Victory at this year’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona – an event Chip Ganassi Racing has won in both Prototype and GT Le Mans class – will mark the 200th win for the squad since it was founded in 1990.
Ganassi enters the race as defending GTLM class winners (Sebastien Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller in the #66 car), on the back of a strong Roar Before the 24 test, in which Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe, in the #67 car they will share with Scott Dixon, set the two fastest times.
Chip Ganassi, who first went to Daytona as a crew member in 1985, will serve as grand marshal for the event, and Hand commented: “How cool would it be if we could win this thing for Chip’s 200th win after he gives us the call to start our engines?
“In the history of Chip Ganassi Racing, they’ve always had good race cars at Daytona, so I think we have another good shot at it. Last year it came down to six or seven cars at the finish, so really it’s a no-mistakes race. You have to be clean for 24 hours. We spent a lot of time at Roar trying to make a good racecar and obviously we did pretty well because we had the quickest lap.”
Said Briscoe: “I think we come into this year feeling fairly confident that we have done what we can to prepare, but there are so many unknowns. We have a lot of experience with the equipment and race, but it’s always a tough one. It’s a 24-hour race and a lot can, and will, happen. We just have to trust our preparation.”
Westbrook explained: “Daytona is all about a compromise of top speed on the straight to get through the traffic and carrying enough downforce to help you through the infield. To turn consistent quick laps, you have to be quick through the infield but also make the passes on the straight, otherwise your laps are ruined following slower traffic through the infield.”
Ganassi, who has seen his team rack up 10 championships in Indy cars, five in the Grand-Am Rolex sports car series, and wins at the Indy 500, Daytona 500, 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and a class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, stated:
“The Rolex 24 at Daytona is always a special race to me, not only because it signifies the beginning of the racing season but more importantly because of the magnitude of the event itself. There are few races in the world that capture the imagination of race fans everywhere as well as the automotive industry and the Rolex is one of them.
“It also has a diverse group or manufacturers and drivers alike and when you win the Rolex 24 at Daytona, you know you have accomplished something special.”
Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance, said he was eager for the enduro to be a building block toward winning the GTLM class in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this year.
“We’ve had a lot of success through the years here at Daytona and certainly with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, since we partnered with them in prototype a few years ago,” he commented. “We’re happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish, but we do have unfinished business in that we haven’t yet won a championship.
“We’ve done a lot of work with the team and our partners to prepare for a strong start to the year and we believe we are ready to go.”
Ganassi will also continue its two-car World Endurance Championship campaign, with Stefan Mucke, Olivier Pla, Billy Johnson, Andy Priaulx, Pipo Derani and Harry Tincknell.