Juan Piedrahita

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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

2019 Rolex 24 DPI Preview

The only place to be as a racing driver in late January is Daytona International Speedway, for the annual Rolex 24 season opening extravaganza for the IMSA WeatherTech series.

The winter has seen substantial change, with the DPI formula cars now being given center- stage, after sharing the top class with European spec LMP2 cars for the past five seasons.

The DPI class has been given a power boost, with the cars already looking much quicker in the Roar pre-race test. The DPI class boasts an impressive eleven car entry, with factory backed efforts from Cadillac, Acura, Nissan and Mazda. The level of manufacture support shows that the class has a long-term health, with more car makers strongly rumoured to be joining the class from next year.

Let’s take a look at the eleven entries that will be fighting for the overall victory and the Rolex watch.

#5 Mustang Sampling Action Express Cadillac DPI: Filipe Albuquerque/Joao Barbosa/Mike Conway/Christian Fittipaldi 

For the #5 crew 2018 was an up-and-down year for the team. They won the Rolex 24 after narrowly missing out in 2017, yet aside from a further win in Long Beach the team struggled. Albuquerque finished the year sixth in the points, a down year for one of the benchmarks in the series for the last few years.

For this year regular driver Christian Fittipaldi is only doing the Rolex 24 before retirement, so former Audi factory man Albuquerque steps in alongside Barbosa for the full season. Regular endurance co-driver Mike Conway returns to a strong entry looking to give Fittipaldi the perfect send-off.

The team will be pleased with fourth and top Cadillac car in the Roar qualifying for pit-box and garage selection, however to be almost 0.9s back from the factory Mazda team is a slight concern. The team have a proven entry and reliable car but lady luck needs to smiling on you if you’re to win the Rolex 24 such is the competitiveness of this class.

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

The factory Acura programme instantly became a force in the IMSA series last season, with the might of Team Penske behind it this was not surprising to many. Going into 2019 the team looks increasingly formidable, with a year now behind the team to iron out any reliability issues.

Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya are the full season pairing again, with former Indycar champion Simon Pagenaud joining them for the endurance rounds. Montoya is the star name in this entry because of his F1 experience, however it’s Dane Cameron who is the hidden gem of this entry.

Seventh fastest in qualifying for deciding the pit garage/box selection will slightly hinder the team, but less than two tenths away from their team-mates in third just shows the fine margins that make a big difference in this series.

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

The #7 took the only win for Acura last season, however they were less consistent over the year when compared to their teammates. After making their debut last year the team can now go into this years Rolex 24 knowing they have a good chance of winning this race.

Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor return to form a very strong duo, and for the Rolex 24 have former Indy 500 winner Alex Rossi on board. Rossi is a quality signing will be very quick in the Acura, with the only knock on him being a lack of significant sportscar experience.

The team were very quick in the pre-race testing, finishing best of the rest behind the Mazda’s in the pit selection qualifying session. To be at the front of a very tightly packed field is a good result, with the only downside being the 0.8s gap to the factory Mazda duo.

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#10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPI: Fernando Alonso/Kamui Kobayashi/Jordan Taylor/Renger van der Zande 

The Wayne Taylor racing team created all the pre-race headlines this winter when they announced that double F1 world champion Fernando Alonso would be joining the team for the Rolex 24. He made his debut in the race last year, but this year he joins an already formidable team as he looks for his first Rolex 24 victory.

Coming off an incredible Petit Le Mans victory last October, are returning dynamic pair Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande. Both proved last year to be a good pairing and very quick. Completing the line-up is Toyota factory driver Kamui Kobayashi, another headline maker adding to an embarrassment of riches for this team.

The team was right in the mix at the pre-race Roar, although sixth in the qualifying session will be a slight disappointment. This team has all the ingredients to win this race, although every winner needs a clean run and a dose of luck to succeed over 24 hours against this quality field.

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#31 Whelen Engineering Action Express Cadillac DPI: Eric Curran/ Pipo Derani/Felipe Nasr

The defending champions return for another crack at the Rolex 24, after being the bridesmaid behind their teammates last year. They claimed the overall championship however, along with the North American Endurance Cup.

The championship winning partnership between Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr has been broken up for 2019, with Brazilian Pipo Derani joining countryman Nasr for the full season. Curran has now been shifted to an endurance rounds only deal with the team.

The team ran well at the Roar, finishing a close fifth in the qualifying session, less than a tenth behind their teammates. The DPI class gets stronger every year in IMSA and this line-up has only improved despite winning the title last year. This entry is one of the several that can seriously challenge for victory should they not run into problems.

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#50 Juncos Racing Cadillac DPI: Rene Binder/Agustin Canapino/Kyle Kaiser/Will Owen

The IMSA series is improving in quality every year, with the addition this year of Indycar outfit Juncos Racing. This is the team’s first foray into sportscar racing, however they have a very good CV from the American open wheel scene.

The team went for the proven Cadillac DPI package, and will hope to impress in their first sportscar outing. The team have brought in plenty of drivers they have experience with, starting with young driver Rene Binder. He’s hoping to impress and cement himself in America after spending years chasing the F1 dream in Europe. Will Owen will provide sportscar experience and was a former Juncos driver, as was Kyle Kaiser. Both raced for the team in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.

The fourth and final driver is a wildcard, the Argentinian Agustin Canapino. He’s been a proven winner in various Argentinian touring car series, and will no doubt grab his chance to shine on the international stage. This is the first race for the team in sportscar so they will have a lot to learn, but they could spring a surprise if others hit misfortune.

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#54 CORE Autosport Nissan DPI: Jon Bennett/Colin Braun/Romain Dumas/Loic Duval 

The surprise package of the 2018 IMSA season was this CORE Autosport team, but it’s all change for the team this year. In an unfancied LMP2 entry they came within three points of winning the series title, with Colin Braun and amateur driver Jon Bennett.

After the rules change to separate the DPI and LMP2 entries and the closure of the ESM team CORE have made the step up to take on their Nissan DPI entry for the 2019 season.  The returning duo of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett have a long history together and work very well. They are joined by Porsche and Audi factory drivers Romain Dumas and Loic Duval, further adding to the talent in this team.

At the pre-race Roar they were off the ultimate pace, being the slowest DPI outfit in the qualifying session, behind even the fastest LMP2 entry. Whilst the team have to learn the intricacies of the Nissan DPI package, the team shocked everyone last year so why can’t they do it again this year?

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#55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPI: Jonathan Bomarito/Olivier Pla/Harry Tincknell 

The Mazda factory DPI outfit started the year slowly but improved massively as the season wore on. The team have the might of Team Joest running their programme, and for 2019 they could prove to be a good outside bet for the championship.

On the driving front Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell return for the full season, and for the endurance rounds are partnered by Frenchman Olivier Pla. All three are proven at this level as quick sportscar racers.

In pre-race testing the Mazda team stole the headlines, securing a 1-2 in the qualifying session, significantly quicker than their rivals. Whilst this may not be reflected in the race, the team certainly have everyone guessing right now as to their ultimate pace.

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#77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPI: Timo Bernhard/Oliver Jarvis/Tristan Nunez/Rene Rast

The 2-3 for Mazda at Petit Le Mans last year gave the team some positive direction going into the winter, and they appear to have worked hard to maintain this forward progress. Team Joest and Mazda have clearly been working hard to make themselves regular contenders in this uber competitive class.

Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez return for another full season with the team, and for the Rolex 24 they have Timo Bernhard and Rene Rast joining them. Both are very quick prototype drivers who are high profile additions to the team.

The #77 car showed very well at the Roar test, setting an unofficial track record in the qualifying session. Their time was only closely matched by their team mates, showing the team have very good one lap pace. If they can stay reliable for 24 hours they will be tough to beat if they can consistently replicate their one lap pace shown at the Roar.

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#84 JDC-Miller Motorsport Cadillac DPI: Chris Miller/Juan Piedrahita/Stephen Simpson/Simon Trummer

JDC-Miller are another team that have switched from LMP2 to DPI chassis this year as they continue hunting for overall race wins. The team have taken the safest choice and are running two Cadillac DPI chassis this season.

The team’s race winning line-up from last season has been split up, with Stephen Simpson moving to this #85 entry for this year. He is joined for the year by Simon Trummer, another single seater convert looking to find a long-term home. Joining them for the Rolex 24 is experienced racer Chris Miller, along with Indy Lights convert Juan Piedrahita.

The team were one of the surprises of last year along with CORE Autosport, and for this year with a proven Cadillac DPI package and a strong driver crew the team could be contending for the podium come Sunday afternoon.

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#85 JDC-Miller Motorsport Cadillac DPI: Rubens Barrichello/Devlin DeFrancesco/Misha Goikhberg/Tristan Vautier

JDC-Miller’s win at the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen last year proved they can be successful at this level after recently stepping up from the LMPC class. The switch to Cadillac DPI machinery is a big step for the Minnesota based team, and one that should bring more success for the team in the coming years.

Misha Goikhberg was very impressive last year and is paired this year with Tristan Vautier. He is a very quick and experienced racer who moves across from the Spirit of Daytona team. GP3 racer Devlin DeFrancesco returns to the team after last year and completing the line-up is star name and former longtime F1 racer Rubens Barrichello.

The JDC-Miller motor sport team proved last year they are a very well run team who can perform well in IMSA. They should have time during the winter to get used to the new Cadillac DPI package, and they have every chance to spring a deserving surprise with Rolex 24 victory.

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Who do you think will win the Rolex 24 this weekend? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below. A massive thank you to Motorsport.com and LAT Images for the photos featured in this post. Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism and thank you for reading!