Joao Barbosa Interview

The new decade brings a change of scenery for Joao Barbosa, with the move to JDC-Miller Motorsport after nine successful years at Action Express. The Portuguese driver won three Rolex 24’s along with two IMSA titles during his tenure with the team, but the loss of sponsor Mustang Sampling prompted this move.

He is reunited with Mustang Sampling at JDC-Miller, with Sebastien Bourdais signed as his team mate. Barbosa has solidified himself as top line driver in IMSA, and his experience will massively help the JDC-Miller team. Audi DTM racer Loic Duval joins them for the Rolex. With the race only a matter of days away, I quickly spoke with Joao to get his thoughts on the upcoming event.

What has the winter been like adjusting to a new team at JDC-Miller?

It’s been a busy off season for me. To make the switch from AXR to JDC took a lot of effort from everyone to make it happen. But Mustang Sampling, Cadillac, me and everyone involved really thought this could be the start of something really good.


Barbosa (centre) celebrating his third Rolex 24 win in 2018 with Action Express team mates Christian Fittipaldi (left) and Filipe Albuquerque (right). Photo: Motorsport.com 

How tough was it to leave Action Express after enjoying so many successful years there?

We were very successful together! I have a lot to thank for the opportunity to work with such great people at AXR and learned a lot. But life moves on and I’m very excited about this new challenge.

What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the Cadillac at Daytona?

The competition is very strong. I don’t think we have any advantage at this point. We are lacking top speed compared to our main competitors. But the Cadillac has proven to be very reliable and strong for a 24h race.

How was the Roar test for the #5 team?

The Roar was very good. It’s the first time I got to work with JDC on track. We know that there is still a lot of work to do but, we worked well together. We were competitive , on pace, compared to the other Cadillac’s. And that’s our first goal.


It’s the same livery, just with a new team. The arrival of Barbosa will only boost the JDC-Miller Motorsport team. Photo: Motorsport.com

Who are your main rivals at the Rolex 24 this year?

Obviously Mazda and Acura have showed that they are very quick. They will be the cars to beat.

What’s it like working with Sebastien? Do you have a good working relationship?

It’s great to work with Sebastian again, now for a full season. He’s very quick and a great guy. We got along really well and his experience is always very valuable. Coming from Indy car it will take him a little bit of time to adapt to the Cadillac and the IMSA rules, but he will be up to speed very quickly.

And finally, what are yours and the teams goals for the season?

Our goal is to improve in every race and be competitive among the Cadillac’s. Would be great if we can get a couple of podiums this year!

I would like to thank Joao for taking the time to answer these questions, and wish him and the team the best of luck for the 2020 season! Follow me on Twitter @JWjournalism if you liked this article!


Tristan Vautier Interview

The Rolex 24 kicks the IMSA WeatherTech season off this weekend in style, with a 24 hour sprint race around the Daytona International Speedway. In the build up to the race I spoke with Frenchman Tristan Vautier. Vautier has built his career in America, first excelling on the Mazda Road to Indy program.

He worked his way up to Indycar, but only managed one season at the top level in 2013. Since then his focus has switched to sportscar racing. He has been racing in IMSA since 2014, along with a burgeoning international GT career with Mercedes-Benz. Vautier drove for JDC-Miller Motorsport last year, with two fifths their best results in a tough  season for the team.

The team has expanded to two cars for this year, and their Cadillac package is always competitive, especially at Daytona. After testing both cars at the Roar, Vautier was a late confirmation for the #85 crew alongside Matheus Leist, Juan Piedrahita and Chris Miller. With the race only a matter of days away, let’s see how Vautier views the teams chances.


Vautier celebrating winning the Intercontinental GT Challenge in 2018. His role with Mercedes-Benz is expanding. Photo: Mercedes-Benz.

How happy are you to be back with JDC-Miller for the Rolex 24?

I’m super happy to be re-united with the team. Our relationship started in 2011 when we won the Star Mazda Championship together, which was a launching pad for me in my open wheel career. So it’s always special to run with them.

How much of a coup was it for the team to be running the #5 Mustang Sampling car?

The team proved last year that we could do a good job with the Cadillac considering it was our first season with the car. So I think it’s logical that it attracted some interest.

What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the Cadillac at Daytona?

It’s hard to say, the whole field was very tight at the Roar. Mazda and Acura seemed to have an edge on straight line speed, which obviously plays a big part in the lap time around Daytona,  but the Cadillac was strong in the infield. 


Vautier was a late confirmation at JDC-Miller, but returns to the team he drove for last season. Photo: Michael Levitt/Jake Galstad via IMSA.

How was the Roar test for the #85 team?

The Roar was very good for the whole team. We unloaded strong and started at a much better place than last year. Action Express seemed to still have a slight edge on us but we were close.All 4 of us were happy with the car balance and we were all relatively strong pace-wise, so we are setting higher goals for ourselves this year for sure.

Who are your main rivals at the Rolex 24 this year?

The field is so competitive, there isn’t a single car that you can’t discount. We’ll just focus on ourselves and try to execute a good race, and see where that puts us.

Are you likely to do more endurance rounds with JDC-Miller this year?


That’s our common goal but nothing is sure at the moment. The only thing I can control right now is my performance at Daytona. After that, we’ll see.

Are you likely to be back in GT3 racing this year and what series are you likely to focus on?
I should be back in GT3 in Europe, I’m just not sure yet what my program will be exactly.
I would like to thank Tristan for taking the time to answer these questions and wish him the best of luck for this weekend. Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism if you have any comments on this piece.


2020 Rolex 24 GTD Preview Part Two

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!













2020 Rolex 24 GTD Preview Part One

Part four of my Rolex 24 preview looks at the GTD class, open to GT3 machinery. If you would like to view my other class previews, you can find DPI here, LMP2 here and GTLM here. The GTD class is by far the biggest in the race, with 18 entries from nine different makes.

The class focuses on pro/am racing, similarly to LMP2, with the focus being on pairing amateur drivers with professionals. With 18 entries and nine different cars, the class will provide intense racing the entire 24 hours. Let’s preview the first half of this GTD class.

#9 Pfaff Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R: Lars Kern/Dennis Olsen/Patrick Pilet/Zach Robichon

Pfaff Motorsport return to IMSA, aiming to improve upon a very good 2019 season. Two wins at Lime Rock and Road America propelled the team to third in the GTD standings. Porsche’s renewed focus on GT racing has massively improved their 911 GT3 car across the world.

Canadian Zach Robichon impressed last year and so returns for the full season, partnered with Dennis Olsen. Porsche factory drivers Lars Kern and Patrick Pilet complete the line-up for Daytona.

Qualifying at the Roar didn’t go to plan, with Robichon placing the Porsche 14th. The team ran consistently during the test without any issues. The pace wasn’t there, except when Pilet was in the car, but don’t discount them. The Porsche is a proven package and their driver line up deserves respect.


#11 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Albert Costa/Richard Heistand/Franck Perera/Steijn Schothorst

De facto Lamborghini factory team GRT Grasser Racing have made the switch to IMSA  this year, after impressive cameo appearances in recent seasons. The team are twice defending Rolex 24 champions, along with a Sebring 12 Hours class win last year. Despite only running the Michelin Endurance Cup rounds, the team are a formidable opponent.

Lamborghini factory aces Albert Costa and Franck Perera lead the team, joining very quick silver rated driver Steijn Schothorst. Richard Heistand moves across from Lexus to complete the quartet.

The car ran quickly at the Roar in the hands of Costa and Perera, with Heistand going ninth in the qualifying session. The team have a proven pedigree in Europe, and recent years have shown that the Lamborghini is ideally suited to Daytona.


#12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3: Townsend Bell/Shane van Gisbergen/Frankie Montecalvo/Aaron Telitz

AIM Vasser Sullivan return for a second year running the Lexus GT3  program, after a promising debut season. The team came a close second at the Rolex 24 last year with this #12 car.

Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo return, with Indy Lights star Aaron Telitz also back as the third driver. Completing the team is Australian V8 Supercars star Shane van Gisbergen. His signing is a real coup for the team, as he embarks on his fifth Rolex 24.

Montecalvo topped the Roar qualifying session, a boost for the team heading into the race. He was consistently quick in the car, with a faultless three days another promising sign. They have all the ingredients to go one better than their second last year.


#14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3: Kyle Busch/Parker Chase/Michael de Quesada/Jack Hawksworth

The #14 car has created headlines this year, thanks to signing Nascar superstar Kyle Busch for his Rolex 24 debut. The team showed enormous promise last year, with third in the Sprint Cup and two wins in a stellar debut year.

Jack Hawksworth returns, this time partnered with Parker Chase. 2017 Rolex 24 GTD winner Michael de Quesada joins for the Endurance rounds, along with Busch.

Hawksworth did a masterful job to top the opening Roar test session by three tenths of a second, a big gap in this class. From here the test was used to get the others up to speed. De Quesada and Busch had never driven the car before. The team has a great line-up, they just need more time in the car


#16 Wright Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R: Klaus Bachler/Ryan Hardwick/Anthony Imperato/Patrick Long    

Wright Motorsport steps across into IMSA from the Blancpain GT World Challenge America. The team do have prior experience of the Rolex 24.

Porsche factory driver Patrick Long joins Ryan Hardwick for the season, with Anthony Imperato joined by fellow Porsche factory ace Klaus Bachler for this race. Imperato was with the team in Blancpain last year, with Hardwick moving across from Paul Miller Racing.

Long put the car in the top five for the Saturday night session at the Roar, however Imperato struggled in the qualifying session. 17th and 1.2 seconds back is tough, but the test is about gaining experience and the team ran smoothly throughout.


#19 GRT GEAR Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Tatiana Calderon/Rahel Frey/Katherine Legge/Christina Nielsen

The second GRT entry falls under the GEAR Racing banner. GEAR are promoting women in motorsport, starting in IMSA. The initiative aims to expand into other forms of motorsport, and has already garnered plenty of publicity.

Katherine Legge moves across after three successful years with Michael Shank, and is joined by former double class champion Christina Nielsen. Completing the all female line-up is experienced GT racer Rahel Frey and F2 convert Tatiana Calderon.

The car completed over 160 laps across the three day Roar test, as all four driver get used to a new car. The Lamborghini package is competitive at Daytona, so gaining as much experience as possible before the race will be key.


#23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3: Roman de Angelis/Ian James/Alex Riberas/Nicki Thiim 

The popular Heart of Racing team return to IMSA after a three year absence. The team raises money for Seattle Children’s hospital and has raised over $6 Million since 1997. Their Aston Martin Vantage GT3 car is making it’s IMSA debut, the first Aston Martin customer IMSA program in several years.

Alex Riberas returns to the team, joining reigning Porsche GT3 Cup American and Canada champion Roman de Angelis. Team manager Ian James joins for the endurance rounds, with factory driver Nicki Thiim along for Daytona.

The team never troubled the top of the times during the seven test sessions, but they did run consistent lap times without issues. Thiim is the only one with experience of this car, so the team has a lot to learn in a short space of time. Simply finishing the Rolex 24 would be a great result.


#44 GRT Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Andy Lally/Marco Mapelli/John Potter/Spencer Pumpelly 

The third GRT Grasser run entry is this #44 car, which takes on Magnus Racing branding after the popular team disbanded last year. The team were mainstays of IMSA, but return with new support.

Magnus team owner John Potter returns, along with long time co-driver Andy Lally. Spencer Pumpelly joins for the endurance races, with factory driver Marco Mapelli recruited for Daytona.

The #44 team were consistently at the top during the Roar. Amateur driver Potter struggled in the qualifying session, but the car was very quick in the other drivers hands. The team were tenth last year, but as former two-time winners of the Rolex 24 this entry cannot be discounted.


#47 Precision Performance Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Brandon Gdovic/Johnathan Hoggard/Mark Kvamme/Eric Lux

PPM Motorsport return for another year of IMSA competition with their #47 Lamborghini Huracan GT3. The team only ran the Michelin Endurance Cup rounds last year, their second in IMSA after moving across from Nascar.

The owners son Brandon Gdovic returns, with Eric Lux joining after partial seasons in the LMP2 class. Johnathan Hoggard and Mark Kvamme were late additions from the aborted Rick Ware Racing LMP2 entry. Hoggard is the Sunoco Challenge winner, and as a British F3 race winner should be quick despite a lack of experience.

Gdovic impressed at the Roar, qualifying fourth, less than two tenths from top spot. Lux didn’t complete any laps, losing valuable driving time as he adjusts to GTD. Based off testing times, this #47 car could surprise a lot in the paddock.


#48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Andrea Caldarelli/Corey Lewis/Bryan Sellers/Madison Snow

Paul Miller Racing return for a fifth season with their Lamborghini Huracan. The team won at Laguna Seca last year. Problems last year limited them to 15th at the Rolex 24, a result they can improve upon.

Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow return, aiming to repeat their 2018 IMSA GTD title. Corey Lewis is back for the endurance rounds, with factory pilot Andrea Caldarelli also back for Daytona.

Caldarelli and Sellers had the car running competitive laps at the test, although Snow will be disappointed with 13th in qualifying. This team are looking to bounce back and repeat their 2018 form.


That wraps up the first half of my GTD class preview for the Rolex 24, stay tuned for part two coming very soon. Who do you think anyone deserves the tag of favourite for the race? Let me know either by commenting below or finding me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Thank you for reading! Finally, a big thank you must go to Motorsport.com for the high quality images in this post.












2020 Rolex 24 GTLM Preview

Part three of my review looks at the super competitive GTLM class. If you would like to read part two of my preview looking at the LMP2 class, you can find it here. You can also find part one, looking at the DPI class here.

The class is much changed for 2020, with the biggest news being Ford’s withdrawal after four successful years with their Ford GT. Their loss brings the class down to seven entries, however don’t be mistaken into thinking the class is struggling. Four different makes, all with factory line-up’s will be competing for the coveted Rolex watch. This class is arguably the most competitive in the series, and will be fought tooth and nail for 24 hours.

#3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R: Nicky Catsburg/Antonio Garcia/Jordan Taylor

Corvette Racing returns for it’s 21st year of IMSA competition, but it’s all change this year. The team are debuting their new Corvette C8.R, the first mid-engined Corvette. Gone is the distinctive thunderous noise, a by-product of needing to remain competitive.

There’s a new face on the driving front too, with former DPI star Jordan Taylor moving from dad Wayne Taylor’s team to join Corvette Racing. Spaniard Antonio Garcia returns for his seventh full year with the team, with former BMW factory driver Nicky Catsburg as the third driver.

The team understandably focused on reliability at the Roar, with the car running faultlessly across the three days. This #3 entry completed over 160 laps, as they learn about this new mid-engined Corvette. Garcia was last in the qualifying session, but was only 0.4s off the ultimate pace. This emphasises just how competitive this class is.


#4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R: Marcel Fassler/Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner

The #4 crew are looking to bounce back after a tough 2019 season. Eighth in the standings and no wins is something the team isn’t used to. The new C8.R is a bold step for the team, but something they felt they needed to do.

The team retain Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner for their ninth season as a duo. Marcel Fassler is the third driver, and has with plenty of experience with Corvette Racing. The Roar went perfectly for the #4 crew, completing 180 laps across the three days and Milner put the car third in the qualifying session, only one tenth off the pace.

Debuting a new car in a 24 hour race doesn’t usually go well, but Corvette Racing have done everything they can to make this car reliable straight out the box.


#24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE: John Edwards/Augusto Farfus/Jesse Krohn/Chaz Mostert

BMW put an end to their WEC program, but they remain committed to IMSA. It’s a case of much the same with BMW, retaining the same car, team and full season drivers for this #24 entry. This team will want a chance to repeat their teammates Rolex 24 win last year.

American John Edwards and Finnish racer Jesse Krohn return, aiming to improve upon seventh in the standings last year. BMW factory racer Augusto Farfus joins, along with Australian V8 Supercars star Chaz Mostert.

Krohn put the car fourth in the qualifying session at the Roar, but only a tenth and a half off the ultimate pace. They completed 165 laps over the three days, although never troubled the top of the times.


#25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE: Connor De Phillippi/Philipp Eng/Colton Herta/Bruno Spengler

The #25 crew enter as defending champions, being in the right place at the time when torrential rain prematurely stopped the race. The team are entering their third year with this M8 GTE, and have shown the car is built to last 24 hours.

Connor De Phillippi returns for the season, with Canadian Bruno Spengler replacing the departed Tom Blomqvist. Spengler has waved goodbye to the German DTM series, and now takes up a sportscar role full time. Joining them at Daytona is Philipp Eng and Colton Herta. Eng is a superstar for BMW in GT3 racing, with Herta one of the rising stars of Indycar.

In Eng’s hands the car was sixth in qualifying, only 0.3s off the top of the times. The team showed early pace, topping both sessions two and three on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning respectively. Based off the Roar, this is the BMW showing itself to have the better chance of a repeat Rolex 24 win.


#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE Evo: James Calado/Alessandro Pier Guidi/Davide Rigon/Daniel Serra 

Renowned Ferrari team Risi Competitzione return for another chance of a Rolex watch. The single car team are the only non-factory team in GTLM, however they still have plenty of Ferrari support. This is the IMSA debut for the new Evo spec 488 GTE, with the previous spec winning last time out at Petit Le Mans last October.

The team have a full Ferrari factory line-up, consisting of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi, Davide Rigon and Daniel Serra. Calado, Pier Guidi and Serra all won at Petit Le Mans, meanwhile Rigon joined the team for their run to second here last year.

The team only competed in two races last year, however they scored a second and a win in those outings. Calado also set the fastest time in qualifying, and the team were able to complete 165 laps in the three days. Their pace and consistency across the Roar shows this team is a serious contender for GTLM victory at a Daytona circuit that suits the Ferrari.


#911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19: Matt Campbell/Frederic Makowiecki/Nick Tandy

CORE Autosport return to run the Porsche factory GT IMSA program this year, after a year of unrivaled success. The team finished 1-2 in the points, with six wins from the possible eleven rounds. Sadly for the #911 crew it was their team mates that won the title, but a Sebring 12 Hours class win is a very good consolation.

Nick Tandy returns for the season, and is joined by Frenchman Frederic Makowiecki. Makowiecki was previously the third driver for the endurance rounds but steps up after ditching his Super GT commitments with Nissan in Japan. Newly elevated factory ace Matt Campbell completes the trio.

This is the IMSA debut for the new spec Porsche 911 RSR, which has already won two of four races in the WEC. Tandy put the car second in qualifying, agonizingly only one thousandth of a second from Calado. The car ran faultlessly at the Roar, managing 171 laps along with consistently quick times.


#912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19: Earl Bamber/Mathieu Jaminet/Laurens Vanthoor

The #912 crew came out on top in 2019, and will be aiming to repeat this year. The best way to start a GTLM title defense will be with a Rolex 24 win. The new spec Porsche 911 RSR has looked quick both at the Roar and in the WEC, so all the signs point towards another good year for Porsche.

Close friends Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor return, with Mathieu Jaminet stepping up from GT3 racing into the third driver role. All three are prodigiously quick GT drivers who can set consistently quick lap times for multiple stints at a time.

The Roar went well for the team. They were consistently quick over the three days, most notably topping the night time session on Saturday. The car ran faultlessly through the test, which is a great sign for a new spec car. The only blemish for the team was their poor display in qualifying, with Vanthoor putting the car fifth. This session only decided pit box allocation for the race, but in a class as closely fought as GTLM, the small margins can decide the race.


That wraps up my preview for the GTLM class with the Rolex 24 almost upon us. This class always provides scintillating battles for 24 hours, and this year will be no different. Expect this class to go right to the chequered flag. Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism if you have any thoughts on this piece, and thank you for reading! A massive thanks must go to Motorsport.com for the great photos in this post.






2020 Rolex 24 LMP2 Preview

This is part two of my preview for the upcoming Rolex 24, if you would like to visit part one previewing the DPI class you can find it here. Part two is looking at the LMP2 class, which is enjoying a resurgence in 2020.

After a down year where the class came close to folding because of lack of entries, tweaks from IMSA have helped massively. The class has five entries for the Rolex 24, with the majority sticking around for the full IMSA season.The late withdrawal of Rick Ware Racing and a second PR1 entry dampened the feel good, yet the class has still improved massively this year. Just like with the DPI class, any of the five cars can win their class.

#8 Tower Motorsport by Starworks Oreca 07: Ryan Dalziel/John Farano/David Heinemeier Hansson/Nicolas Lapierre

Starworks Motorsport return to the prototype ranks after a difficult 2019 season in GTD. The team enjoyed their most successful period fighting for wins in Grand-Am, and their return is welcome news. The team have gone with the dominant Oreca package, and should enter the race as class favourites.

Ryan Dalziel and John Farano are the full season drivers, and are joined by David Heinemeier Hansson and Nico Lapierre for this event . This is a seriously strong line-up. Lapierre and Dalziel are very quick and experienced, with Farano and Heinemeier Hansson some of the best Am drivers.

Farano was fourth in the Roar qualifying session, but in every other session the car was in the top three. Along with completing over 175 laps to gain experience with the car, the test showed this team is a serious contender.


#18 Era Motorsport Oreca 07: Ryan Lewis/Dwight Merriman/Nicolas Minassian/Kyle Tilley

Another brand new team to IMSA this year is Era Motorsports. The team has emerged from historic motorsport, with team principal Kyle Tilley working overtime to get this program off the ground. The team are doing the full season, with Tilley and Dwight Merriman driving.

Tilley and Merriman both have good motorsport experience, however are unproven at this level. Ryan Lewis brings experience along with good pace, although Nicolas Minassian is the star amongst the team. The Frenchman has a wealth of prototype experience and is a very quick peddler.

Completing over 150 laps at the Roar was great for a team lacing IMSA experience. Merriman struggled in the qualifying session, setting the slowest time of those that completed a lap. Finishing the race would be a good result any new team, anything else would be a bonus.


#38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca 07: Cameron Cassels/Kyle Masson/Robert Masson/Don Yount

Performance Tech are one of two returning entries from last year, and remain largely unchanged for 2020. The team have performed at this level for several years now, always punching above their weight.

Cameron Cassels and Kyle Masson return as full season drivers, and are joined by Am’s Robert Masson and Don Yount. Kyle will be the quick driver in this team, with his father taking time out of his day job as a leading spinal surgeon to join him for Daytona. The drivers may struggle to match more illustrious names in this class, but have always performed reliably and consistently.

Third in qualifying at the Roar was impressive. This was the highlight of their Roar. The team at least completed some solid laps, with experience being their biggest strength.


#52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport Oreca 07: Gabriel Aubry/Nick Boulle/Ben Keating/Simon Trummer

PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport return in 2020 as defending LMP2 champions, albeit against very limited competition. The team have been mainstays of IMSA racing for several seasons now, and return with a largely different driving crew.

Gabriel Aubry is the only returnee from last year, a shrewd move as he is one of the most promising LMP2 talents in the WEC. Simon Trummer joins the team from JDC-Miller, with Am’s Nick Boulle and Ben Keating completing the line-up. Keating will garner headlines as he is pulling double duty between this entry and the Riley Motorsport entry in GTD.

The Roar was great for the team, with Ben Keating setting the quickest time in the qualifying session, along with completing almost 200 laps across three days. The car was particularly quick in the hands of Aubry and Trummer. This team has a very good chance of victory, with a balanced line-up and a very quick car.


#81 DragonSpeed Oreca 07: Colin Braun/Ben Hanley/Henrik Hedman/Harrison Newey

DragonSpeed return to Daytona as defending Rolex 24 champions, although it wasn’t this car that won. The team have expanded to do the full season, and want to start it off with another Rolex victory. The team has quickly emerged as a force in LMP2 in Europe, and now want success in America.

Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman are doing the year, and are joined by Colin Braun and Harrison Newey in Florida. This team has a very balanced line-up. Newey is a quick young driver making his IMSA debut, with Braun and Hanley both providing speed and experience. Hedman is a solid Am driver.

The team showed tremendous pace throughout the three day test, topping four of the seven sessions. Hedman went second quickest in the qualifying session, showing he can compete with the other bronze rated drivers in the class. The team has the pace to win this class, it just comes down to strategy and reliability.


That wraps up part two of my Rolex 24 previews, with the LMP2 class set to provide plenty of action across the 24 hours. Who do you think will win the class? Let me know by either commenting below or finding me on Twitter @JWjournalism. A special thanks must also go to Motorsport.com and IMSA.com for the high quality images in this post.




2020 Rolex 24 DPI Preview

The new decade brings the same ultra competitive IMSA WeatherTech series. The centre-piece Rolex 24 will be the first major sportscar race of the decade, and always attracts the best teams and drivers from around the globe. To win the famous Rolex watch can launch careers, and this year is set to yet another 24 hour sprint race.

The DPI class returns with eight entries, down slightly from eleven last year. Despite the drop in numbers, the outstanding quality remains. Wayne Taylor Racing return to defend their crown with a much changed line-up, with Acura duo Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya also back after claiming the title last year. Let’s take a look at the eight DPI entries.

#5 JDC-Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPI-V.R: Joao Barbosa/Sebastien Bourdais/Loic Duval

JDC Miller have partnered with Mustang Sampling for their strongest IMSA line-up to date. Mustang Sampling took multiple titles and Rolex 24 wins during their almost decade long stint with Action Express.

Barbosa jumps across from Action Express, joining Indycar refugee Sebastien Bourdais. Bourdais was cruelly dropped from his Indycar drive, and will no doubt show that decision to be a mistake in IMSA. Le Mans 24 Hours winner Loic Duval warms up for his Audi DTM commitments with a Rolex 24 drive.

The team were consistent at the Roar test,completing over 150 laps during the three day test. The team never troubled the top of the times, and were a lowly seventh in the DPI pit box qualifying session. At this level the team will need both speed and reliability to trouble the podium.


#6 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05: Dane Cameron/Juan Pablo Montoya/Simon Pagenaud 

Acura realised their potential last year, winning the title with this #6 crew in their second year in IMSA. Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya were faultless all year, and thoroughly deserving champions with three wins. They return aiming to start their title defense strong with a Rolex 24 win.

Last year the Acura struggled with the unique demands of Daytona, struggling for top speed on the banking sections, yet the pre-race BOP adjustments weren’t kind to Acura. Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud completes a very strong driver line-up. Despite lacking top speed you can never discount Team Penske.

Juan Pablo Montoya noted that Acura struggled for outright pace at the Roar, however they did show promise with their Sunday running. Third in the qualifying session shows the team has improved compared to last year.


#7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05: Helio Castroneves/Ricky Taylor/Alex Rossi

The #7 crew were overshadowed last year by their title winning team mates, something they will no doubt want to rectify. It’s the third year of this Acura Team Penske program, and they have yet to win the Rolex 24.

Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor are joined by former Indy 500 champion Alex Rossi. He has experience of the Acura from last year, and this is yet another formidable line-up in this class.

They showed good one lap pace on Sunday at the Roar, topping a Sunday session and pipped their team mates for second in the qualifying session. To pick one Acura over the other is impossible, both are very strong contenders.


#10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPI-V.R: Ryan Briscoe/Scott Dixon/Kamui Kobayashi/Renger van der Zande 

The 2019 Rolex 24 victors return, but are much changed. Gone is son of team owner Wayne Taylor Jordan Taylor, and superstar Fernando Alonso is also missing. In their place are two refugees from the Ford GT GTLM program, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon.

Dixon is a legend of Indycar racing, and the five-time champion also has a rich history at the Rolex 24. Ryan Briscoe replaces Taylor as the team mate to Van der Zande. Toyota WEC racer Kamui Kobayashi returns after a successful cameo last year.

The Sunday running encapsulated their test. They finished bottom of the qualifying session to decide pit boxes, but then topped the final Sunday afternoon session. The team has a wealth of experience, so counting them out would be stupid. The team need Dixon and Briscoe to get up to speed with the Cadillac quickly.


#31 Whelen Engineering Action Express Cadillac DPI-V.R: Pipo Derani/Felipe Nasr/Filipe Albuquerque/Mike Conway

Action Express have scaled back from two to one car this year, but what a team they have assembled. The team is well proven and hugely successful in IMSA, something they hope to carry over from 2019. Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr are arguably the strongest driver line-up, and are joined by Toyota WEC ace Mike Conway, along with former Audi WEC racer and Rolex 24 winner Filipe Albuquerque.

The team just missed out on the IMSA title last year, and have finished no lower than second in the past three Rolex 24’s. The team were the strongest Cadillac runner at the Roar, so fourth in the qualifying session will be a slight disappointment. Cadillac has dominated the Rolex 24 in recent years, so to be the quickest Cadillac runner is a very good sign.


#55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P: Jonathan Bomarito/Ryan Hunter-Reay/Harry Tincknell

Mazda finally delivered in 2019 after showing frequent flashes previously. Winning three races was a massive step for the Mazda Team Joest crew, but now they want victory in the marquee race.

Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell return, with Indycar star Ryan Hunter-Reay joining for Daytona. The Mazda showed incredible one lap pace at the test, with this entry in the top two for the first five sessions across Friday and Saturday. Fifth in the qualifying session was disappointing, but the car showed enough to suggest they have the pace to win. Now they need the reliability over 24 hours.


#77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P: Oliver Jarvis/Tristan Nunez/Olivier Pla

This #77 stole the headlines from the pre-race test, setting an unofficial lap record during the Roar qualifying session. Frenchman Olivier Pla bettered team mate Oliver Jarvis lap record from qualifying last year by 0.074s.

Jarvis and Tristan Nunez are the full season drivers, with Pla joining for the Rolex. All three are seriously quick and experienced with the Mazda, and make a formidable combination.

Completing over 165 laps across all three days, allied with their extreme pace they showed will make them pre-race favourites based on the testing form. Reliability will be the key for Mazda, as they have failed to score a top six finish at the Rolex 24 in the past five years.


#85 JDC-Miller Motorsport Cadillac DPI-V.R: Matheus Leist/Chris Miller/Juan Piedrahita/Tristan Vautier

This #85 entry is rebounding from a difficult 2019 season. The team struggled despite a good Cadillac DPI package, with their best result of fifth coming in the Rolex 24. The other side of the garage has stolen the headlines with the recruitment of Mustang Sampling, but this entry is full of potential also.

Tristan Vautier and Juan Piedrahita are the full season drivers, and are joined by Indycar prospect Matheus Leist and Chris Miller for Daytona. Vautier is the standout here, with Leist and Piedrahita providing youth and plenty of pace.

The team had a very solid Roar, with sixth in the qualifying session. The team has shown potential and reliability, but they appear to lack a few tenths from the ultimate contenders. A podium would be a great result for the #85 crew.


That wraps up this preview for the Rolex 24 and the DPI class. Despite only eight entries every one of them has a chance of a podium. With three makes competing for the famed Rolex watch, let the sprint race commence.

Who will come out on top? Cadillac has dominated in previous years, but can Mazda or Acura dethrone them? Let me know in the comment section below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Also a big credit must go to Motorsport.com for the high quality images in this post.





Arsenal Coaching Candidates

Arsenal are a football club currently in crisis. They sacked manager Unai Emery two weeks ago, yet the club does not appear to have a succinct plan to replace him. There has been talk of a laundry list of 12-15 candidates in mind, showing a lack of forward planning from the owner and the board.

Fans and pundits seem split on who is the right candidate for Arsenal. Some want a big name like Max Allegri or Carlo Ancelotti, others want a former player like Patrick Vieira. Some are calling for a younger, more progressive coach like Julian Nagelsmann. With so much confusion surrounding this, I thought I would do a quick piece looking at some of those linked with the job, and some I would like to see at Arsenal.

Carlo Ancelotti

Ancelotti has been heavily linked with the Arsenal job since his sacking from Napoli last week. The Italian is a household name with an incredible resume filled with success everywhere he’s been.

He has experience of the Premier League from a two-year stint at Chelsea, however some question whether he is right for Arsenal. He is 60 years old and turning around a club in crisis is something he has little experience of. He is also being heavily linked with the Everton job, so the club would need to act quick if he’s their man.


Ancelotti’s last major title was the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich in 2017. Some also question whether he could turn Arsenal around? Photo: CarloAncelotti.it

Max Allegri 

Allegri is a name fans were calling for 18 months ago when it was announced Arsene Wenger was standing down. The Italian enjoyed incredible success at Juventus, dominating domestically and twice reached the Champions League final.

Since leaving Juventus in the summer he has taken time away from the game, a move that could go either way in his next job. He has admitted to taking English lessons, however Emery’s poor English showed how much it can hinder a manager. He would be a good appointment, but would he want this job right now?


Max Allegri celebrates his fifth successive Serie A title with Cristiano Ronaldo. With their current malaise would he want the job? Photo: Giampiero Sposito/Getty Images.

Mikel Arteta

Arteta has been heavily linked with the job over the weekend after it appears he met with the chief executive. The current Manchester City assistant was a contender for the job last summer, so it’s clear the current regime at Arsenal are very high on him.

That he played almost 150 games for the club between 2011 and 2016 only enhances his chances, as Arsenal would love to replicate the attacking style Manchester City play. He would be a risky appointment with his lack of managerial experience, but having learned under Pep Guardiola, who worlds best manager, he could be a risk worth taking.


Mikel Arteta has learned under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, has his time come for his first managerial job. Photo: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images.

Patrick Vieira

Club legend Vieira was an early contender for the job, with fans and pundits using the example of Frank Lampard at Chelsea and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United. The Frenchman would have a lot of fan support, however he lacks managerial experience.

He did well at New York City FC, but his results at Nice have been mixed. They have started the season slowly, currently 13th in Ligue 1. He would be a good story at the club, although many will question whether the step up is too soon for Vieira considering the mess Arsenal are currently in.


Vieira is a club legend at Arsenal, but has had mixed success at Nice. Could the step up to Arsenal be too big given their current state. Photo: Jean-Francois Monier/Getty Images.

Julian Nagelsmann 

Nagelsmann is one of the hottest young coaches in Europe, having proved his credentials in the Bundesliga. He took his first club Hoffenheim from the relegation zone to the Champions League in two seasons, before joining RB Leipzig this summer.

Leipzig currently top the Bundesliga and play exciting football with a team filled with young talent. Reaching the round of 16 in the Champions League shows his skills translate to Europe also. He would be tough to tear away from Leipzig, but would be a statement of intent from the Arsenal hierarchy.


Nagelsmann has revitalized RB Leipzig since the summer, having established them as Bundesliga title contenders. Photo: DPA/A.Gora

Marcelo Gallardo

Not well-known in Europe, Gallardo will no doubt soon get his chance. The Argentinian has enjoyed tremendous success at River Plate, with two Copa Libertadores titles and a final appearances in five years.

He is still young at 43 and is fully deserving of a chance in the top five leagues of Europe. It would be a bold choice to appoint him, but so was hiring Arsene Wenger in 1996. He may need time to develop, but will Arsenal see it as worth the risk to be too soon rather than too late with appointing him?


Gallardo celebrates with his players after winning a second Copa Libertadores title last year. Photo: Conmebol.

At the moment it appears Arteta is the favourite for the job, so who do you think should be the next Arsenal manager? Let me know in the comments section below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Thank you for reading this piece, I really appreciate it!


Where is the Leadership at Arsenal?

Leadership. Something that has been lacking both on and off the pitch for a long time at Arsenal football club. There are multiple parties worthy of equal blame, it’s not simply the players just because they are the ones we see every week. It starts from the top down, in a toxic trickle down effect.

First of all, let’s start at the top, with the owner Stan Kroenke. Since 2011 he has been the majority shareholder at Arsenal and the nickname “Silent Stan” underplays his involvement in the club. He rarely attends games and leaves the day-to day running of the club to son Josh.

Although Stan will get regular updates his distance restricts his knowledge on what is going on surrounding the club. After eight years in charge it’s clear he has a part to play in the clubs steady decline during his ownership. The team have dropped from a Champions League to Europa League side.


A rare sight of owner Stan Kroenke at an Arsenal game. The lack of leadership at this club starts with him. Photo: Getty Images.

In the last three years the club has been undergoing a transitional phase, with multiple obvious errors made in this period. Firstly, the club backed themselves into a corner with star players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. By letting their contracts go into the last six months made no business sense, and for a usually prudent club it cost them tens of millions of pounds.

The club sent Sanchez to Manchester United for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, in a deal that would prove terrible for both sides. The club then caved and gave Ozil and new three-year extension, making him the highest ever earner at Arsenal with £350 000 a week. His six goals and five assists in the first 18 months of this deal show what a poor decision this was.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and now it’s easy to say the appointment as Unai Emery was a mistake. At the time I personally for example was positive about the appointment. In his tenure the team lacked identity and was overly cautious. He wasn’t able to get the best from the players.


This pained expression was a regular one for Emery in his last months at Arsenal. His tenure put Arsenal in reverse. Photo: Getty Images.

Going without a win in nine games against the likes of Norwich, Brighton and Southampton showed the dire straits the team was in. His sacking two weeks ago was inevitable, with his tenure pulling Arsenal backwards as every one else takes forward steps.

Having not learned their lesson from Sanchez and Ozil the year before, the club told Aaron Ramsey they were withdrawing a contract offer as he didn’t fit their future vision. His drive and skill in midfield has been a major miss for Arsenal this season, with the team struggling in his absence to both score goals and remain solid defensively.

The clubs recruitment in recent years have also been very hit and miss. For every Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bernd Leno and Matteo Guendouzi there’s less convincing signings like Sokratis, David Luiz and Sead Kolasinac. The debacle with Granit Xhaka and the fans earlier in the season just typified a club lacking leadership. Both sides came out of it looking bad.


Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka showing his frustration at fans earlier this season. It wasn’t a good look for the captain, and his days seem numbered at the club. Photo: Getty Images.

After the Emery sacking reports have come out of a roll-call of potential 12-15 candidates. As a Arsenal fan it pains us to give Tottenham any credit, but look at how they dealt with their manager sacking. The got rid of the well respected Mauricio Pochettino because of poor form, appointing Jose Mourinho less than 12 hours later. It’s clear they had a pre-arranged plan in place and secured their manager quickly.

At Arsenal we don’t yet know two weeks later if interim manager Freddie Ljungberg will be in charge until the end of the season. Whilst it is good the club is taking their time to make the right appointment, the results under Freddie haven’t improved much from Emery’s reign.

Many top line managers have been linked such as Pochettino, Max Allegri or Carlo Ancelotti, but I think Arsenal need a younger, more progressive manager to guide them through this crisis. Ajax manager Erik ten Hag would be a great choice, however with our relative position right now he is likely out of our range.


Ajax manager Erik ten Hag would be a great appointment, but looks set to join Bayern Munich instead. Photo: Getty Images.

Attainable managers that would fit the progressive mould would be the likes of Julian Nagelsmann at RB Leipzig and Marcelo Gallardo at River Plate. Both have enjoyed tremendous success, and both would be a risk worth taking for their potential. An outside contender could be Gian Piero Gasperini of Atalanta.

They stole the headlines this week in the Champions League, and the job he’s done to take a small club to the knockout rounds of the worlds premier club competition is remarkable. All three are less well known then the likes of Poch and Ancelotti, however think back to 1996. Arsenal Wenger was a left-field, unknown when he took the Arsenal job.

The board and owner need to be on the same page to ensure the next Arsenal manager is the right one. They then need to make sure recruitment is improved to ensure the same issues don’t happen on the pitch. It’s then up to the players to play to their standard and lift this club back into the top four. It will be a difficult task to resurrect Arsenal, but waking a sleeping giant always is.

What are your thoughts on this piece? Let me know in the comment section below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Thank you everyone for reading this post, I would really appreciate it! 

Can RB Salzburg Cause An Upset?

In a few hours time RB Salzburg have the biggest game in their recent history. They welcome reigning Champions League winners Liverpool to the Red Bull Arena, with the chance to cause an upset. Group E is finely poised, with a Salzburg win putting them through at the expense of the European champions.

Austrian football is not known for it’s quality. Austrian clubs do not have a great history in the Champions League, making this potential achievement even more remarkable. The club has some European success, reaching the UEFA Cup final in 1994 along with a semi-final berth in 2017-18. Even with Red Bull backing, simply reaching the Champions League is a first for the club. So how did they get to this point?

SV Austria Salzburg were founded in 1933, it was bought and rebranded as RB Salzburg in 2005. With investment the club has risen to become a dominant power in Austrian football. Ten league titles in 15 years, along with regular Europa League appearances. They have always found ways to mess up qualifying for the Champions League, however were granted an automatic place this year as champions Liverpool qualified domestically.


RB Salzburg came so close to the 2018 Europa League final, falling 3-2 to Marseille in the semi-finals. Photo: Daniel Krug/Getty Images.

RB Salzburg have improved the quality of Austrian football, using the same model as sister club RB Leipzig have used. They have scouted impeccably, finding hidden gems before selling them on. Their most famous graduate will be facing them tonight. Sadio Mane arrived from Metz, spending two years in Austria before moving to Southampton in 2014 for £11.8m.

In recent years they have sold players to the likes of Inter Milan, Sevilla, Marseille and Bundesliga leaders Borussia Monchengladbach. They have learned to scout players away from the football spotlight. The player that has put them on the map is striker Erling Braut Haland, signed from Molde in Norway. He is being talked about as the next superstar striker, and is linked with moves to the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

Fellow striker Patson Daka was signed from Zambia in 2017, and has scored 13 goal in 17 league games this season. Hwang Hee-chan was signed from South Korean youth football, contributing three goals in their Champions League campaign. Takumi Minamino came from the Japanese league, now he has three assists and two goals from five games against Liverpool, Napoli and Genk.


Erling Braut Haland scoring against Liverpool in their 4-3 loss at Anfield. He has taken Europe by storm and will have a host of top clubs queuing up to sign him next summer. Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt/Getty Images. 

The team have stolen headlines with their attacking mentality in Europe. Most Champions League debutants are passive, however Salzburg have performed strongly. They have the third best goals record with 16 in five, along with the second top scorer, Haland, with eight goals.

Whatever happens in this game RB Salzburg have exceeded expectations this season. They are guaranteed a spot in the Europa League if they fail to qualify tonight, and will no doubt be a serious contender for that trophy. They are set to win yet another Austrian league title, and could still win the Austrian Cup.

Traditionalist fans may moan at their obvious corporate nature and what this means for football, but nobody can begrudge admiration for this team after their performances. They’ve looked like seasoned veterans not debutants at this level. The team is full of young talented players who play exciting attacking football. The fact we’re even talking about a potential upset tonight shows how far they’ve come in a short space of time.

Do you have any thoughts on this piece? If so feel free to either comment below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Thank you for reading this article, I really appreciate it!