Ryan Briscoe

2020 Rolex 24 DPI Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

2018 Rolex 24 GTLM Preview

The GTLM class is arguably the most competitive of all classes in the IMSA WeatherTech championship, and 2018 should again see no quarter given as nine cars from five factory supported manufactures will do battle. Last year saw Ford claim the spoils, with seven cars finishing on the lead lap showing how competitive this class is. This year see’s renewed input from BMW and Porsche, with choosing a winner for this class virtually impossible. If you have missed my first two prototype class previews, you can find them here. Part 1  Part 2

Let’s look at the class field, which may lack in numbers but certainly not in overall quality.

#3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Antonio Garcia/Jan Magnussen/Mike Rockenfeller

The defending GTLM class champions return with an unchanged line-up this year, unsurprisingly. The Pratt & Miller run Corvette racing programme are one of the slickest operations in the IMSA paddock, and have been a competitive factory GT outfit since the turn of the millennium.

Three wins last year, including the Sebring 12 Hours, secured the GTLM title for this #3 crew, something they will look to repeat this year. Both Garcia and Magnussen are vastly experienced in the C7.R and and have the pace to challenge at the front in the class. Audi DTM racer Mike Rockenfeller returns once again after joining the team last year, and provides added pace to an already strong line-up.  Fifth in the pre-race test for Antonio Garcia does not indicate strong pace, but Corvette racing should recover come race week.

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#4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Marcel Fassler

2017 was a down year for this always successful #4 crew. Full season drivers Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner only secured one class win, but should bounce back in 2018. Their previous success has meant GM has retained the duo for this year, with Swiss Audi factory driver Marcel Fassler returning once again to bolster the endurance line-up.

Gavin looked impressive in the pre-race Roar test, securing the second fastest time, 0.3s quicker than their team mates. Both the Corvette Racing entries are formidable opponents for their rivals, and their consistently strong results year after year show this team is one of the best in business.

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#24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE: Jesse Krohn/John Edwards/Nicky Catsburg/Augusto Farfus

BMW have a much increased involvement in GTE class racing with a new M8 GTE car for this year. They have expanded into the WEC for this year, alongside their long running IMSA GT factory programme. The team have encountered some expected new car troubles, but the team will not be using that as an excuse during the race.

John Edwards has been a long-term BMW factory IMSA driver, and for the full season is joined by Jesse Krohn, who has impressed in the GTD class in recent years. Joining them for Daytona are WEC racers Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus. All four are very quick drivers, the only question mark for this team in a highly competitive class is their new M8 car.

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#25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE: Alex Sims/Conor de Phillippi/Bill Auberlen/Philipp Eng

The second of the factory BMW entries has another all-star cast of factory drivers, with Alex Sims joined by new signing Conor de Phillippi for the full season. Sims was very quick in the old M6 last year and Phillippi was a standout in the GTD class in an Audi R8.

Long term factory pilot Bill Auberlen has stepped back into an endurance-only role this season, and Philipp Eng has proved very quick with various customer teams in the GT3 spec M6. As with their other entry their result will depend on the new M8 GTE and its reliability. Ford hit the ground running with their GT several years ago, so anything will be possible for the German marque.

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#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE: James Calado/Toni Vilander/Alessandro Pier Guidi/Davide Rigon

This family run factory supported team return for a partial campaign this year, after an abrupt end to their 2017 season after the Le Mans 24 Hours. They return to Daytona after finishing a close third in the Rolex 24 last year.

On the driving front the team have 2017 WEC GTE Pro champions James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, with fellow factory drivers Toni Vilander and Davide Rigon  completing the line-up. Rigon was a late addition and missed the pre-race test, but he has enough experience of the GTE spec Ferrari.   This is a seriously strong line-up of Ferrari GT talent, although they did appear to struggle for ultimate pace at the test. The fact this is a one-car team may hinder them against their well stocked factory opponents, but this team will be pushing them all the way in the race.

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#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Sebastien Bourdais/Joey Hand/Dirk Muller

The factory Ford GT programme enters its third year, but already has claimed some major honours. This #66 car claimed GTE Pro victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours in its debut year, and claimed the GTLM Rolex 24 class victory last year.

The team retain an unchanged line-up, of full season drivers Joey Hand and Dirk Muller, with Indycar racer Sebastien Bourdais joining them for the endurance rounds. All three are very quick in this Ford GT, and with Bourdais having firmly put his severe Indy 500 practice accident behind him, the team will be hoping their good form can extend into a third year. A fastest time at the Roar test is a good omen for this #66 team.

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#67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook/Scott Dixon

This #67 crew have been forced to watch on as their teams other entry has claimed major successes across the world for the past two years. They seem to have attracted the majority of the teams bad luck in that time, because in a straight fight they are evenly matched with their intra-team rivals.

Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook are a very talented pairing, with multiple Indycar champion Scott Dixon a very strong third addition to the team. Ryan Briscoe set the third fastest time at the test, and with the top six cars separated by only a second this class battle will be on for the entire 24 hours.

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#911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Frederic Makowiecki/Patrick Pilet/Nick Tandy

This CORE Autosport led factory Porsche GT outfit enter the second year of their new mid-engined Porsche 911 RSR car. With their withdrawal from the LMP1 class Porsche have put renewed investment into their GT racing across the world, something that is shown with their IMSA programme.

Patrick Pilet returns, but has a new team mate this year with LMP1 racer Nick Tandy moving across to replace Dirk Werner, who likely moves across to the WEC. Joining them for the long distance rounds is WEC GT racer Frederic Makowiecki. Last year this team were the closest challengers to the winning #66 Ford entry this year, and with a renewed emphasis on GT racing can they go one step further this time around.

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#912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Earl Bamber/Laurens Vanthoor/Gianmaria Bruni 

The #912 car in the hands of Earl Bamber was the fastest of the two Porsche’s at the pre-race test, showing they are definite contenders for victory. The #912 crew struggled last year, with only two class podiums and no wins across the year.

The team retain the very quick Belgian Laurens Vanthoor for his second season with the team, with former LMP1 factory driver Earl Bamber coming across to IMSA as his new full season team mate. Italian Gianmaria Bruni rejoins the team for Daytona after a truncated 2017 season.

That wraps up my preview looking at the fiercely competitive GTLM class. It’s not an exaggeration to say that any one of the nine entries could win this class, and expect the class lead battle to go on for the entirety of the race.

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I want to say a massive thank you for anyone who has read this article and I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, feel free to comment, like or share. I have to say a final massive thank you to Motorsport.com for their high quality photos which grace this page. For all the latest motorsport news please visit their website.  You can find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

Coming up next is a two-part preview of the GTD class. Stay tuned!