Ryan Hunter-Reay

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 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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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.

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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!