This is the second half of my preview for the GTD class of the 2020 Rolex 24, if you want to see part one you can find it here. If you want to view my other previews, the DPI preview is here, LMP2 is here and GTLM is here.
It’s easy to say this about every class in the IMSA WeatherTech series as it’s so competitive, but GTD is super competitive. Almost every car has a good chance of victory, with the best GT3 drivers on the planet converging on Daytona. Let’s review the final half of this years entry.
#54 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R: Jeroen Bleekemolen/Trenton Estep/Sven Muller/Tim Pappas
Black Swan Racing have been mainstays of IMSA, but return after a truncated 2019 season. Team owner Tim Pappas was sidelined for eight months with injuries suffered at the Bathurst 12 Hours. The team are likely to contest the Michelin Endurance Cup, with their Porsche.
Pappas is joined by former team mate Jeroen Bleekemolen, a driver who has enjoyed large success with Ben Keating. Porsche factory driver Sven Muller is the hired gun, with Trenton Estep completing the quartet.
The team enjoyed a good Roar test, running consistently with flashes of pace. The team were able to give Pappas and Estep plenty of track time, getting them comfortable for the race. The car also ran in the top ten which shows encouraging pace. Estep earning 7th in the qualifying session in his first time in the car after taking a year out of racing is particularly impressive. This team can be a dark horse for at least a podium.
#57 Heinricher Racing with Meyer Shank Acura NSX GT3 Evo: A.J Allmendinger/Misha Goikhberg/Trent Hindman/Alvaro Parente
Meyer Shank and Heinricher Racing impressed in 2019, garnering plenty of support with their all-female line-up. Sadly because of a lack of sponsorship they have moved on, but the core team remains. Meyer Shank and the Acura NSX won the title last year with the sister #86 car, so the overall package is competitive.
The team have an all new full season line-up, with experienced GT racer Alvaro Parente joined by Misha Goikhberg. Goikhberg has raced with JDC-Miller in DPI the last several years. 2019 GTD champion Trent Hindman moves across for the endurance rounds, with A.J Allmendinger the final driver.
The car was quick throughout the seven test sessions, especially in the hands of Hindman and Parente. Fourth in the Rolex last year shows the car can be competitive at Daytona.
#63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo: Alessandro Balzan/Cooper MacNeil/Toni Vilander/Jeff Westphal
Scuderia Corsa are titans of the GTD class, with back-to back titles for the team in 2016 and 2017. The team debut the new Evo spec Ferrari 488 GT3 car, aiming to rebound from a tough Rolex 24 last year.
Cooper MacNeil and Ferrari factory ace Toni Vilander are back, along with Jeff Westphal for the endurance rounds. Double champion Alessandro Balzan returns to the team after a year away in 2019.
The team would love to win the Rolex 24, and looked very solid at the Roar. The new car ran without problems, completing 135 laps across the three days. The car also ran consistently in the top ten, a good sign for the race. Sixth in qualifying for Westphal also shows the team have a very consistent driving crew.
#74 Mercedes AMG Team Riley/Robinson Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 Evo: Lawson Aschenbach/Felipe Fraga/Ben Keating/Gar Robinson
Riley Motorsport have been ever present in the IMSA series, primarily running a program for keen Am Ben Keating. He has now stepped into the WEC, but the team have put a program together to return without him. The team are running the Evo spec Mercedes AMG GT3 for it’s IMSA debut.
Lawson Aschenbach and Gar Robinson are the full season duo, with Keating and Felipe Fraga joining for the Rolex 24. Fraga has solidified himself as an emerging star of GT3 racing, with Keating one of the quickest amateurs in this class.
The team were in the lower half of the times at the Roar, but they could have been focusing on consistent lap times over one lap pace. The team have plenty of experience and this is a solid package.
#86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 Evo: Mario Farnbacher/Jules Gounon/Matt McMurry/Shinya Michimi
This #86 team enter the season as defending champions, after a stellar 2019. The team were consistent and gave Acura their first major GT3 title with the NSX. The team are well proven in IMSA and will be tough to beat.
Mario Farnbacher returns to defend his crown, now with Matt McMurry for the season. McMurry has a wealth of prototype experience and knows the NSX well from his Blancpain Endurance stint last year. Bentley factory racer Jules Gounon is a big addition, with Shinya Michimi completing the team.
The team will be pleased with their running at the Roar, despite missing the majority of Sunday’s two sessions. The team ran some quick consistent laps, always placing in the top ten. McMurry did an outstanding job to secure second in the qualifying session, giving the team a preferential pit box and garage for the race.
#88 Audi Sport Team WRT Speedstar Audi R8 LMS Evo: Mirko Bortolotti/Rolf Ineichen/Daniel Morad/Dries Vanthoor
World renowned Team WRT return with support from Speedstar and Audi Sport Canada for another tilt at the Rolex 24. Their #88 car is the only Audi R8 on the grid at Daytona, a surprise given the enormous international success the car has enjoyed. The team scored a podium on their debut last year.
Mirko Bortolotti and Dries Vanthoor will headline this entry as Audi factory stars, with Bortolotti a double winner with Lamborghini in 2018-19. Rolf Ineichen has also moved to the German marque, with Canadian Daniel Morad completing the driving talent. Strangely enough, Vanthoor is the only driver in this team not to have won this event before.
Bortolotti and Morad did a majority of the laps at the Roar, with both showing flashes of real speed. Morad did well to secure a top eight spot in qualifying. The team is a very strong, and can be a contender if the Audi package can be competitive.
#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3: Bill Auberlen/Robby Foley/Jens Klingmann/Dillon Machavern
2019 was a outstanding year for Turner Motorsport, securing second in the standings for the sole BMW on the grid. The team also secured a brilliant Petit Le Mans win to finish on a high.
Longtime former BMW factory racer Bill Auberlen is joined by Robby Foley once again, with factory driver Jens Klingmann loaned to the team for Daytona. Dillon Machavern completes the line-up.
The team completed some good running at the Roar, with fluctuating pace during the three days. The team were likely running different programs during the sessions. Foley did a superb job with third in qualifying, with Klingmann and Auberlen consistently putting the car in the top ten.
#98 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3: Ross Gunn/Pedro Lamy/Mathias Lauda/Andrew Watson
This #98 entry is the first factory Aston Martin effort at the Rolex 24 since 2017. The team has been shrouded in mystery however, with amateur driver Paul Dalla Lana forced to pull out earlier this month because of a skiing injury. This meant the team only did very limited running on the Sunday at the Roar, severely hampering their preparations.
The team have factory driver Ross Gunn partnered with Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda for this race. Lamy and Lauda have been co-drivers with Dalla Lana since 2015, and have won the GTE Am class in the WEC three years ago. Andrew Watson has been drafted in as a late replacement for Dalla Lana.
Given the teams truncated running at the Roar, their preparation has been far from ideal. The team do have a great line-up, and with this being a one-off race they can go all guns blazing to secure the win.
That wraps up not only my GTD preview, but also my previews for every class at this years Rolex 24. Thank you to anyone who has read any of the five preview blogs I have posted, I really appreciate the support. If you have any thoughts on this race I would love to hear from you either comment below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you must go to IMSA.com, Motorsport.com and Dailysportscar.com for the incredible images you see in this post!