)

 

#3 Corvette Racing C7.R

Jan Magnussen (Denmark), Antonio Garcia (Spain), Ryan Briscoe (Australia)

NOTES: IndyCar’s Briscoe joins the car’s two regular drivers.

 

#4 Corvette

Oliver Gavin (UK), Tommy Milner (US), Simon Pagenaud (France)

NOTES: IndyCar’s Pagenaud joins the car’s two regular drivers. He was IndyCar rookie of the year in 2012 and won 2010 ALMS LMP2 title driving for Highcroft Racking.

 

#17 Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR

Wolf Henzler (Germany), Bryan Sellers (US), Patrick Long (US)

NOTES: Henzler is a Porsche factory driver. He won the GT2 class at Le Mans in 2010.

 

#24 BMW Team RLL Z4 GTE

John Edwards (US), Lucas Luhr (Germany), Graham Rahal (US)

NOTES: Luhr won the GT class at Le Mans in 2002 and 2003. He won six ALMS titles including three in LMP1, first as an Audi works driver (2008) and then for Muscle Milk. Rahal is and IndyCar regular.

 

#25 BMW

Bill Auberlen (US), Dirk Werner (Germany)

NOTES: Auberlen won the 2004 Grand-Am GT class title. Werner did the same in 2007 and 2009.

 

#62 Rizi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia

Pierre Kaffer (Germany), Davide Rigon (Italy)

NOTES: Kaffer won the GT2 class at the 2009 Le Mans, driving a Ferrari 430 for Rizi. Rigon is a full-time driver in the FIA WEC and a development driver for Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1.

 

#98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8

Pedro Lamy (Portugal), Darren Turner (UK), Mathias Lauda (Austria)

NOTES: Lamy and Turner both drive for Aston in the WEC. Lamy was a Formula 1 driver 1993-96. He won the GTE Am class at the 2012 Le Mans driving a Corvette C6.R for Larbre Competition. Turners,who has driven for Aston since 2005, won GT1 class at Le Mans in both 2007 and 2008. Lauda is three-time F1 champion Niki’s son. He will compete in the WEC as a full-time Aston driver in 2015.

 

#911 Porsche North America 911 RSR

Nick Tandy (UK), Patrick Pilet (France), Marc Lieb (Germany)

NOTES: Lieb has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in class three times 2005 (GT2), 2010 (GT2), and 2013 (GTE Pro) all in Porsches

 

#912 Porsche

Jorg Bergmeister (Germany), Frederic Makowiecki (France), Earl Bamber (New Zealand)

NOTES: Bergmeister won Le Mans’ GT class in 2004 driving a 911 for White Lightning Racing. He won multiple GT2-class ALMS championships, finished first in GT at the 2009 Rolex 24, and won the 2006 GRAND-AM Daytona Prototypes championship. Bamber won the 2014 Porsche Supercup championship before being picked up as a factory driver this year.

 

 

 

GT Daytona (GTD)

 

#22 Alex Job Racking Porsche 911 GT America

Cooper MacNeil (US), Leh Keen (US), Andrew Davis (US), Shane van Gisbergen (New Zealand)

NOTES: Keen was GRAND-AM Rolex GT Champion in 2011 and 2009, driving Porsche 911s both times. Davis was his Brumos co-driver in the 2011 championship. Van Gisbergen competes full-time in the Australia-based International V8 Supercars championship, winning 5 races last year and finishing second in the points standings.  

 

#23 Alex Job

Mario Farnbacher (Germany)

 

#33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT

Ben Keating (US), Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands), Marc Goossens (Belgium)

NOTES: Bleekemolen won Le Mans LMP2 class in 2008.  

 

#44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT America

John Potter (US), Andy Lally (US), Marco Seefried (Germany)

NOTES: Lally won in class at the Rolex 24 in 2001, 2009, 2011, and 2012 and was Rolex series GT champion in 2001, 2004, and 2006. Potter also drove in the 2012 victory.

 

#48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS

Christopher Haase (Germany), Bryce Miller (US), Dion von Moltke (US), Rene Rast (Germany)

NOTES: von Moltke took the GT-class win at Daytona in 2013. Rast won the same class in 2012 and was Porsche Supercup Champion 2010-12.

 

#58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America

Madison Snow (US), Jan Heylen (Belgium), Patrick Dempsey (US)

 

#63 Scuderia Corse Ferrari 458 Italia

Bill Sweedler (US), Townsend Bell (US), Anthony Lazarro (US), Jeff Segal (US)

NOTES: Sweedler and Bell won GTD at Daytona in 2014 and took the class championship in the North American Endurance Cup as well. Segal also drove in last year’s victory and was Rolex Series GT-class champion in 2010 and 2012.

 

#81 GB Autosport Porsche 911 America

Damien Faulkner (Ireland), Mike Skeen (US)

 

#93 Riley Motorsports

Kuno Wittmer (Canada), Dominik Farnbacher (Germany)

NOTES: Wittmer was the Tudor Series GTLM class champion in 2014. Farnbacher won GT class at Daytona in 2005.

 

#007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage

James Davison (Australia), Christina Nielsen (Denmark), Christoffer Nygaard (Denmark)

NOTES: Nygaard is a factory driver for Aston Martin Racing in the FIA WEC, participating in the make’s 1-2 sweep of the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMGTE Am Teams in 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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