Prototype Challenge

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.

Advertisements

Starworks Motorsport Preview

The build up to the Rolex 24 at Daytona is always a stressful time for both the teams and the drivers competing. The opening round of the revamped WeatherTech Sportscar Championship always brings questions for the longest race of the year, and this year will be no different.

With this in mind, the Florida based Starworks Motorsport team were kind enough to give me an insight into their thoughts and preparations for the race. The team have two entries in the Prototype Challenge class and have a good chance of winning the class this year. They let me ask their drivers Renger Van Der Zande of the #8 car and newcomer Felix Rosenqvist of the #88 about their preparations for this race and their future plans. Here are there responses, starting with Van Der Zande first.

Q1)First of all, how have your and the team’s preparations for this race been going so far?

Its better than the other two years before. I am at the track now and the car is ready, the plan is sorted and we can start thinking about the details already now. It’s good.

Q2)What do you think are your chances of claiming the class victory going into the race?

The line up on our car is great–actually the best in the field. Jack and I have both been very fast in this class compared to the other pro’s and for the silver rated drivers Alex and Chris are literally the fastest guys. This gives confidence but we still need quite a bit of luck too, as a 24h race is very very long.

Q3)Now, you’ve made the American sportscar racing scene your home for the last few years, how was the transition from the European single seater/racing scene to the American sportscar scene and are their any similarities/differences between them?

Endurance racing is much different than formula cars. Here we can damage the car and start repairing and get out again. As the races are long you can still grab valuable points or good end results. There is a lot of strategy to think about. I like that part a lot more over sprint racing where the short races can be over because of very small details.

Q4)Your signed up for the full WeatherTech Sportscar season, but who do you think are your closest rivals for the class championship?

Core is always fast and their car is always reliable. Speed-wise we are on top, and we now have to raise the reliability to win the championship.

Q5)Your going to be competing in the Dubai 24 Hours, Rolex 24 hours and Bathurst 12 Hours within the same month, what are the challenges of competing in three very tough races within the space of a month?

It’s just an awesome preparation for the rest of the season. And very nice to kill the cold wintertime is Florida, the emirates and Oz.

imsa-daytona-24-2016-8-starworks-motorsports-oreca-flm09-jack-hawskworth-chris-cumming-renThe #8 Starworks Motorsport entry of Renger Van Der Zande in action during practice. 

And here are Rosenqvist’s responses also.

Q1)How have both your and the team’s preparations been going for the race this weekend?

It’s all quite busy and you have to use every minute you can to jump in the car and get comfortable with all the buttons and tools etc. I think you’re always abit nervous going into something new like this, but I’m sure once you get your first stint out of the way it will be much more clear!

Q2)Now, how has your transition been coming from European F3 to the Prototype challenge class, especially learning the Daytona circuit also?

It’s a very different car, but I think I benefit from having formula experience since the car has a fair bit of downforce. In the end it’s just another car with 4 wheels, and you get used to it after you get some laps in.

imsa-daytona-24-2016-88-starworks-motorsport-oreca-flm09-mark-kvamme-sean-johnston-maro-enThe Florida’s team second entry is Prototype Challenge is this #88 car. Both have a good chance of class victory come Sunday afternoon.

Q3)With your next career move unclear at this present time, would a move into sportscar racing be something that is appealing to you?

It’s for sure something I’m looking at. There are many good options out there, I just have to sort of find out what would be the best move for me!

Q4)What do you think your car’s chances are of claiming a good result this weekend?

I think we have a very good shot at the win and it’s just all about keeping cool until the last hour, if you can be on the lead lap then with an undamaged car – there you go!

Q5)At the moment, is this a one-off race for you or could we see you returning to the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship later in the season?

There’s definitely a possibility. The Petit Le Mans has always been one race I wanted to get off the list.

Both drivers appear to be quietly confident going into the race, but are also respectful of this long distance race where anything can happen. We will have to see this weekend if the Rolex 24 hours is going to be cruel or kind to the two drivers and their respective cars.

I would like to thank everyone at Starworks Motorsport for their co-operation and their drivers Renger Van Der Zande and Felix Rosenqvist for taking the time to answer these questions. Finally I would like to thank first of all Kelly Brouillet at KBru Communications for her help in setting up these interviews and to motorsport.com for the high quality photos you see in this article.

What are your thoughts on the chances for the Starworks Motorsport team going into the 2016 edition of the Rolex 24 hours? Please feel free to comment below and thank you for reading.

2016 Rolex 24 Prototype Challenge Race Preview

The Prototype Challenge class has been a mainstay of first the previous American Le Mans Series and now the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship since 2010. The series will introduce some subtle tweaks for this year, although the full impact of these will not come in to play until the Sebring 12 Hours in a few months time.

This years Rolex 24 will see eight identical Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet cars take to the grid, with their class battle always providing intrigue with such evenly matched teams and cars. This class is a good introduction to American prototype racing, and it’s down to the drivers and teams to find the advantage they need to secure victory.

For the past few years it has been the CORE Autosport team which have effectively dominated this class, although as they showed in last years Rolex 24, anything can happen in this race and these cars seem to struggle with the demanding nature of the Daytona International Speedway.

#8 Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet: Jack Hawksworth/Renger Van Der Zande/Alex Popow/Chris Cumming

The Florida based Starworks motorsport have decided to fully focus on their Prototype Challenge campaign this year after some successful years running Daytona Prototypes. They are running two entries in this class and have assembled driver line up’s that can both easily win this class.

In this #8 entry the team have partnered full season line up Renger Van Der Zande and Alex Popow with Jack Hawksworth and Chris Cumming for the Rolex 24. Van Der Zande is one of the quickest drivers in this class and has been for the past few seasons, whilst Popow is also a very quick driver who has been loyal to the Starworks team for a long time now.

Hawksworth is a very talented British racer who is taking time out of his preparation for the upcoming Indycar season with this drive for Starworks. Finally Cumming joins the team as an experienced and very good amateur racer who is preparing to make the jump from the WeatherTech series to join the Tequila Patron ESM team for the full World Endurance Championship season.

With the talent behind the wheel and this team’s long history with both the series and this race, this entry will likely go into the race as one of the main contenders and favourites for 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

The BAR1 Motorsport team are the other two car entry in this class this year, and will be hoping to show their pace from last year was not a fluke. The team secured the class pole last year, and ran strongly to a second place overall before being disqualified for one of their amateur drivers not meeting the minimum driving time.

This error cost the team in a huge manner and will not be something they will likely repeat this year. From last years driver line up the experienced Brit Johnny Mowlem returns to the team along with Tomy Drissi, who rejoins the driver line up for this car after a good race last year.

Marc Drumwright is an experienced amateur racer who competed in the series last year so will provide some experience for this team. Whilst the Mercedes DTM driver Lucas Auer produced the car’s best time at the pre-race test, during race week it will likely be either Mowlem or Drissi that are setting this car’s fastest times.

This BAR1 team showed last year they can compete in this closely fought class, and this year will be hoping they can turn their good work into a strong result to start off their season. A repeat of last year’s no-score will put them on the back foot for the championship from the get go, along with continuing their bad luck at one of the premier races in the season. A class podium will be a good result and a class win an outstanding one for this ambitious young team.

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

#26 BAR1 Motorsport ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet: Adam Merzon/Ryan Eversley/Don Yount/John Falb/Ryan Lewis

The second of the BAR1 entries is this #26 car, which much like the sister #20 entry has a great chance for a good result for this team. Adam Merzon is a good solid driver the only drawback for him is his lack of track time in recent year. He has plenty of both prototype and GT racing experience although his last full season in a top line series such as this was over ten years ago.

Ryan Eversley is a well known name in American sportscar racing, and joins the BAR1 team after spending 2015 in the supporting Pirelli World Challenge series as an Acura factory driver. Eversley has plenty of experience in this race and will be hoping he can lead this team to at least a class podium come the final hour of the race.

Don Yount is a racer who is making the step up to the Prototype Challenge class on a more permanent basis after he dipped into the class at the tail end of last year. Yount is a solid racer who has progressed from Radical’s through the supporting Cooper Tires Prototype Lights category, placing second in the Masters class in 2014. Although his relative lack of experience in this class will hamper him, he is a good enough driver to still run competitive times in this car throughout his stints behind the wheel.

Ryan Lewis is a good driver who has plenty of experience at this level, combined with an impressive junior racing record from series such as British Formula Three in the past. He will likely provide some good solid stints behind the wheel, which will be what this car needs if it is to achieve a good result come the end.

Completing the line up is John Falb, who much like Yount has progressed through junior categories to reach the Rolex 24 in this #26 entry. Falb was the Radical Cup USA champion in 2014 and in his rookie year of the Cooper Tires Prototype Lights class he finished a very respectable 4th overall. Although this will be a step up for Falb, his record shows he is a very good amateur driver who has the potential to become one of the best in this class.

This entry may struggle to match the ultimate pace that it’s sister entry may have for the entire 24 hours, although by no means count this entry out for a class podium as a clean run for them will put them in the hunt. Whilst the #20 car may get a lot of pre-race attention, the #26 team can spring a surprise in this race and with the attrition that usually engulfs this class anything is possible for this team.

imsa-daytona-january-testing-2016-26-bar1-motorsports-oreca-flm09-adam-merzon-ryan-eversle

#38 Performance Tech Motorsport ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet: James French/Jim Norman/Josh Norman/Brandon Gdovic 

The Performance Tech team return for yet another season in the Prototype Challenge class this year. The Florida based team have been running in the class almost since it’s inception, and this experience will prove to be a great help for the team during the race.

James French returns to the team after doing the full season for the team last year, and will provide some experience and pace to this entry. Joining French is the father-son duo Jim and Josh Norman. Jim is an experienced racer and doctor, and can count a class win in the GX class of the 2013 Rolex 24. He has extensive experience in GT racing and is now stepping up to the prototype ranks.

His son Josh joins him in the car after they shared a car in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo USA category last year. Norman is combing his racing with his biology studies at the University of Florida, but his inexperience at this level may hinder the team slightly in the race, although likely not by much.

Completing the line up is Brandon Gdovic, who is a young racer with good potential. Gdovic exceeded expectations in 2015 and became the Lamborghini Gallardo world champion at the Italian marque’s end of year finals race meeting. Gdovic has also shown promise in the Nascar Xfinity series, and this adaptability will help him get up to speed with the ORECA prototype. Although this is his first foray into the prototype ranks, he could end up impressing the class paddock with his performance.

Although this team will likely not be considered amongst the absolute elite of this class, should anything unforeseen happen to these contenders this #38 entry will be right there to pick up the pieces and claim a good result to start their season. Watch out for this team as an outside contender to spring a surprise.

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

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

The reigning class winners at this race return eager for more success in 2016. Whilst this team benefited from the misfortune of the CORE Autosport last year, the team will want to show they can win this race again in a straight fight.

Leading the line up once again is the expat Brit Tom Kimber-Smith, whose vast experience and pace will likely be the driving force for this team in the race. Partnering Kimber-Smith will be Robert Alon, Jose Gutierrez and Nicholas Boulle. Alon is another driver stepping up from the feeder IMSA Prototype Lights series, with a string of podiums showing his talent despite only having raced cars for two years. If he can get up to speed with both the car and the circuit quickly he could prove a revelation for the team.

Jose Gutierrez is a young up and coming Mexican racer who has shown promise in the Pro Mazda junior category for the past two years. This year see’s him switch from single seaters to sportscars with a Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup campaign with this #52 entry. His pace will be known but will he be able to keep his nose clean and produce consistently quick stints in the race? If he can do this watch out for him.

Completing the line up is Nicholas Boulle, an accomplished racer who is a good amateur driver. His racing commitments fit around his business and his cycling, of which he is a Texas criterium champion. Although Boulle hasn’t got a lot of experience at this level, he may be able to post competitive times if he is able to fully get comfortable with the powerful ORECA racer.

This team as defending class winners is one of several contenders for victory, although the driver line up is lacking something from last year and this may hurt the team over the course of the race. If their young line up can prove itself they have a great chance at back to back victories in this class.

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

#54 CORE Autosport ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet: Jon Bennett/Colin Braun/Mark Wilkins/Martin Plowman

The CORE Autosport team have dominated this class for the past several years, and will be hoping they can put last year’s accident in the final hours behind them to claim another class victory in this race.

The class benchmarks have returned even stronger in 2016, with the addition of very quick Indycar racer Martin Plowman to their regular line up. Team principal Jon Bennett is a very quick and experienced amateur, and is supported by the charger Colin Braun, who has shown himself as one of the best drivers in this class for the past few years.

Mark Wilkins completes the line up and knows exactly what to do to keep the car competitive and trouble free. This team has the perfect blend of young pace in Braun and Plowman, and experience with Bennett and Wilkins.

For this professional team anything less than a victory will be considered a relative failure, although a class podium and a decent haul of points for their championship campaign would be a welcome consolation.This team has become the benchmark in this class that has set them apart from the rest. Expect to see this team running at the front of the class for the majority of the 24 hours.

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

#85 JDC/Miller Motorsports ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet: Mikhail Goikhberg/Chris Miller/Stephen Simpson/Kenton Koch

The JDC/Miller motorsport team are another mainstay of this class, although they have struggled to find success in the past few years. With the high quality of this class that is no huge bad reflection on the team, it simply reflects the quality of the class.

Stephen Simpson will be the ace professional driver in this entry, and his pace will likely lead the team throughout the race. Mikhail Goikhberg will be another hotshoe in this car, as he has experience in this class now after stepping up to the category last year on the back of his championship year in the IMSA Prototype Lights class in 2014.

Completing the line up are the young driver Kenton Koch and American Chris Miller. Koch replaced Goikhberg as the IMSA Prototype Lights champion and now follows him into this class as his team mate. Miller is an experienced racer who will help this team secure a good result.

For this team their race result will likely be factored on how Goikhberg and Koch perform in their stints. If they can run consistently quick times whilst managing to keep something in reserve this team has a chance of a class podium come the end of the 24 hours, although a lot depends on the reliability of the car and the team’s ability to stay out of trouble.

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

#88 Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet: Sean Johnston/Mark Kvamme/Maro Engel/Felix Rosenqvist

The second Starworks entry is another that is one of the pre-race contenders for victory, thanks to the team and the high quality driver line up they have assembled for this #88 car.

After being drafted into the line up late on, it was Swede Felix Rosenqvist who produced the fastest time for this car in the pre-race test. This will be an ominous sign for the rest of the field, as his pace may set this car apart from the rest except from possibly the #54 entry. Could a good performance here create some sportscar opportunities for the reigning FIA European F3 champion?

Equally talented is the German Mercedes GT ace Maro Engel, who adds to the quality of this line up. Engel has years of sportscar experience and will likely use his single seater experience to help adjust to the Oreca chassis.

Completing the line up are young American Sean Johnston and the experienced Mark Kvamme. Johnston is one of many racers who started through the Nissan GT academy, and has developed into an accomplished GT racer. He should be a dark horse in this car and may well end up surprising a lot of people with his performance. Completing the line up is Kvamme, who has raced for fun in several GT series over the past few years. He has raced at this level before and will likely only need to adjust to the car rather than learn the circuit.

For this team they have a great chance to claim class victory, although they will likely need to be at their best to beat the CORE Autosport team. Both Starworks entries are contenders and could spring a surprise in the race.

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

In this class there are several pre-race favourites, although theoretically three quarters of this class could claim the victory if they have a clean race. Of the top contenders the class victory is most likely to be fought out between the #54 CORE Autosport entry and the two Starworks entries. The #52 PR1 entry is another who will be right up there throughout the race, although if I was a betting person it would be hard to bet against the #54 entry. But the great thing about sportscar and 24 hour racing is that anything can happen.

Finally I have to give credit to Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality pictures which are featured in this article. Please go and visit their website Motorsport.com for all the latest news and pictures from around the motorsport world. I hope you enjoyed the article and I would love to hear your thoughts on both the article and the upcoming race. Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!