Oreca

2018 Rolex 24 Prototype Preview Part 2

Here is a look at the second half of what is an ultra competitive Prototype class entry for this year’s Rolex 24 Hours, the opening round of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech Championship season. If you missed my preview of the first half of the class, you can find it here Part 1.

#37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Jota Oreca-Gibson: Robin Frijns/Dani Juncadella/Felix Rosenqvist/Lance Stroll

Jackie Chan DC Racing have been very competitive in the WEC last season, and now make the trip Stateside for the Rolex 24. The team have mastered the LMP2 class in the WEC, but now come up against the favoured Daytona Prototypes for the first time. The LMP2 cars struggled last year to match the DPI entries on overall pace, something the series was keen to rectify for this season.

On the driving front the team arrive with a very strong line-up. Williams F1 racer Lance Stroll returns to the race after an up-and down rookie season in F1. Partnering him is Blancpain GT champion Robin Frijns, Former FIA European F3 champion Dani Juncadella and Swedish jack of all trades Felix Rosenqvist. Whilst this line-up does not possess much prototype experience, all four are seriously quick drivers who are contenders for the most formidable line-up on the grid. Stroll set the cars fastest time at the test, but was a massive 1.7 seconds down on the overall pace. The team will need to close this gap if they want a shot at victory in such a competitive entry.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-37-jackie-chan-dc-racing-jota-oreca-lmp2-p-lance-stroll

#38 Performance Tech Oreca-Gibson: James French/Kyle Masson/Pato O’Ward/Joel Miller

Performance Tech were the IMSA PC class champions in the final year of the class in 2017, and have now stepped up to the prototype ranks with a new Oreca-Gibson. The team were dominant last year but will face a much tougher test this year in such a strong and competitive field.

The team have retained both James French and Kyle Masson from last year, with both impressing with their overall speed. Pato O’Ward joins them for the endurance rounds and the young Indy Lights racer is very quick.  Youth is the theme with this line-up, as all three are all under 26 and despite having an all silver line-up they could spring a surprise come the end of the race. Former Mazda factory driver Joel Miller was a late addition to the team, and provides added experience to a very promising line-up.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-38-performance-tech-motorsports-oreca-lmp2-james-french

#52 AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Ligier-Gibson: Sebastien Saavedra/Gustavo Yacaman/Roberto Gonzalez/Nic Boulle

This #52 AFS/PR1 entry will be the most recognisable on track thanks to it fluorescent red and yellow livery, in the debut race for this team with former PC front runners PR1 Mathiasen motorsport joining forces with Indy Lights team AFS racing. The PR1 crew found the step up to the prototype class last year tough initially, although showed flashes of potential on which we should see more regularly this season.

The team have signed promising young Indycar racer Sebastien Saavedra and fellow Colombian Gustavo Yacaman for the full season. Yacaman is an experience prototype racer who is joined by Nic Boulle and Rodolfo Gonzalez. Boulle drove for the team last year and brings some experience to line-up, with Gonzalez a quick and underrated driver who gets a big chance to impress with this drive. The team struggled for ultimate pace in the Roar test, finishing 19th overall with a quickest lap two seconds off the top end pace. The team may struggle to match the front running entries, but they could spring a surprise if they get some luck along the way.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-52-afs-pr1-mathiasen-motorsports-ligier-lmp2-sebastian-s

#54 CORE Autosport Oreca-Gibson: Jon Bennett/Colin Braun/Romain Dumas/Loic Duval

CORE Autosport make their debut in the prototype class after a year racing a GTD Porsche. The former dominant PC class champions have made the jump with a Oreca-Gibson package, which has proved the dominant of the LMP2 chassis across the globe. The LMP2 spec cars appear to have a slight deficiency in overall space compared to the DPI entries, but anything can and most likely will happen at the Rolex 24.

The long-term driving duo of Jon Bennett and Colin Braun stay on for another year, with the pair working very well together. Joining them for this race are two stud racers in factory Porsche and Audi drivers Romain Dumas and Loic Duval. Both are very quick drivers who will fly at the wheel of the car. In the pre-race test Braun took the plaudits for setting the cars quickest time, quick enough for tenth overall. Whilst the team may struggle to match the ultimate pace with gentlemen driver Bennett in the team, they will likely surprise many with how strong they are in their debut prototype race.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-54-core-autosport-oreca-lmp2-p-jon-bennett-colin-braun-r

#55 Mazda Team Joest Riley-Mazda: Jonathan Bomarito/Harry Tincknell/Spencer Pigot

Along with Penske and Acura, the improving quality of the IMSA series is shown with this factory Mazda entry. After parting ways with long-term partners SpeedSource the Japanese manufacturer joined forced with former Audi factory team partners Team Joest. After an intensive test programme over the second half of last year the team will be as prepared as they can be going into the Rolex 24.

At the test it was Brit Harry Tincknell who set the cars quickest lap, 1.4 seconds off the fastest overall lap. Tincknell is the new signing for this #55 entry, and has plenty of success including a LMP2 class win at the Le Mans 24 Hours on his debut. Joining him for the season is Jonathan Bomarito, whose experience and pace is being carried over from the old regime. Completing the trio for Daytona is Indycar racer Spencer Pigot, who drove for the team in this race last year. In such a competitive field the team may struggle to trouble the podium unless they can improve their overall speed quickly.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-55-mazda-team-joest-mazda-dpi-p-jonathan-bomarito-spence

#77 Mazda Team Joest Riley-Mazda: Oliver Jarvis/Tristan Nunez/Rene Rast

The second factory Mazda Joest entry is this #77 car, another that will have been bolstered by both updates to its Riley chassis and the input of the highly successful Joest team. The team bring with them a winning mentality from their highly successful sting masterminding 13 Le Mans 24 Hours victories for Audi, and have now turned their attention to the Mazda DPI programme.

The team have switched things slightly for this year on the driving front, drafting in former Audi factory driver Oliver Jarvis for the full season to partner the young American racer Tristan Nunez, who has been nurtured and developed over several years at this level by Mazda. Completing the line-up for the endurance rounds is current DTM champion Rene Rast, who is a very quick sportscar driver who finished third overall last year in an unfancied VisitFlorida.com racing Riley. Much like their sister entry the overall pace is unknown from this Mazda package, therefore it’s hard to predict what this factory outfit can do in the race. They may need some luck to challenge at the sharp end, but discount them at your peril.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-77-mazda-team-joest-mazda-dpi-oliver-jarvis-tristan-nune

#78 Jackie Chan DC Racing Jota Oreca-Gibson: Alex Brundle/Antonio Felix da Costa/Ho-Pin Tung/Ferdinand Habsburg

Jackie Chan DC Racing have proved to be class leaders in the WEC and Asian Le Mans Series, so have now set their sights on cracking America. The team have brought two entries for this Rolex 24, but will face stiff competition from not just the LMP2 field but the DPI entries also. The team enjoyed a good pre-race test at Daytona, gaining valuable data and Alex Brundle showed the cars potential with the ninth fastest lap.

Brundle has been a mainstay of LMP2 racing and massively impressed with the team last year. Joining him for the race is another regular driver in Chinese talent Ho-Ping Tung, a front runner in the teams ALMS entries. New to the team are two very talented young racers in Antonio Felix da Costa and Ferdinand Habsburg. Felix da Costa is a quick single seater convert who has been picked up by BMW as a factory driver and Habsburg came of age with a very impressive display at the Macau Grand Prix last year. The teams lack of experience in this series may hamper them in the race, but the team have brought a very high-quality line-up and add an extra element of competitiveness to this prototype entry.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-78-jackie-chan-dc-racing-jota-oreca-lmp2-ho-pin-tung-ale

#85 JDC-Miller Oreca-Gibson: Robert Alon/Simon Trummer/Austin Cindric/Devlin DeFrancesco

The #85, affectionately dubbed the yellow boat, returns for another year at this level after a very impressive debut campaign last year. The team stick with their trusted Oreca-Gibson package, although have made some slight changes on the driving front for this year.

The team have retained Robert Alon after his impressive displays last year, but with the team expanding to two entries this year he’s been split up from his team mates of last year. Partnering him is former GP2 front runner Simon Trummer. He is a very quick young driver who makes the switch across to sportscar racing. He immediately set the cars fastest lap at the test, 1.5 seconds down on the #31 Whelen entry. Completing the line-up is talented young Nascar racer Austin Cindric and FIA European F3 racer Devlin DeFrancesco. The team are prime candidates for a giant-killing act this year, so keep an eye on their progress in the race.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-85-jdc-miller-motorsports-oreca-07-simon-trummer-robert

#90 Spirit of Daytona Dallara-Cadillac DPI: Matt McMurry/Tristan Vautier/Eddie Cheever III

Long term IMSA entrants Spirit of Daytona are much changed this year, after a difficult 2017 season for the Daytona based team. The team ditched their Riley LMP2 chassis halfway through last year, and have now switched to the dominant Cadillac DPI package. The team have also lost title sponsor VisitFlorida.com so return this year under the Spirit of Daytona banner.

On the driving front it’s also all change for the team, with 2017 drivers Marc Goossens and Renger van der Zande replaced by Tristan Vautier and Matt McMurry. Vautier moves across from Blancpain GT in Europe and has plenty of American racing experience. He is joined by young American Matt McMurry in what is a very strong line-up for this team. A late addition to the team is young racer Eddie Cheever III. He impressed at the Roar test with the second fastest lap time, just 0.2 seconds off top spot. The team took third last year in an uncompetitive package so with the Cadillac DPI package the team have all the necessary ingredients for success this year.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-90-spirit-of-daytona-racing-cadillac-dpi-tristan-vautier

#99 Gainsco JDC-Miller Oreca-Gibson: Stephen Simpson/Chris Miller/Misha Goikhberg/Gustavo Menezes

A fans favourite returns in 2018, with the iconic red Gainsco red dragon appearing with this expanded JDC-Miller team. The most surprising team of last year have expanded to two entries this year, and will look to build on a very good year for the team in 2017.

The team have retained their drivers from last year, namely Stephen Simpson, Misha Goikhberg and Chris Miller. All three-impressed many with their consistently fast driving last year although Simpson is the stand-out in this entry. He set the fastest lap at the test and has consistently been a tenth or two ahead of the rest in this car. Completing the driving talent is young WEC LMP2 racer Gustavo Menezes, and the addition of such a highly regarded and very quick prototype racer only enhances their chances of a good result. If the team can run cleanly expect a surprise from this team.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-99-jdc-miller-motorsports-oreca-07-stephen-simpson-mikha

That wraps up my prototype class preview for the Rolex 24, who are your favourites for victory? Let me know in the comments section below and a very big thank you for reading this article. A final massive thank you must go to Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality photos which grace this page. For all the latest motorsport news please visit their website here Motorsport.com . You can find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95 and if you liked this article then stay tuned for my preview of GTLM class coming very soon.

2018 Rolex 24 Prototype Preview Part 1

The IMSA WeatherTech Championship fires back into life in 2018 with its longest race kicking off the season. The Rolex 24 is an event that has been growing in stature every year since the American sportscar community merged in 2014. This year the race is set to yet another classic, with arguably its strongest ever field competing tooth and nail for victory.

The race is usually decided by a matter of seconds, and this year twenty high-quality prototype entries will be fighting it out for the victory. There are some off-season driver changes from the top returning teams and some very strong new entries along with a host of top international teams and driving talent descending on Daytona International Speedway this week. Let’s take a look at the prototype entry first.

#2 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier-Nissan DPI: Ryan Dalziel/Olivier Pla/Scott Sharp

Extreme Speed Motorsport return to IMSA competition this year with another two-car entry. This #2 entry of Ryan Dalziel and Scott Sharp is returning from last year, but they have a new partner for their Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events. Frenchman Olivier Pla is world renowned for being seriously quick in Ligier LMP2 entries, and it was him that set the quickest time for the team at the pre-race Roar Before the 24 tests, although it was still 1.7 seconds off the ultimate pace of the Cadillac’s.

The team appeared to focus on endurance runs throughout the test, with their fastest lap only good enough for 15th overall. All three have plenty of experience of the IMSA series, although the Nissan Ligier DPI will need to be at its best to match the seemingly dominant Cadillac DPI entries. It will be interesting to see if the team can improve their ultimate pace during the race week, with rumours of some team’s sand bagging at the Roar.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-2-tequila-patron-esm-nissan-dpi-scott-sharp-ryan-dalziel

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

This #5 Mustang Sampling Action Express entry has proved one of the leading entries in IMSA competition for the past several seasons. They were usurped by Wayne Taylor racing last season, but look to reclaim their crown this year.

On the driving front the team have made a minor change with the Portuguese Audi factory driver Filipe Albuquerque replacing long-term driver Christian Fittipaldi for the full season. Fittipaldi has scaled himself back to NAEC entries only, so for the Rolex 24 at least nothing has changed.

Albuquerque set the cars fastest lap at the test, a 1.36.135, which put him third overall. Since the new rules came into effect last season the Dallara-Cadillac DPI entries have dominated the series, and based on the Roar this doesn’t look likely to change. If the other teams cannot make improvements expect this #5 entry to be fighting it out for the victory amongst the other Cadillac DPI entries, despite attempts from IMSA to peg back the dominant Cadillac’s.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-5-action-express-racing-cadillac-dpi-joao-barbosa-christ

#6 Acura Team Penske Oreca-Acura DPI: Dane Cameron/Juan-Pablo Montoya/Simon Pagenaud

Team Penske are a giant of American motor racing, and this season have branched out into the IMSA WeatherTech series with a factory Acura DPI programme. The arrival of Penske and Acura is a real coup for the series and has drawn plenty of attention to the Rolex 24.

The team have enjoyed a good winter testing programme, but a 24-hour race for a debut is going to be very difficult. On the driving front the team have lured Dane Cameron away from Action Express, after he shone in the #31 Whelen entry last year. Partnering him for the year is the well-known Juan-Pablo Montoya, who returns to full time racing after losing his Indycar seat last year. Current Penske Indycar racer Simon Pagenaud is the team’s endurance rounds driver and this is a formidable driving trio. A debut victory may be very tough to achieve with a new car that was 1.1s off the fastest laps at the test, but if any team can do it’s Penske.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-6-acura-team-penske-acura-dpi-dane-cameron-juan-pablo-mo

#7 Acura Team Penske Oreca-Acura: Helio Castroneves/Ricky Taylor/Graham Rahal

The other Team Penske entry is this #7 car, with both cars proving tough opponents for their rivals. All three drivers in this car completed over 50 laps across the three days of pre-race testing, with Ricky Taylor setting the cars fastest time, although it proved 0.3s off his team mates fastest lap and 1.4 seconds off the pace of the Cadillac DPI entries.

On the driving front the team recruited 2016 champion and undisputed qualifying king Ricky Taylor away from his family Wayne Taylor racing team, to partner Helio Castroneves for the season. Castroneves has called time on a long and decorated Indycar career and although he was in the bottom half of fastest times at the test, expect him to make major improvements every time he gets in the car. Joining the duo for the endurance rounds is fellow Indycar racer Graham Rahal, who completes another top-quality entry in this stacked prototype field.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-7-acura-team-penske-acura-dpi-helio-castroneves-ricky-ta

#10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Dallara-Cadillac DPI: Ryan Hunter-Reay/Jordan Taylor/Renger Van der Zande

The Wayne Taylor racing crew return this year as defending champions after a dominant championship year in 2017. The team won the first five races so return as defending Rolex 24 winners, although this year has seen some changes on the driver front for the team.

Wayne Taylor’s two sons Jordan and Ricky were a dynamic duo for several seasons but have now been split up with elder brother Ricky defecting to the new factory Acura Team Penske entry.  Younger brother Jordan is now partnered for the year by the very quick Dutch driver Renger van der Zande. He set the cars fastest time at the test with a 1.36.481, 0.6 of a second off the fastest lap. Completing the line-up is Indycar racer Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has plenty of Rolex 24 experience with this likely being his best chance of victory. All three drivers set fastest laps within the top seven, which shows that this WTR Cadillac DPI entry once again looks very strong contenders for victory.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-10-wayne-taylor-racing-cadillac-dpi-renger-van-der-zande

#20 BAR1 Motorsport Riley Mk30-Gibson: Marc Drumwright/Eric Lux/Alex Popow/Tomy Drissi/Brendan Gaughan

Former PC team BAR1 Motorsport have made the step up to the prototype ranks, with the only Riley chassis in the field. The team acquired the ex–Keating Motorsport car and with new evo updates to the car it will be an improvement from a difficult debut season last year.

The team have finalised their driver line-up at the last minute, signing experienced PC runner Marc Drumwright, former PC class champion and PWC front runner Eric Lux, former Rolex 24 front runner Alex Popow, Trans-Am racer  Tomy Drissi and Nascar racer Brendan Gaughan. All five have plenty of experience however the team may struggle to match the ultimate pace with a silver and bronze rated driver crew. Compared to the platinum and gold crews in this class a good result for the team would be a clean run and a top eight finish in class.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-20-bar1-motorsports-multimatic-riley-lmp2-joel-miller-ry

#22 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier-Nissan DPI: Pipo Derani/Johannes van Overbeek/Nicolas Lapierre

This #22 entry is the second Extreme Speed motorsport car entered, and just like their #2 entry has a strong chance of victory this year. The team have proved themselves in IMSA and were winners of the Rolex 24 only two years ago. The team have maximised their Nissan DPI package although they struggled for ultimate pace at the Roar test.

On the driving front the team have a full season pairing of Pipo Derani and Johannes van Overbeek. Derani is returning to the team where he made his name two years ago thanks to blistering pace and van Overbeek brings a wealth of experience to the team. They are joined this year by Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre, a very distinguished prototype racer who has previous experience at the Rolex 24. The team are the most likely team to challenge the Cadillac DPI teams dominance, but may need a pinch of luck along the way if they want overall victory.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-22-tequila-patron-esm-nissan-dpi-p-pipo-derani-johannes

#23 United Autosport Ligier-Gibson: Fernando Alonso/Phil Hanson/Lando Norris

United Autosport go into this race with the highest amount of press attention surrounding them, thanks to the presence of double F1 world champion Fernando Alonso. The Zak Brown affiliated team have used his connections to entice McLaren racer Alonso to the team for his sportscar debut, in likely preparation for a crack at Le Mans 24 Hours victory in the coming years.

United Autosport were front runners in the European Le Mans Series last season, and are amongst an influx of very impressive international one-off entries for this race. Partnering Alonso is young sportscar talent Phil Hanson and single seater racer Lando Norris. Hanson has impressed with the team in the ELMS last year, and Norris claimed the FIA European F3 Championship at his first attempt. Although this is an inexperienced line-up they have enough quality to pressure the Cadillac DPI entries, although they may struggle for ultimate pace with their LMP2 spec Ligier-Gibson.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-23-united-autosports-ligier-lmp2-phil-hanson-lando-norri

#31 Whelen Engineering Action Express Dallara-Cadillac: Felipe Nasr/Eric Curran/Mike Conway/Stuart Middleton

This #31 entry is the Whelen backed Action Express entry, and may prove a surprise winner at the Rolex 24. Despite an off-season that has seen some driver changes this crew aced the pre-race Roar test, setting the fastest overall lap and unofficial lap record with a 1.35.806 from Felipe Nasr.

Nasr replaces the departing Dane Cameron in this #31 entry, partnering Eric Curran. The team have also signed Mike Conway and Stuart Middleton to bolster their driver line-up. Nasr is a former F1 racer with Sauber and along with Toyota LMP1 driver Conway they will be the quickest two drivers in this car. Curran brings a wealth of experience and Middleton is the winner of the Whelen Sunoco challenge, which grants the most successful British club racer with this coveted Rolex 24 seat. Whilst Curran and Middleton may lack the last tenth of pace compared with Nasr and Conway with such a strong package this team can absolutely win this race.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-31-action-express-racing-cadillac-dpi-eric-curran-mike-c

#32 United Autosport Ligier-Gibson: Will Owen/Paul Di Resta/Bruno Senna/Hugo de Sadeleer

This #32 entry may not have the ultimate star power of its sister #23 entry, but the second United Autosport car is another promising one-off entry for the race. The team will be learning the nuances of IMSA racing with every session they complete, and they are a threat to the established order on track.

The team have brought in two high-profile racers in former F1 drivers Paul Di Resta and Bruno Senna. Di Resta is making his sportscar debut but has the talent to adapt well in the car, with Senna being the current LMP2 WEC champion. He set the cars fastest lap at the test, and was just under a second quicker than his team mates. Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer are two young drivers who were very impressive in the European Le Mans series last season. The team lacks in overall IMSA experience but have enough talent to have other teams worried going into the race.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2018-32-united-autosports-ligier-lmp2-p-will-owen-hugo-de-sad

That wraps up part one of my prototype class preview for the Rolex 24, who are your favourites for victory? Let me know in the comments section below and a very big thank you for reading this article. A final massive thank you must go to Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality photos which grace this page. For all the latest motorsport news please visit their website here Motorsport.com . You can find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95 and if you liked this article then stay tuned for part two of my preview of the prototype class at the Rolex 24!

2017 Rolex 24 Prototype Preview

The 2017 international motorsport season begins in earnest with the 55th running of the Rolex 24 Hours from the Daytona International Speedway. This years running marks a new era for the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar championship, with wide scale changes to the premier prototype division thanks to a new combined rulebook aligning the previous LMP2 and Daytona Prototype cars.

With the new DPI regulations they should ensure greater equality between the previous LMP2 and Daytona Prototype entries. Whilst there will be inevitable balance of performance issues to iron out in the build up to the race, one thing that can be guaranteed is the overall quality and competitiveness in the prototype category. Every car in the premier class has a chance of victory, should they have a good run and be blessed with that all important luck needed to win such a prestigious 24 hour race.

Last years victors Extreme Speed Motorsport return to the IMSA series full time this year after two years in the World Endurance Championship, but they will have plenty of competition for the victory once again this time out. Let’s take a look at the entries and assess their chances of victory.

#2 Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsport Ligier-Nissan DPI: Ryan Dalziel/Scott Sharp/Pipo Derani

Tequila Patron and the Extreme Speed team have returned stateside after a mixed two years in the WEC, and despite a new range of prototype entries expect them to pick up exactly where they left off in this series. This is the crew that came out victorious in last years Rolex 24, therefore the target will be on their back all weekend as they aim to do something very difficult and retain their trophies from a year ago.

Despite being the reigning champions a lot has changed for this crew from last year. Most notably is the new Ligier-Nissan DPI package that they have chosen to use. With such a new set of regulations its currently unclear which package will prove most suitable for the Daytona track, with the Roar not giving away too much as teams don’t want to show their hands too early.

On the driving front the team also has some changes, with the team switching across Ryan Dalziel and Johannes Van Overbeek for this year. With the talented Scot Dalziel now partnering Sharp and Pipo Derani this team has a great mix of speed and experience in this lineup.  Derani in particular stole the show last year with his consistently fast driving, and if he can repeat those feats this year, backed up by Sharp and Dalziel this team has every chance of victory if their new DPI package can stay reliable.

tequila-patron

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

The Action Express team have established themselves as one of the premier prototype teams in the IMSA series over the past three to four year, largely based on the results of this number five entry.  With back to back titles in 2014 and 2015, this entry was beaten only by its teammates in last years championship.

The team always run strongly at Daytona and last year once again challenged for the overall victory until the final hours. They have remained with General Motors, although this years new DPI is badged as a Cadillac rather than a Chevrolet. Aside from the new DPI car the team have stuck with a driver line up that has produced major success for them.

Both Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi are hugely experienced whilst retaining their speed, something Audi factory driver Filipe Albuquerque does not lack. He showed well with the team last year and this year will be hoping they can remain in the lead fight right up until the chequered flag. Along with the #2 Extreme Speed motorsport entry this is one of half a dozen cars who have a very good chance of victory. Expect to see this car at the front for large portions in the race if they can run cleanly.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2017-5-action-express-racing-cadillac-dpi-joao-barbosa-christ

#10 Konica Minolta Dallara Cadillac DPI: Jordan Taylor/Ricky Taylor/Max Angelelli/Jeff Gordon

The battles between the Action Express and Wayne Taylor racing teams have gone down in this championships short history, with the two of them separating themselves from the rest of the full season entries in the past three years. This year their battle for victory will be renewed beginning with the Rolex 24, a race that has not been kind to this team in recent years.

The team have always found trouble late on when in contention for victory, something the team will be hoping a new set of regulations may help with. They have decided to also stick with what they know and the GM brand, and have retained three quarters of their driver line up from a year ago.

Owner Wayne Taylor’s sons Jordan and Ricky return and will be right on the pace all weekend, ably supported by the vastly experienced Max Angelelli in his final race before retirement. Angelelli has been a huge asset to this team since his days partnering Wayne and will be hoping he can end his career on a high note. For their final driver the team have caused a stir by signing retired Nascar legend Jeff Gordon. Whilst he has limited Sportscar experience, he has plenty of pace and is a good addition to this already formidable lineup. This is another entry to look out for throughout the 24 hours.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2017-10-wayne-taylor-racing-cadillac-dpi-ricky-taylor-jordan

#13 Rebellion Oreca 07-Gibson:  Sebastien Buemi/Nick Heidfeld/Neel Jani/Stephane Sarrazin

The Rebellion team embark on their first season in the LMP2 category after being mainstays of the LMP1 privateer class. Along with their WEC programme is a crack at the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, consisting of the premier races on the IMSA calendar.

With a stable Oreca-Gibson chassis/engine combination the highly experienced team have put together an all star line-up for the Rolex 24. LMP1 factory drivers Sebastien Buemi, Stephane Sarrazin (Toyota) and current WEC champion and Le Mans 24 Hours winner Neel Jani (Porsche) are joined by regular driver and ex-F1 mainstay Nick Heidfeld.

The team having previous experience from their 2013 successful foray into the American Sportscar scene, are will be looking for a debut victory this time out. If the team can have a clean run, this entry is a very serious contender for the overall win. With such a competitive class and the 24 hour race duration anything can happen, although if I was forced into choosing a pre-race favourite, I would likely back this Rebellion racing entry.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2017-13-rebellion-racing-oreca-07-neel-jani-sebastien-buemi-s

#22 Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsport Ligier-Nissan DPI: Ed Brown/Johannes Van Overbeek/Bruno Senna/Brendon Hartley 

The other Extreme Speed motorsport entry is not going to play second fiddle to the teams other car. This entry still has a very good chance of victory, given the professionalism and quality of this team, along with a great driver line up.

Porsche LMP1 factory driver and former WEC champion Brendon Hartley is an excellent signing for this team, one of the genuinely fastest guys on the sportscar scene at the moment. Former F1 driver Bruno Senna has also joined this lineup, showing his talents with a excellent adaption to prototype racing in the LMP2 class of the WEC last season.

Full season drivers Johannes Van Overbeek and Tequila Patron CEO Ed Brown complete the lineup. Van Overbeek has a wealth of experience and speed, forming an excellent working relationship with long term co-driver Brown. The only slight question mark surrounding this entry may be Brown.

He is one of the few true amateur drivers in the class, and whilst he has excelled and improved rapidly in sportscar racing, he may struggle to match the consistent ultimate pace of the world class professional drivers he will be competing with. Do not count this entry out as you may regret it, although they may need a little extra help if they want to be wheeled into victory lane come Sunday afternoon.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2017-22-tequila-patron-esm-nissan-dpi-ed-brown-johannes-van-o

#31 Whelen Engineering Action Express Racing Dallara Cadillac DPI: Dane Cameron/Eric Curran/Mike Conway/Seb Morris

The defending WeatherTech IMSA champions return for a crack at the Rolex 24. the jewel in the IMSA season crown. This entry stepped out of the shadows of their illustrious team mates last season to win the title, and will be hoping they can repeat this result this season, despite the major changes in the prototype class.

It’s unclear as to the ultimate pace of the new Cadillac DPI entries, having not topped the times at the pre-race Roar before the 24 test several weeks ago. Were they sandbagging, or are they genuinely short on pace compared to their rivals? Only the teams themselves know.

On the driving front the full season lineup of the very fast Dane Cameron and Eric Curran are joined by Brits Mike Conway and Seb Morris. Conway is a Toyota factory prototype driver and is an excellent signing for this team. Morris is a slightly different story, having won the Sunoco challenge, which rewards the best overall driver in British national racing with a drive in the Rolex 24. Such alumni of this prize include F1 driver Felipe Nasr, so do not discount Morris. He was a very quick single seater driver before switching his attention to GT racing, having shown similar pace in British GT last year.

With Conway leading the lineup this entry may lack that blistering ultimate pace of their rivals over the course of a stint, but do not think they are simply here to make up the numbers. They are the reigning champions and that alone will mean no other team counts them out.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2017-31-action-express-racing-cadillac-dpi-eric-curran-dane-c

#52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport Ligier JSP2-Gibson: Tom Kimber-Smith/Jose Gutierrez/Mike Guasch/RC Enerson 

The PR1/Mathiasen have been front runners in the prototype challenge class for the past several years in the IMSA series, tasting some success with class victory in the 2015 Rolex 24. With the widespread change in the prototype class regulations, the team have made the step up for this season.

Given pre-season testing choosing the Ligier JSP2 package seems a smart move at this moment, and the team have stuck with a lot of their PC class drivers. With familiarity and experience needed with the move up this is a smart move by the team. The vastly experienced Tom Kimber-Smith will likely lead this team, having plentiful experience at this level from the past few years.

Jose Gutierrez showed himself well last season in his sportscar debut, having made the jump across from the Pro Mazda single seater series. Although he didn’t complete the entire season, a year of adapting to the series will put him in good stead for this season. Mike Guasch is a quick amateur driver for this team, and has spent a large portion of his recent career with the team. After winning the LMP3 class in the European Le Mans Series, he will be hoping his good form can continue into 2017.

Completing the lineup is the young American single seater racer RC Enerson, who makes his sportscar debut this weekend. He has progressed up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder right up to Indycar last season, although his lack of experience will sportscar may hamper him during the week. He is tremendously fast and once he adapts to the car and the level of traffic, expect him to flash some seriously fast times during the race.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2017-52-pr1-mathiasen-motorsports-gibson-ligier-js-p217-tom-k

#55 SpeedSource Riley Mazda DPI: Jonathan Bomarito/Tristan Nunez/Spencer Pigot 

The works backed SpeedSource Mazda team return to the IMSA series in 2017 having shown promise throughout the 2016 season. With a new Mazda badged Riley DPI, which in my opinion is the best looking car in this class, will be hoping they can finally deliver on their long running promise.

The team is highly talented and this extends to the driver line up. Former single seater convert Jonathan Bomarito has now added experience to his speed and is well versed with the team having spent the past few years with them. He will provide the most experience, although both young team mates Tristan Nunez and Spencer Pigot have also raced this entry last year.

Nunez has adapted well having progressed through the Cooper Tyres IMSA lights series, having been nurtured by this team he gets better with every passing season and is now established as a prominent IMSA sportscar driver, despite being only 21. Pigot is a single seater who flashed promise in Indycar last season, and returns to Daytona looking to improve upon last years frustrating race where mechanical issues forced them out. If the Mazda DPI proves quick expect this team to be taking full advantage of it, and maybe they can achieve a rare and long overdue podium come Sunday afternoon.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2017-55-mazda-motorsports-mazda-dpi-jonathan-bomarito-tristan

#70 SpeedSource Riley Mazda DPI: Tom Long/Joel Miller/James Hinchcliffe

The other Mazda factory entry is this #70 car, both of which have shown well at the pre-race Roar before the 24. Whilst it was the #55 car that set the headline times at the test, this entry has just as much a chance of victory or class podium. The SpeedSource team are highly professional and have plenty of experience in this race, plus the might of Mazda North America supporting their efforts.

The team remains largely unchanged on the driving front, with long time Mazda drivers Tom Long and Joel Miller providing a wealth of experience for this entry. Both are also capable of produce a very fast average pace across a stint, especially former single seater convert Miller. Completing the trio is Indycar star James Hinchcliffe, who reunites with the SpeedSource team for Daytona after taking last year out. He will be the star turn and if he can adapt to the new Mazda DPI car quickly, he will likely be the one setting the cars fastest times. So much in unknown going into this race, but if the testing pace proves to be an accurate reflection of outright speed, expect this car to be on the podium if it can keep clean and reliable.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2017-70-mazda-motorsports-mazda-prototype-joel-miller-tom-lon

#81 DragonSpeed Oreca 07-Gibson: Loic Duval/Ben Hanley/Henrik Hedman/Nicolas Lapierre

The very young DragonSpeed racing team make their Rolex 24 debut with one goal in mind this weekend, to claim overall victory in this prestigious race. The team are racing their Oreca 05 from last season, updated to new 07 spec, and have impressed so far.

The team debuted at the Sebring 12 hours last season and again have returned stateside before taking on the European Le Mans Series this year. What the team lack in sportscar experience they more than make up for with their driver line up. Amateur Swedish racer Henrik Hedman has plenty of sportscar experience however he will likely to struggle to match the pace of the professional drivers simply because he is an amateur doing this for fun, do not think that will mean he is slow and he will be a very good and consistent driver for the team.

Joining him is Brit former single seater Ben Hanley, who like a shooting star rose to prominence very quickly before seemingly disappearing just as quickly. He is still a very quick racing driver who seems to have finally found a home with this DragonSpeed team. Completing the lineup are sportscar royalty, Audi factory driver Loic Duval and LMP2 WEC champion Nicolas Lapierre. Both have plenty of top line sportscar experience and will provide blistering pace for this car when they are at the wheel.

Having topped the pre-race test this team are looking good if they can keep this pace up consistently across the week culminating in the race. If they can be reliable this team has every chance of a class podium, despite the seeming disadvantage of an amateur driver, such is the overall quality of the team and the rest of the lineup.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2017-81-dragonspeed-oreca-07-henrik-hedman-nicolas-lapierre-b

#85 JDC/Miller Motorsport Oreca 07-Gibson: Mikhail Goikhberg/Stephen Simpson/Chris Miller/Mathias Beche 

The second team to step up from the Prototype Challenge class is this JDC/Miller motorsport entry, and they will have fond memories of this race from last year. They survived a race of attrition in this class to secure an unexpected victory, something that carried across to the rest of the season as they finished third in class.

The team have chosen the Oreca 07-Gibson as their weapon of choice, with the DragonSpeed team showing the potential of the car in the re-race test. If this team can get to grips with the car and extract similar pace they will definitely be contenders for yet another upset victory this year.

The team has gone with familiarity for this year, having retained Stephen Simpson and Mikhail Goikhberg for this year. Both excelled last year and a resurgent Simpson reminded people why he was a formerly highly rated A1GP and Indy Lights driver. He has not lost any of his previous pace, he has simply now added experience to his sportscar armory. Goikhberg adapted well after winning the 2014 Mazda Prototype Lights series, he has found a home with the JDC/Miller team and rewarded them with an excellent season last year.

Chris Miller also returns this year after partial IMSA seasons with the team over the past several years. He has struggled with attaining a full season drive for several years now, which only makes his performances for this team even more impressive, considering his lack of experience. He is an underrated driver deserving of a full season IMSA drive, and so far he will be joining the team for the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events. Completing the lineup is Swiss racer Mathias Beche, a driver who has firmly established himself as a promising sportscar talent. He has impressed in recent years with the Thiriet by TDS and Rebellion racing teams, and is currently being rumoured to be joining the Toyota factory LMP1 programme this year. He will be hotshoe in this car and will lead the team as far as they can go in this race.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2017-85-jdc-miller-motorsports-oreca-07-mikhail-goikhberg-chr

#90 VisitFlorida.com Spirit of Daytona Riley Mk30-Gibson: Renger Van Der Zande/Marc Goossens/Rene Rast

Long time IMSA entrants VisitFlorida.com racing return having gone a slightly different route to their traditional rivals. Whilst the likes of Action Express and Wayne Taylor racing have gone with the DPI route, this team have instead gone for a more European twist with their new LMP2 spec Riley Mk30. The team have made no secret of their desire to race at the Le Mans 24 Hours in the coming years, with their’s the only traditional Riley on the grid this year.

After an overhaul with their previous driver line up this year seems more stability, with the vastly experienced and very quick Belgian Marc Goossens remaining with the team for this year. He will have a new team mate in Dutchman Renger van der Zande, with Ryan Dalziel returning to the Tequila Patron ESM team. Van der Zande has long been one of the fastest drivers in the PC class, and is long overdue this promotion to the Prototype class.

This lineup is completed with Audi factory driver Rene Rast, someone who has solidified his success at this race in the GTD class in years prior. With plenty of Audi LMP1 experience he should find the adjustment to the Riley relatively easy, and he will be very fast throughout the week no doubt. This locally based team have never had much luck in this race, and could a new car bring a change in their fortunes? Based on testing times they may struggle, but many expect the order to have significantly change come the race.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2017-90-visitflorida-com-racing-multimatic-riley-lmp2-marc-go

That wraps up my preview of the Prototype class for this years 2017 Rolex 24. The class seems rejuvenated this year with plenty of intrigue as genuinely you could not call a winner for this race. I will be one of the many sportscar eagerly glued to the race this weekend, excited to see the outcome. I have to say thank you for reading this and I hoped you liked it, any comments would be greatly appreciated. I have to also give a final thanks to Motorsport.com for their high quality photos which grace this page, I urge everyone to visit their site for the latest news and high quality pictures from across the motorsport world. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

 

 

2016 Sebring 12 Hours Prototype Challenge Preview

After looking at the main Prototype class yesterday Here , now it’s time to turn our attentions to the Prototype Challenge class. The opening Rolex 24 produced a surprise winner in the #85 JDC/Miller entry, after problems with the favourite #54 and #52 entries. This time around, will the normal order be restored or will Sebring spring another surprise winner?

#8 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Alex Popow/David Heinemeier Hansson/Renger Van Der Zande

The two Starworks entries suffered with costly accidents at the Rolex 24, although the progress this #8 car made in the second half of the race showed that if they had not got involved in various scrapes they would of been a strong contender for victory.

This time out at Sebring the team will be looking to translate their pace and skill as a team into a podium placing.  They have one of the best driver line up’s in this class and the Starworks team are stalwarts at this top level of US Sportscar racing. This entry has to go into the race as one of the favourites for class victory.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2016-8-starworks-motorsports-oreca-flm09-jack-hawskworth-chri

#20 BAR1 Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Johnny Mowlem/Marc Drumwright/Tomy Drissi/Don Yount

The #20 BAR1 entry was another PC tale of disappointment, as the class pole sitters hoped for victory in the centre piece race, but had to be content with a distant third. Whilst this would have initially seemed frustrating, it was still a decent points haul for this team as their rivals struggled.

The team will be hoping to achieve another podium placing this weekend in the sunshine state, and they have a solid experienced line up of drivers who can get the job done for this BAR1 team. Another points haul for their championship would be a good result, and they will be slight outsiders for a class victory.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2016-20-bar1-motorsports-oreca-flm09-johnny-mowlem-brian-adle

#38 Performance Tech Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: James French/Josh Norman/Kyle Marcelli

The #38 team were yet another PC team who struggled on the high banks of Daytona, as they eventually were forced out of the Rolex 24 thanks to reliability issues. The team will not let that dampen their progress however as they look to bounce back for round two this weekend.

The team is one of the smaller outfits in the class, but they have proved in the past they can mix it with the bigger and more prestigious teams within this class. The driver line up is a another solid one at this level, and this team may well sneak a podium place if the attrition rate matches what we say in Daytona. Do not discount this entry as an afterthought in this class.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2016-38-performance-tech-motorsports-oreca-flm09-james-french

#52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Tom Kimber-Smith/Robert Alon/Jose Gutierrez

The #52 PR1/Mathiasen entry was one that recovered from adversity to eventually finish second, only four laps down on the class winner at the Rolex 24. The team have a knack of attaining victories in the key long distance races and this team actually won the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup last year. This is a mini-series made up of the four longer distance races on the calendar.

Second gave the team a great points haul, especially as their primary rivals such as the #54 entry retired early on. The team will be hoping they can repeat their victory at this race last year, as this would put the team in a very good championship position after the early rounds of the WeatherTech series.  This PR1/Mathiasen entry has the perfect blend of youth and experience behind the wheel, so watch out for this car to fly with all three drivers at the wheel.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2016-52-pr1-mathiasen-motorsports-oreca-flm09-robert-alon-tom

#54 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Colin Braun/Mark Wilkins/Jon Bennett

The Rolex 24 at Daytona was a disaster for this usually dominant CORE Autosport team. The class champions from the past few years suffered an early engine failure which put them out. Now have some ground to make up on their rivals in the championship also, something they will look to do with a class victory this weekend.

The team and driver line up is the best in this PC class, and will be looking to reassert their dominance at the bumpy airfield of a Sebring circuit. The #54 will be one of if not the ultimate favourite for the PC class victory come Saturday night.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2016-54-core-autosport-oreca-flm09-jon-bennett-colin-braun-ma

#85 JDC/Miller Motorsport Oreca FLMO9-Chevrolet: Misha Goikhberg/Stephen Simpson/Chris Miller/Kenton Koch

The Rolex 24 was an almost perfect race for the JDC/Miller Motorsport race as they claimed the class victory by four laps over the #52 PR1 entry. Whilst the team had some scrapes in the race, they were the most reliable car which gave them the victory.

This team is another of the smaller outfits in the class, and their class win was a great story in Daytona, but can they do it again this weekend? All four drivers demonstrated their talents in Daytona, especially Stephen Simpson, so can they reproduce this at another sportscar classic run in Florida. This team showed on pace they can match anyone else in this class, so can they topple the bigger teams once again? It’s difficult to see but after Daytona anything is possible for this JDC/Miller team.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2016-85-jdc-miller-motorsports-oreca-flm09-chris-miller-mikha

#88 Starworks Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Sean Johnston/Michael Lyons/Maro Engel 

The second of the Starworks entries is another high quality addition to this class for this years Sebring 12 Hours. The team are locally based in Florida therefore will feel confident going into this race. Whilst this car was out early on in Daytona, they will be another team hoping to bounce right back with a great result at Sebring.

The driver line up is yet another very strong one, and the team will have more than enough talent to grab the class victory, although a class podium and a good haul of points of the championship would also be a success for this team. This #88 car is a strong contender for class honours this weekend.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2016-88-starworks-motorsport-oreca-flm09-mark-kvamme-sean-joh

That wraps up my look at the seven car Prototype Challenge Class for this weekend’s Sebring 12 Hours, soon I will be posting my preview of the ultra competitive GTLM class. I would like to say a huge thank you once again to IMSA.com and Motorsport.com for their information and high quality pictures that grace this article. I would also like to say a final thank you for reading this and any comments below would be greatly appreciated. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

2015 Sebring 12 Hours Prototype Challenge Preview

Next up in my series previewing next weekend’s Sebring 12 Hours is the Prototype Challenge class. Whilst the class consists of spec Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet cars, the class provides great racing with the spec Oreca meaning the teams and drivers are very closely matched. Let’s take a look at the runners and riders for next weekend’s Sebring 12 Hour enduro.

#8 Martini Starworks Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Renger Van Der Zande/Mike Hedlund/Mirco Schultis

The Starworks motorsport teams Prototype Challenge class entry virtually mirrored their Daytona Prototype entry in that both cars showed impressive pace when running cleanly, although a series of issues hampered the team and ultimately led to the retirement of both cars. In the case of this #8 PC entry an alternator faliure forced the team out during the night.

For this weekend’s next round at Sebring the team will be hoping for a more comfortable run for the #8 entry as they look to recover from their first round retirement during the gruelling 12 Hours of Sebring. The team has retained the majority of it’s stellar driving line up from the Rolex 24 with the very fast Dutch driver Renger Van Der Zande leading the line up alongside the added pace from Mike Hedland, with the trio being completed by the very experienced German Mirco Schultis.

If this teams #8 Martini entry can remain reliable throughout the 12 Hours and avoid an on track drama’s, expect this team to be right at the front of the highly competitive Prototype Challenge class with Van Der Zande leading the charge for class honors.

#11 AutoMaxUSA RSR Racing Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Bruno Junqueira/Chris Cumming/Gustavo Menezes/TBA

The #11 RSR Racing entry was another Prototype Challenge car to face difficulty in the opening Rolex 24, the team forced to retire on the Sunday with an engine faliure. The team will therefore be hoping for much better this weekend at Sebring, although the 12 Hour race on the airfield circuit is another stern test for the Tudor United Sportscar Championship grid.

The RSR Racing has a wealth of American sportscar racing experience to count on, something even more important in a class where the car and engine package are the same for everyone, as is with the Prototype Challenge grid. On the driving front the team has former F3000 champion and Champ Car title contender Bruno Junqueira, a stunning signing for the RSR team.

Partnering him will be the young American driver Gustavo Menezes. He is climbing the single seater ladder in Europe and will be another fast driver for this team. The final piece of their line up is the amateur driver Chris Cumming, another fast Canadian who is a former PC class champion in the old American Le Mans Series. With the experience of the RSR Racing team and the very fast driver line up they have the team will be certain to challenge for class victory if they can have a clean run during the 12 Hours.

#16 Spongebob Movie BAR1 Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Johnny Mowlem/Martin Plowman/Tom Papadopoulos

The BAR1 Motorsport team were another team to show their pace during the Rolex 24, and will be hoping to continue this good start to the season this weekend at Sebring. Whilst things went well for the team on the track at Daytona, unfortunately the team were disqualified after the race for a drive time violation. Whilst this is rightly a huge blow for the promising young team, they can at least take solace from their strong run to pole position and a close second in class.

The team will be hoping to show similar pace this weekend, whilst keeping in line with the rules so they can keep their finishing position points. The team’s line up of very fast British drivers Johnny Mowlem and Martin Plowman are joined by the amateur driver Tom Papadopoulos, who is a good addition for the team. This line up is one of the best in the class and the team will be disappointed if they have a clean run during the 12 Hours and don’t come away with at least a podium place. Watch out for this team this weekend.

#38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Jerome Mee/James French/Conor Daly

The Performance Tech Motorsport team suffered a difficult Rolex 24 at Daytona, an accident eliminating them early on in the race. The team will therefore be looking for a smoother run in this weekend’s Sebring 12 Hours, although this race is another punishing event for everyone on the grid. The team will hope for a clean run throughout the race, something which should land the team a respectable result if they can achieve this.

On the driving front the team has the relatively experience James French to lead the line up alongside Jerome Mee, someone stepping up to the Prototype Challenge class of the Tudor United Sportscar Championship after competing for the last few years in the feeder IMSA Prototype Lights category. The team created a stir amongst the TUSC grid by announcing this week that the very fast young American Conor Daly will complete their line up for this weekend. Daly is inexperienced with sportscar racing although should impress at his first attempt. With this line up the team can definitely challenge for a class podium.

#52 Cuttwood PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Tom Kimber-Smith/Mike Guasch/Andrew Palmer

For the PR1/Mathiasen team started the year in the perfect manner with class victory in the opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, a result the team will hope to repeat at this weekend’s Sebring 12 Hours. The team got lucky in some cases during the race at Daytona, a key ingredient to all long distance sportscar victories. Whilst every team hopes before the start of a faultless run during the race, for this team this applies even more as they know if they can stay reliable they will be fighting to class victory come the end of the 12 Hours.

The team have retained their Daytona driver line up, with the very experienced and fast Brit Tom Kimber-Smith now partnering team mate Mike Guasch full time after Andrew Novich stepped down from the team after Daytona to focus on his college studies. Guasch is a very experienced a solid amateur driver to anchor the line up and will provide consistent stints whilst staying out of trouble, vital to any sportscar victory. Completing the teams line up is the fast young American Andrew Palmer, who steps up to the PC class of the Tudor series for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races. Palmer impressed in the competitive Pirelli World Challenge series last year,finishing 5th overall, and will look to continue his upward career momentum with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport. Coming off a Rolex 24 class victory, this team goes into Sebring as one of the favourites for class honours.

#54 FlexBox CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Jon Bennett/Colin Braun/James Gue

This CORE Autosport team have quickly established themselves as the leading team in the competitive Prototype Challenge class, as they dominated last year to taking the class title with numerous wins including at the Rolex 24. The team looked set for another class victory at Daytona this year, until a late accident in the final hour forced the team to settle for second in class. This team is used to winning in PC and will look to return to winning ways this weekend at Sebring. The team is highly professional and will surely go into the race as the favourite for PC class honours come the end of the 12 Hours.

The team’s driver line up looks solid on paper, although this underestimates the speed of Colin Braun or the steady and reliable team owner Jon Bennett and James Gue. Both can provide stints with a high average speed across their stint, whilst also remaining consistent and keeping out of any on track trouble that is inevitable with grids of over 40 cars. This team will go into the race as favourites for PC class honours and will surely be disappointed with anything but a class win.

#85 La Moderna JDC/Miller Motorsport Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet: Mikhail Goikhberg/Chris Miller/Rusty Mitchell/Gerry Kraut

The JDC/Miller Motorsport team will go into Sebring this weekend hoping to build on their class podium in Januaries Rolex 24 at Daytona. The team will have been happy to complete the podium in third although this was tinged slightly with the news that it only came about because of the exclusion of the #16 BAR1 Motorsport car.

The team have lost some of their star name drivers from the Rolex 24, although the line up they have retained is a very respectable one and can compete for competitive class honours in the race if they can avoid any major dramas. Mikhail Goikhberg has stepped up to the Tudor United Sportscar Championship this year after winning the feeder IMSA Prototype Lights series last year. This shows his pace and he will likely lead the teams line up throughout the race. Rusty Mitchell is another fast driver from this line up, and with plenty of sportscar racing experience he will help the team massively during the race. Chris Miller and Gerry Kraut will both be a safe pair of hands during the race and will hopefully keep the team out of trouble so that Mitchell and Goikhberg can push the team towards a top placing. If this team can stay out of trouble, they could very well spring a surprise come the end of the race. Watch out for this JDC/Miler entry and discount them at your peril.

That concludes my preview of the Prototype Challenge class ahead of this weekend’s Sebring 12 Hours. If I had to chose one car to put money on it would be the #54 CORE Autosport entry, although the likes of the #16 BAR1 Motorsport, #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport and #85 JDC/Miller Motorsport cars will all be fighting at the front for class victory. As with every class in the highly competitive Tudor United Sportscar Championship, it’s impossible to predict a clear favourite for victory, which only means the action on track will be even more exciting come Saturday. A final comment I have to make is a huge thank you to Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality images in this preview. Please go and visit their website http://www.Motorsport.com for the latest news and photos from across the motorsport world. Also feel free to comment any will be appreciated both good and bad. Enjoy!

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 Review Part 2

After posting the first half of my 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours Review the other day, the time has come to review the second half of a vast 2014 LMP2 entry, after a scintillating class battle for victory across the entirety of the 24 Hours.

SMP Racing:

#37 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Maurizio Mediani/Nicolas Minassian/Kirill Ladygin

For the #37 SMP Racing Oreca-Nissan entry, things didn’t go to plan for the team as they suffered a tumultuous race week, as their car suffered from some niggly problems and accidents. This hampered the car as they were mired in the LMP2 midfield after qualifying, a place they remained until their retirement from the 24 Hours after only 9 laps. A thoroughly disappointing race for this team, although they can be confident of their LMP2 class challenging pace will be back for the rest of the World Endurance Championship this year.

Jota Sport:

#38 Zytek Z11SN-Nissan: Simon Dolan/Harry Tincknell/Oliver Turvey/Marc Gene
The Le Mans 24 Hours week seemed a fairy tale story for this close knit Jota Sport team, despite some hiccups along the way, they came through to claim a popular class victory.

The team and their #38 Zytek-Nissan entry was on the pace from the start of free practice, and claimed 2nd in class after qualifying finished on Thursday evening. The team however, had already faced major upheaval as original driver Marc Gene was commandeered by Audi after their driver Loic Duval was unable to race after a scary free practice shunt on Wednesday afternoon.The team subsequently drafted in Oliver Turvey at the very last minute, and from the start of the 24 Hours this entry was competitive in the LMP2 class.

After problems for the #35 OAK Racing Ligier and #34 Race Performance Oreca on Sunday morning, the team lay 3rd in class and Le Mans rookie Harry Tincknell set about closing the gap. From here to the finish the team never let up the pace, and eventually Oliver Turvey was able to overtake the Thiriet by TDS Ligier in the final hour to claim a fairy tale victory for the team. Expect this team to carry over it’s competitiveness to the rest of the 2014 European Le Mans Series.

Greaves Motorsport:

#41 Zytek Z11SN-Nissan: Michael Munemann/Alessandro Latif/James Winslow

For the #41 entry, the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours was ultimately a disappointing one as this team appeared to be off the leading pace in LMP2 this year, before an unlucky retirement spoilt their chances for a good result in the 24 Hours. The team struggled through qualifying as they posted the slowest time in the LMP2, leaving them plenty of work to do to recover in the 24 Hours.

Sadly for this successful team, they didn’t get the opportunity to salvage a good result come race day, as sudden rain fall a few hours into the race caught the #41 entry out at Terte Rouge as Le Mans rookie Michael Munemann spun and collected the spinning #48 Murphy Prototypes entry of Karun Chandhok.

Whilst the Murphy Prototypes entry was able to repair it’s car and re-join the race, the #41 was unfortunately eliminated after the damage cause proved too much to repair. It was a hugely disappointing way to retire yet the conditions were hugely challenging in this portion of the race. Expect the team to show their potential in 2015, hopefully with the same line-up so they can avenge this year’s disappointing result.

Caterham Racing:

#42 Zytek Z11SN-Nissan: Chris Dyson/Tom Kimber-Smith/Matt McMurry
The second of the Greaves entry, although in Caterham racing attire thanks to a link up between the two, had a rather more promising run in the 24 Hours than it’s sister #41 entry. The team’s driver line-up showed decent pace throughout the 24 Hours, yet unfortunately they were not able to capitalise on this thanks to a few problems during the race.

The team did at least finish the race, although they were hoping for slightly better than 11th in class and 25 overall. Nevertheless, the team did at least finish and showed character during the race. Special mention must go to driver Matt McMurry, who performed expertly throughout the race and broke the record for the youngest driver to compete at Le Mans at 16 years old. This team should have much more luck in the remaining round of their ELMS campaign, and hopefully the same line up will return for more in 2015.

Newblood by Morand Racing:

#43 Morgan LMP2-Judd: Christian Klien/Gary Hirsch/Romain Brandela

Throughout race week, this relatively new #43 Morand racing entry proved an unexpected higher midfield runner in LMP2, qualifying 8th and showing genuine pace in the hands of all 3 drivers, and most importantly a clean run, which left them in a good position by Sunday lunchtime.

The team then solidified it’s position as it crossed the line 6th in class and 10th overall. For this team a top 10 overall finish can only be viewed as a great result, as they successfully transferred their pace in the ELMS over to the 24 Hours. This team can only grow from here and may well prove a dark horse for a podium next year.

Thiriet by TDS Racing:

#46 Ligier JSP2-Nissan: Pierre Thiriet/Tristan Gommendy/Ludovic Badey

The #46 Thiriet by TDS racing team were competitive from the moment free practice started with their new Ligier JSP2 coupe. The feared reliability issues never materialised for this entry as they stormed to the LMP2 class pole in qualifying. The team then carried over this pace into the 24 Hours, where they were always in the top 5 and battling for the class lead.

After problems for the #35 OAK racing Ligier blunted their challenge the #46 Thiriet by TDS entry was there to pick up the class lead, hoping to hold on until the finish. Tristan Gommendy and Ludovic Badey tried their best to respond to the late charge from Harry Tincknell and Oliver Turvey at Jota.

Heartbreakingly for this team, after the final pit stops there challenge appeared not to be enough as Jota jumped them in the pits. The team threw new tyres on the car as a last gasp chance, yet Turvey was able to manage the gap and eventually finished a lap ahead as the #46 entry was held up behind the winning Audi’s final lap procession. This team can be massively proud with 2nd in class and showed genuine pace which should ensure their challenging for victories in the remaining ELMS rounds. This team is back at it’s best again and expect big things in 2015.

KCMG:

#47 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Matt Howson/Alex Imperatori/Richard Bradley

For the Asian based KCMG team showed huge potential in the 24 Hours, something which unfortunately did not lead to a good result for this team. After qualifying the team showed higher midfield pace, yet it was in the 24 Hours that this entry came alive, as opening driver Alex Imperatori showed stunning pace as he rose through the field and began trading the class lead with the #38 Jota entry.

Sadly from here things went downhill for the #47 Oreca-Nissan, as sudden rain fall in the race’s second hour caught out Imperatori, who crashed heavily at the first Mulsanne Chicane, with the extensive damage to the car being enough to force this promising entry into retirement. The team can take positives from their showing however, because if they show this kind of pace in the remaining WEC rounds, expect them to take some class wins, and hopefully they’ll return with some better luck in 2015.

Murphy Prototypes:

#48 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Karun Chandhok/Rodolfo Gonzalez/Nathanael Berthon

For the experienced Murphy Prototypes team, Le Mans 2014 proved a disappointing one as the team showed the potential for a top 6 finish, yet were one of many teams to be caught out by the changeable conditions in the opening few hours of the race. From the start they took a assured and steady approach, yet they were first caught out in a collision with the #41 Greaves entry, which cost them time.

From here the team tried to make up places yet it wasn’t long before the car was suffering again as they were forced out after only a few hours. This team had a dynamite driver line-up, who will all be hoping their dreadful luck so far will not be repeated in the remaining ELMS rounds. This entry deserves a great result next year if they retain this line-up.

Larbre Competition:

#50 Morgan LMP2-Judd: Pierre Ragues/Keiko Ihara/Ricky Taylor

For the Larbre competition team, their inaugural Le Mans 24 Hours in the LMP2 class, after years of success in the GTE Am category, proved a steady and sensible race where they emerged unscathed from the madness to claim a decent result with 14th overall. Although the team lacked the outright speed to win the class, all 3 drivers proved more than capable and all showed their potential at times throughout the race.

For Jacques Leconte’s team, a finish in their first year in LMP2 can only be viewed as a success, however the fact they finished 9th in class shows the competitiveness of the LMP2 category, which is something the team will hope to improve on the remaining ELMS rounds and hopefully the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours also.

That’s a wrap for my 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 Review, I hope you enjoyed it and please feel free to give your comments, my details are in the Contact section of my blog. Once again a massive thank you to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing photos, which are definitely worth viewing in full on their website. Next up is the GTE Pro review, so stay tuned. Enjoy!

2014 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 Review Part 1

The 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours cemented the argument that this year’s LMP2 class was the most competitive in at least a decade if not more, although the class has struggled for numbers this year, especially in the World Endurance Championship, the 17 car entry for the 24 Hours provided a scintillating battle throughout the full 24 Hours. This class provided everything with stunning speed, intense battles for position and finally a popular class winner in the Jota Sport team. For 2015 this class has a lot to live up after this year.

Millennium Racing:

#22 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Fabien Giroix/Oliver Turvey/John Martin
Although I included this entry in my LMP2 preview post, it seemed as soon as I posted it this entry was withdrawn, as the funding issues which have prevented this car from running in the WEC so far this season reared it’s ugly head again. These funding issues must be frustrating for everyone involved with this Alan Docking Racing ran team, which if it ever makes it on track this year, will prove a formidable challenger for class honours with a very strong team and driver line-up. Let’s hope we see this car in action before the year’s out.

Sebastien Loeb Racing:

#24 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Rene Rast/Jan Charouz/Vincent Capillaire
For this relatively young team, this years Le Mans 24 Hours almost provided a fairy tale for them, as the team came an agonisingly close 4th in LMP2, only 1 lap off the podium. 4th for this new team is still a magical result for the team, of which little was expected pre-race.

The team’s driver line-up performed admirably, with the stand out of the three being amateur Vincent Capillaire, who more than held his own amongst an army of professional drivers in the class. If this team can retain it’s driver line-up and luck from 2014 going into the 2015 24 Hours, expect them to improve on a 4th in class. A truly great effort from this team this year.

G Drive Racing:

#26 Morgan LMP2-Nissan: Roman Rusinov/Olivier Pla/Julien Canal
For this team the 24 Hours proved a great disappointment as a team that was right in the mix for class honours early on was eliminated on Saturday evening. The OAK racing team and it’s driver line-up were definite contenders for victory, something we were robbed of seeing with their retirement. This team looks set to continue it’s dominance of LMP2 in the WEC this year, and hopefully we’ll see a much longer run for this team in 2015.

SMP Racing:

#27 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Sergey Zlobin/Mika Salo/Anton Ladygin
The Russian SMP Racing team came to Le Mans with high expectations and hoping for a great result in the 24 Hours. Things didn’t go to plan however during the whole week as both the team’s entries proved accident prone and slightly off the pace in this highly competitive class. Despite this the team was hoping to shed their bad luck before the start of the race.

Sadly this didn’t prove the case as the team was unfortunate to suffer a number of problems throughout the race, something which meant they finished 37th and the final LMP2 car to finish. In reflection, this AF Corse affiliated team will hopefully see that simply finishing the race, after the battle scarred week the team suffered, is enough of an achievement for this year. Expect to see more from this professional outfit in 2015.

Pegasus Racing:

#29 Morgan LMP2-Nissan: Julian Schell/Nicolas Leutwiler/Leo Roussel
This team appeared at a huge disadvantage to other entries in this highly competitive class, as to achieving a good result with many experts giving this small team little hope. The relatively unknown driver line-up and the fact this is the team’s first time back at Le Mans after several years were their reasoning behind the scepticism.
Sadly for this team a misunderstanding with the #1 Audi in Thursday’s evening qualifying session, resulted in a red flag inducing shunt for this entry.

The team subsequently performed brilliantly to re-build the car in time for the race. From here the team’s drivers stepped up to the plate to provide a steady run for this team, which managed to stay out of trouble for the rest of the race, although some mechanical reliability hampered the team as they struggled to a 10th place finish in class,18th overall. For this team they showed they were deserving of an entry and should come back stronger in 2015, hopefully for a much more rewarding race.

OAK Racing- Team Asia:

#33 Ligier JSP-HPD: David Cheng/Ho-Pin Tung/Adderly Fong
For this OAK racing-Team Asia entry, the 24 Hours proved relatively quiet for them as they soldiered on from a poor qualifying to attain an ultimately rewarding 12th overall and 7th in class finish. Not many thought these great looking new Ligier JSP2 coupe’s would complete the 24 Hours trouble free, despite extensive pre-race testing.

This team ran like a metronome and their relatively inexperienced driver line-up drove brilliantly to cope with changeable conditions, and whilst others were throwing their cars off track or suffering reliability issues, they kept going to hopefully the first of many Le Mans finishes for this young team.

Race Performance:

#34 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Michel Frey/Frank Mailleux/Jon Lancaster
The Race Performance have quietly impressed many within the European Le Mans Series showing so far in 2014, as they have proved competitive in both ELMS before the 24 Hours. Despite their impressive showings, not many tipped this car to challenge for class victory in the 24 Hours. Yet the team pulled a masterstroke in teaming rapid ex-GP2 racer Jon Lancaster with regular drivers Frank Mailleux and Michel Frey.

From the start, this car proved competitive as all 3 drivers drove impressively to keep the car in the hunt for victory. Sadly for this team, the car let them down in the final few hours as they were hobbled by a variety of mechanical issues, which left them tumbling down the order as they yo-yoed between the track and garage. The team did at least make the finish, albeit 13th overall and 8th in class. If this team continues it’s upward trend, the team will be hugely competitive next year. Expect big things in the future from this team.

OAK Racing:

#35 Ligier JSP2-Nissan: Alex Brundle/Jann Mardenborough/Mark Shulzhitskiy
Going into the race, this entry appeared one of the favourites for class honours on paper. The OAK racing team are prodigiously successful at the Le Mans 24 Hours, and their driver line-up was arguably the most competitive in the LMP2 class. Ultimately, despite showing blistering pace and leading a portion of the race, the team’s Achilles heel proved exactly it was feared it would be. The new Ligier JSP2 coupe.

Although the team made sure to do extensive testing before the race, a few small problems eliminated this car from contention on Sunday morning, something that left the drivers devastated. It seemed likely if this car stayed healthy, it would have won the LMP2 class. Something the team will be hoping they can prove in 2015.

Signatech Alpine:

#36 Alpine A450B-Nissan: Paul Loup-Chatin/Nelson Panciatici/Oliver Webb
Preparing for the Le Mans 24 Hours, this team appeared to be struggling as they were well off their 2013 ELMS title winning potential. After the first ELMS race the team changed tyre suppliers, hoping this would solve their issues. Yet this car still went into the race and under the radar contender for victory in LMP2. This was despite impressing in qualifying, especially LMPC Prototype graduate Paul Loup-Chatin. Throughout the race the drivers performed impressively and the car stayed out of the garage.

This left the team fighting for the top 3 podium positions in class with only a few hours to go. The team battled on into the final hours, eventually coming home a very competitive 3rd in class, and startling 7th overall. The team and drivers were clearly very happy with their result, and with such a young driver line-up, the team has plenty of potential to improve on their 3rd in class next year.

That’s it for the first half of my LMP2 Le Mans 24 Hours review, feel free to comment or look at any of my other Le Mans posts over the past few weeks. Finally a huge thanks to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality photos please visit their site it’s the first for up to date news and scintillating high quality photos. Enjoy!