Townsend Bell

2020 Rolex 24 GTD Preview Part One

Part four of my Rolex 24 preview looks at the GTD class, open to GT3 machinery. If you would like to view my other class previews, you can find DPI here, LMP2 here and GTLM here. The GTD class is by far the biggest in the race, with 18 entries from nine different makes.

The class focuses on pro/am racing, similarly to LMP2, with the focus being on pairing amateur drivers with professionals. With 18 entries and nine different cars, the class will provide intense racing the entire 24 hours. Let’s preview the first half of this GTD class.

#9 Pfaff Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R: Lars Kern/Dennis Olsen/Patrick Pilet/Zach Robichon

Pfaff Motorsport return to IMSA, aiming to improve upon a very good 2019 season. Two wins at Lime Rock and Road America propelled the team to third in the GTD standings. Porsche’s renewed focus on GT racing has massively improved their 911 GT3 car across the world.

Canadian Zach Robichon impressed last year and so returns for the full season, partnered with Dennis Olsen. Porsche factory drivers Lars Kern and Patrick Pilet complete the line-up for Daytona.

Qualifying at the Roar didn’t go to plan, with Robichon placing the Porsche 14th. The team ran consistently during the test without any issues. The pace wasn’t there, except when Pilet was in the car, but don’t discount them. The Porsche is a proven package and their driver line up deserves respect.

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#11 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Albert Costa/Richard Heistand/Franck Perera/Steijn Schothorst

De facto Lamborghini factory team GRT Grasser Racing have made the switch to IMSA  this year, after impressive cameo appearances in recent seasons. The team are twice defending Rolex 24 champions, along with a Sebring 12 Hours class win last year. Despite only running the Michelin Endurance Cup rounds, the team are a formidable opponent.

Lamborghini factory aces Albert Costa and Franck Perera lead the team, joining very quick silver rated driver Steijn Schothorst. Richard Heistand moves across from Lexus to complete the quartet.

The car ran quickly at the Roar in the hands of Costa and Perera, with Heistand going ninth in the qualifying session. The team have a proven pedigree in Europe, and recent years have shown that the Lamborghini is ideally suited to Daytona.

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#12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3: Townsend Bell/Shane van Gisbergen/Frankie Montecalvo/Aaron Telitz

AIM Vasser Sullivan return for a second year running the Lexus GT3  program, after a promising debut season. The team came a close second at the Rolex 24 last year with this #12 car.

Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo return, with Indy Lights star Aaron Telitz also back as the third driver. Completing the team is Australian V8 Supercars star Shane van Gisbergen. His signing is a real coup for the team, as he embarks on his fifth Rolex 24.

Montecalvo topped the Roar qualifying session, a boost for the team heading into the race. He was consistently quick in the car, with a faultless three days another promising sign. They have all the ingredients to go one better than their second last year.

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#14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3: Kyle Busch/Parker Chase/Michael de Quesada/Jack Hawksworth

The #14 car has created headlines this year, thanks to signing Nascar superstar Kyle Busch for his Rolex 24 debut. The team showed enormous promise last year, with third in the Sprint Cup and two wins in a stellar debut year.

Jack Hawksworth returns, this time partnered with Parker Chase. 2017 Rolex 24 GTD winner Michael de Quesada joins for the Endurance rounds, along with Busch.

Hawksworth did a masterful job to top the opening Roar test session by three tenths of a second, a big gap in this class. From here the test was used to get the others up to speed. De Quesada and Busch had never driven the car before. The team has a great line-up, they just need more time in the car

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#16 Wright Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R: Klaus Bachler/Ryan Hardwick/Anthony Imperato/Patrick Long    

Wright Motorsport steps across into IMSA from the Blancpain GT World Challenge America. The team do have prior experience of the Rolex 24.

Porsche factory driver Patrick Long joins Ryan Hardwick for the season, with Anthony Imperato joined by fellow Porsche factory ace Klaus Bachler for this race. Imperato was with the team in Blancpain last year, with Hardwick moving across from Paul Miller Racing.

Long put the car in the top five for the Saturday night session at the Roar, however Imperato struggled in the qualifying session. 17th and 1.2 seconds back is tough, but the test is about gaining experience and the team ran smoothly throughout.

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#19 GRT GEAR Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Tatiana Calderon/Rahel Frey/Katherine Legge/Christina Nielsen

The second GRT entry falls under the GEAR Racing banner. GEAR are promoting women in motorsport, starting in IMSA. The initiative aims to expand into other forms of motorsport, and has already garnered plenty of publicity.

Katherine Legge moves across after three successful years with Michael Shank, and is joined by former double class champion Christina Nielsen. Completing the all female line-up is experienced GT racer Rahel Frey and F2 convert Tatiana Calderon.

The car completed over 160 laps across the three day Roar test, as all four driver get used to a new car. The Lamborghini package is competitive at Daytona, so gaining as much experience as possible before the race will be key.

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#23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3: Roman de Angelis/Ian James/Alex Riberas/Nicki Thiim 

The popular Heart of Racing team return to IMSA after a three year absence. The team raises money for Seattle Children’s hospital and has raised over $6 Million since 1997. Their Aston Martin Vantage GT3 car is making it’s IMSA debut, the first Aston Martin customer IMSA program in several years.

Alex Riberas returns to the team, joining reigning Porsche GT3 Cup American and Canada champion Roman de Angelis. Team manager Ian James joins for the endurance rounds, with factory driver Nicki Thiim along for Daytona.

The team never troubled the top of the times during the seven test sessions, but they did run consistent lap times without issues. Thiim is the only one with experience of this car, so the team has a lot to learn in a short space of time. Simply finishing the Rolex 24 would be a great result.

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#44 GRT Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Andy Lally/Marco Mapelli/John Potter/Spencer Pumpelly 

The third GRT Grasser run entry is this #44 car, which takes on Magnus Racing branding after the popular team disbanded last year. The team were mainstays of IMSA, but return with new support.

Magnus team owner John Potter returns, along with long time co-driver Andy Lally. Spencer Pumpelly joins for the endurance races, with factory driver Marco Mapelli recruited for Daytona.

The #44 team were consistently at the top during the Roar. Amateur driver Potter struggled in the qualifying session, but the car was very quick in the other drivers hands. The team were tenth last year, but as former two-time winners of the Rolex 24 this entry cannot be discounted.

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#47 Precision Performance Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Brandon Gdovic/Johnathan Hoggard/Mark Kvamme/Eric Lux

PPM Motorsport return for another year of IMSA competition with their #47 Lamborghini Huracan GT3. The team only ran the Michelin Endurance Cup rounds last year, their second in IMSA after moving across from Nascar.

The owners son Brandon Gdovic returns, with Eric Lux joining after partial seasons in the LMP2 class. Johnathan Hoggard and Mark Kvamme were late additions from the aborted Rick Ware Racing LMP2 entry. Hoggard is the Sunoco Challenge winner, and as a British F3 race winner should be quick despite a lack of experience.

Gdovic impressed at the Roar, qualifying fourth, less than two tenths from top spot. Lux didn’t complete any laps, losing valuable driving time as he adjusts to GTD. Based off testing times, this #47 car could surprise a lot in the paddock.

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#48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo: Andrea Caldarelli/Corey Lewis/Bryan Sellers/Madison Snow

Paul Miller Racing return for a fifth season with their Lamborghini Huracan. The team won at Laguna Seca last year. Problems last year limited them to 15th at the Rolex 24, a result they can improve upon.

Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow return, aiming to repeat their 2018 IMSA GTD title. Corey Lewis is back for the endurance rounds, with factory pilot Andrea Caldarelli also back for Daytona.

Caldarelli and Sellers had the car running competitive laps at the test, although Snow will be disappointed with 13th in qualifying. This team are looking to bounce back and repeat their 2018 form.

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That wraps up the first half of my GTD class preview for the Rolex 24, stay tuned for part two coming very soon. Who do you think anyone deserves the tag of favourite for the race? Let me know either by commenting below or finding me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Thank you for reading! Finally, a big thank you must go to Motorsport.com for the high quality images in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Rolex 24 GTD Preview Part 2

Here is the second part of my preview looking at the 21-car GTD class at this years Rolex 24, the opening round of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech Championship. With eight different car makers competing for the class win, with last years winners Alegra Motorsport not returning the race is anyone’s to win. Here’s the second half of the high quality entry list. For a look at my previous prototype and GT class previews, click these links. 2018 Rolex 24 Prototype Preview Part 1 2018 Rolex 24 Prototype Preview Part 2  2018 Rolex 24 GTLM Preview  2018 Rolex 24 GTD Preview Part 1

#63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3: Alessandro Balzan/Cooper MacNeil/Jeff Segal/Gunnar Jeanette 

Reigning double champions Scuderia Corsa return this year, but with some changes to their line-up. The team have secured championship title sponsors WeatherTech support for this season, and this has precipitated a change to their driving crew.

Alessandro Balzan is retained, but now will be joined by Cooper MacNeil for the full season. Both are very quick and experienced racers at this level, but they may find it tough to replicate their recent championship success with the class improving year on year. Joining them for the Rolex 24 is Jeff Segal and Gunnar Jeanette. Both are quick drivers and with this teams experience and speed they have a very strong line-up for the race.

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#64 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3: Townsend Bell/Sam Bird/Frankie Montecalvo/Bill Sweedler 

The Scuderia Corsa team expanded to include a second entry for the Rolex 24 this year, with another strong line-up. The team signed 2014 Rolex 24 class winners Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler, and have bolstered the driving talent with Frankie Montecalvo and Sam Bird.

Bell and Montecalvo are quick GT racers who will prove consistent pace across their stints. Sweedler is the am in this crew but is experienced enough to stay out of trouble. The star turn in this entry is Ferrari factory GT driver Bird, who came close to class victory last year on his debut before a late race engine blow-up.

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#69 HART Acura NSX GT3: Ryan Eversley/John Falb/Chad Gilsinger/Sean Rayhall

After providing factory support to the Michael Shank Racing Acura programme last year, the Honda American Racing Team branch out on their own for a partial season this year.  The team hopes to compete in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds, and with an Acura that showed promise last year they may shock people with a top five result in the class.

The team have signed Pirelli World Challenge Acura driver Ryan Eversley, along with recent LMP3 ELMS champion Sean Rayhall. Both are quick drivers who will be quickest of the four drivers for this car. John Falb is a very competent amateur racer who partnered Rayhall in Europe last year, and has plenty of IMSA experience. Completing the line-up is Chad Gilsinger, who works for Honda and has been a long time driver for this Honda internal race team.

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#71 P1 Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3: Robby Foley/Kenton Koch/JC Perez/Loris Spinelli 

P1 Motorsport make the step up to IMSA from the feeder Lamborghini Super Trofeo and IMSA Prototype Challenge series, taking on an Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds.

Kenton Koch raced for the team last year in IMSA PC and is a fast young driver who is a great signing for this team. Loris Spinelli has proved one of the fastest Lamborghini Super Trofeo drivers in the world and now steps up to IMSA, with team owner JC Perez and Robby Foley completing the driving crew.

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#73 Park Place Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R: Jorg Bergmeister/Patrick Lindsey/Tim Pappas/Norbert Seidler

Long term IMSA entrants Park Place Motorsport have scaled back to a North American Endurance Cup only entry this year, but retain the same driving talent from previous years.

Porsche factory racer Jorg Bergmeister heads the line-up, with GT racing ace Norbert Seidler joining the team. Both are very quick GT racers and will likely be the stand-out drivers in this car. Patrick Lindsey and Tim Pappas are both very good amateur driver and this is crucial to have in a pro-am class such as GTD.

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#75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes AMG GT3: Maro Engel/Kenny Habul/Thomas Jager/Mikhael Grenier

SunEnergy1 racing made their debut in the IMSA series last year, and for this years have teamed up with Riley Motorsport to help assist them during the season. The team came about thanks to Australian businessman and amateur racer Kenny Habul, a driving who has developed into a quick am driver.

He is joined for the Rolex 24 by two Mercedes factory GT drivers in Maro Engel and Thomas Jager. Both are seriously quick in the AMG GT3 and will anchor any chances this car has of a class podium. Completing the line-up is young French-Canadian Mikhael Grenier, who is the reigning European Lamborghini Super Trofeo champion and looking to impress on his IMSA debut.

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#82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3: Santiago Creel/Martin Fuentes/Ricardo Perez de Lara/Miguel Molina/Matt Griffin

Leading Ferrari GT team Risi make their debut in the GTD class for the Rolex 24 this year, running a customer programme for a trio of Mexican racing drivers, who are hoping that with a leading team behind them they can achieve a good class result in the race.

Drivers Santiago Creel and Martin Fuentes are leading one-make Porsche and Ferrari racers and are ably supported by am driver Ricardo Perez de Lara. All three have plenty of GT racing experience and will likely run consistently throughout the race. The leading driver in this will be Ferrari factory racer Miguel Molina, who bolsters the team significantly and will drag this car into class leading contention. Irishman Matt Griffin was a very good late addition to this entry, and provides a wealth of experience and pace to what could be a surprise contender for a good result in class.

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#86 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3: A.J. Allmendinger/Trent Hindman/Katherine Legge/Alvaro Parente

Michael Shank Racing are forced to adjust to running a customer programme this year after enjoying factory Honda support last year. This has forced the team to scale back to one-full season entry, with this #86 entry currently scheduled to only contest the Endurance Cup rounds, although the team are hoping to add further rounds to their schedule.

The team have secured a very strong line-up for the race, with both A.J. Allmendinger and Katherine Legge returning to the team this year. Legge secured two wins for the car last year and Allmendinger has been a regular endurance driver over a number of years. Alvaro Parente is a seriously quick GT racer and McLaren factory driver, along with Trent Hindman who is a young GT driver showing a lot of potential. Watch out for this entry as a outside contender for class victory.

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#93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3: Lawson Aschenbach/Mario Farnbacher/Come Ledogar/Justin Marks

This second MSR entry is the teams full-season IMSA programme, with the team looking to build on a strong debut season for the Acura GTD programme. The team have signed former Stevenson Motorsport driver Lawson Aschenbach and Justin Marks for the full-season, with Mario Farnbacher and Come Ledogar joining them for the endurance rounds.

Aschenbach is a quick GT racer with over a decade’s worth of experience at this level. Marks moves across from Nascar but has some sportscar experience so will surprise many in the race. Farnbacher joins brother Dominik in the race and has proven his speed in various GT machinery across the world. Ledogar is another McLaren factory GT driver who will excel at this level despite a lack of experience with this car. Both MSR entries are contenders for victory but they will have to stay out of trouble.

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#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3: Don Yount/Mark Kwamme/Jens Klingmann/Martin Tomczyk/Cameron Lawrence

Long time BMW entrants Turner Motorsport return for another crack at the Rolex 24, although the team currently do not have firm plans for a full season entry. The team used the pre-race Roar to test potential drivers for the race.

Former LMPC runners Don Yount and Mark Kwamme got behind the wheel, and will provide some experience for the team over the race along with late addition Cameron Lawrence. BMW factory drivers Jens Klingmann and Martin Tomczyk will be the pace setters in this entry although any hopes of a podium finish may prove doubtful with two amateur drivers. A clean run and faultless driving from all five may yield a top six finish for the team which would be a great result for the privateer team.

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That wraps up both part two of my GTD preview and my series of previews for the upcoming Rolex 24. I want to say a massive thank you to anyone who has read this page I hope you have liked it and if you have please feel free to comment, like or follow my blog. I also need to say a massive thank you to Motorsport.com for their incredible photos which grace these previews. For all the latest motorsport news check out their website Motorsport.com . Stay tuned for more sports blogs coming soon!