Preview: Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, car by car

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Preview: Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, car by car
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Co-author: IMSA
Jan 25, 2019, 10:16 PM

All the participants in the opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Cars are in number order, with qualifying position noted.

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#5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R: Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque, Christian Fittipaldi

#5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R: Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque, Christian Fittipaldi
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

Barbosa, Albuquerque and Fittipaldi return to defend their 2018 Rolex 24 victory. They were due to be joined by Mike Conway, who was previously part of AXR's other lineup in the #31 Cadillac, but the Briton has been delayed at home. Barbosa is a three-time overall / four-time class winner in the Rolex 24, while Fittipaldi – who is due to retire after this race – is another three-time winner. As well as his Prototype win last year, Albuquerque has a GT class win from 2013. Qualified 11th in DPi class after a brake fire prevented Albuquerque setting a flying lap.

#6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi, DPi: Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron, Simon Pagenaud

#6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi, DPi: Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron, Simon Pagenaud
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

An unchanged line-up in Acura #6 as 2016 IndyCar champion Pagenaud joins the car's regular pairing of two-time IMSA champion Cameron and two-time Indy 500 winner (and 1999 CART IndyCar champ Montoya. Montoya has three Rolex 24 wins to his name, harking back to his days on Ganassi's sportscar squad, but both Cameron and Pagenaud (a former American Le Mans Series ace) are seeking their first Daytona victories.

#7 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi, DPi: Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, Alexander Rossi

#7 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi, DPi: Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, Alexander Rossi
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Three-time Indy 500 champion Castroneves and 2017 IMSA champion Taylor scored the Acura Team Penske combo's first win at Mid-Ohio last year, but the Rolex 24 was a tough debut for the new car. Replacing Graham Rahal in the lineup is 2016 Indy 500 winner Rossi, an HPD favorite whose first Daytona experience was in the wild and weird Panoz DeltaWing. Qualified 2nd in DPi.

#10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R - Kamui Kobayashi, Fernando Alonso, Renger van der Zande, Jordan Taylor

#10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R - Kamui Kobayashi, Fernando Alonso, Renger van der Zande, Jordan Taylor
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Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / LAT Images

The 2017 Rolex 24 Hours winners and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Prototype champions had a tough title defense, but ended it on a high with victory at Petit Le Mans. Now they have even more reasons to be hopeful, with two Toyota WEC aces and ex-F1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi joining them at Daytona, as both have adapted well to the Caddy. Qualified 6th in DPi.

#31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi, DPi: Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani, Eric Curran

#31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi, DPi: Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani, Eric Curran
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

Nasr and Curran scored only one win last year, at Belle Isle, but consistency – including four other podium finishes – ensured they won the IMSA Prototype championship, Curran for the second time in three years. He will step back from full-time racing this year, confining himself only to the Michelin Endurance Cup rounds (Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans). His replacement is none other than former ESM Nissan ace, Pipo Derani who who scored five wins for the now-defunct team, including two Sebring triumphs and one Rolex 24 (2016). Last year the #31 Cadillac completed an Action Express Racing 1-2 at Daytona. Qualified 5th in DPi.

#50 Juncos Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R: Will Owen, Rene Binder, Agustin Canapino, Kyle Kaiser

#50 Juncos Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R: Will Owen, Rene Binder, Agustin Canapino, Kyle Kaiser
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

Juncos Racing, one of the best teams on the Road To Indy over the past 10 years, dipped its toe in the IndyCar water in 2017 (Indy 500) and made 12 starts in ’18. But it's a brand new participant in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship. Owen finished fourth in the Rolex 24 last year with United Autosports, while Kaiser was Juncos' 2017 Indy Lights champ who shared a Juncos IndyCar with former Formula V8 3.5 driver Binder last year. But it's Canapino who has startled everyone at Daytona this year. Hugely successful in GT/touring cars in his home country of Argentina, he has proven well able to adapt to the demands of a high-speed and high-downforce Prototype. Qualified 7th in DPi class.

#54 CORE autosport Nissan DPi, DPi: Jon Bennett, Colin Braun, Romain Dumas, Loic Duval

#54 CORE autosport Nissan DPi, DPi: Jon Bennett, Colin Braun, Romain Dumas, Loic Duval
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Photo by: Art Fleischmann

Switching (late) from an LMP2 Oreca to a DPi Nissan - taking over from ESM Racing – is tough enough. Doing so with a solo entry adds black ice to the learning curve. But Braun is an ace and team owner Bennett can show a surprising turn of speed at times. And les deux Dus – Dumas and Duval – are a brilliant addition to a highly dynamic team, both former Le Mans winners. Qualified 10th in DPi class.

#55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P: Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell, Olivier Pla

#55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P: Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell, Olivier Pla
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Photo by: Art Fleischmann

Once upon a long ago, Bomarito won his class in the Rolex 24 driving a Mazda RX-8, while Tincknell and Pla have class wins to their name at Le Mans. None of these triumphs may be hugely relevant to this weekend's race except all three have shown they know how to pace themselves in a day-night-day race. And if the Mazdas do indeed have an edge on pace, then that might also confer a reliability margin, too… Qualified 4th in DPi.

#77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P: Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez, Timo Bernhard, Rene Rast

#77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P: Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez, Timo Bernhard, Rene Rast
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

Jarvis broke the 26-year-old Daytona road course record with a sensational lap on Thursday to take Mazda's first Prototype pole, and this is clearly a great chance to add another 24-hour win to the LMP2 class victory he scored at Le Mans in 2017. Rast has two GT wins at Daytona, three-time Le Mans winner Bernhard has two Rolex 24 wins, while Nunez has the most experience racing a Mazda Prototype, something he began doing in 2014. This is a very feasible chance for glory if the Mazda is as reliable as it is fast. Qualified 1st in DPi.

#84 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R: Simon Trummer, Stephen Simpson, Chris Miller, Juan Piedrahita

#84 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R: Simon Trummer, Stephen Simpson, Chris Miller, Juan Piedrahita
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Photo by: Art Fleischmann

JDC-Miller scored a rare LMP2 victory with its Oreca at Watkins Glen last year, but made the brave step up to DPi for 2019. Trummer will team with Simpson for the full season this year, each having proven top quality Prototype pilots, albeit previously in separate cars. Miller is a worthy amateur, while Piedrahita has proven reasonably quick and brave in open-wheel racing but needs this race to establish his sportscar credentials. Qualified 9th in DPi class.

#85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi, DPi: Misha Goikhberg, Tristan Vautier, Devlin DeFrancesco, Rubens Barrichello

#85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi, DPi: Misha Goikhberg, Tristan Vautier, Devlin DeFrancesco, Rubens Barrichello
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

Goikhberg continues his longstanding relationship with JDC-Miller Motorsports with 2012 Indy Lights champion Vautier as his new-for-2019 full-season co-driver. DeFrancesco is making his second straight Rolex 24 start with JDC-Miller Motorsports while Barrichello is one of the wisest and least egotistical men in racing and is therefore well suited to sportscars, a decade after he last finished in the top three in the Formula 1 World Championship. Qualified 8th in DPi class.

#18 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 Gibson: Roberto Gonzalez, Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Saavedra, Ryan Cullen

#18 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 Gibson: Roberto Gonzalez, Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Saavedra, Ryan Cullen
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Photo by: Art Fleischmann

Gonzalez raced in Champ Car as long ago as 2003 and ’04 but experience in the American Le Mans Series and at Le Mans has turned him into a reasonably trustworthy racer. No one needs reminding that ex-F1 driver Maldonado and ex-Indy Lights star Saavedra can bring the pace, while Cullen has a background of GP3, Porsche Supercup and the European Le Mans Series. Qualified 3rd in LMP2 class.

#38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA LMP2, LMP2: Kyle Masson, Kris Wright, Cameron Cassels, Robert Masson

#38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA LMP2, LMP2: Kyle Masson, Kris Wright, Cameron Cassels, Robert Masson
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

A collection of winners gather in Performance Tech's sole entry. K. Masson won the Rolex 24 in the PC class two years ago, while last year his father R. Masson won the IMSA Prototype Challenge MPC class. Cassels took the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport sedan victory in 2017 while Wright is the reigning IMSA PC LMP3 champion. He finished second in class at Daytona last year. Qualified 4th in LMP2 class.

#52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA-Gibson: Matt McMurry, Gabriel Aubry, Mark Kvamme, Enzo Guibbert

#52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA-Gibson: Matt McMurry, Gabriel Aubry, Mark Kvamme, Enzo Guibbert
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

McMurry was something of a child prodigy in sportscars, becoming the youngest ever Le Mans 24 Hours racer. Now 21, he's already competing in his fifth Rolex 24 At Daytona. The underrated Kvamme has raced in one more, finishing on the podium in the Prototype Challenge class in 2017, while Le Mans starters Aubry and Guibbert make their Rolex 24 debuts this weekend. Qualified 2nd in DPi class.

#81 DragonSpeed ORECA LMP2, LMP2: Henrik Hedman, Ben Hanley, Nicolas Lapierre, James Allen

#81 DragonSpeed ORECA LMP2, LMP2: Henrik Hedman, Ben Hanley, Nicolas Lapierre, James Allen
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

A quality line-up in the second DragonSpeed car. Allen is a novice at Daytona but has taken to it well, and has proven swift at Le Mans too. Hedman has raced for DragonSpeed at all the classic enduros in the past, while Hanley is embedded with the team to the extent that he's been selected by team owner Elton Julian to steer the team's first crack at IndyCar this year. Meanwhile Lapierre is about as solid an 'extra' driver as you can get for an endurance race: three times he's won LMP2 in the Le Mans 24 Hours, he took the LMP2 title in WEC in 2016, and last year he joined Pipo Derani and Johannes van Overbook to win the Sebring 12 Hours in the ESM Nissan. Qualified 1st in LMP2 class.

#3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, GTLM: Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller

#3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, GTLM: Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

Magnussen and Garcia have ended each of the past two IMSA WeatherTech Championship GTLM seasons atop the point standings but it’s been a while since they last conquered the Rolex 24. Magnussen and Garcia earned it in 2015, while Rockenfeller's last win here was 2010. The Corvette C7.R is entering its sixth season – venerable by class standards – but it's still fast and Doug Fehan's team is wonderfully slick, having seen and done it all over the last couple of decades. Qualified 2nd in GTLM.

#4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, GTLM: Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler

#4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, GTLM: Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler
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Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / LAT Images

Corvette Racing's most recent Rolex 24 winners (2016) may have qualified last in class but it hardly matters in a field of nine cars in a 24-hour race. They seldom suffer clashes with rivals on-track because they're experts at knowing how to bring a car home in one piece, and the team is, as mentioned under the #3, superb. Gavin/Milner scored Corvette's 100th win two-and-a-half years ago; they stand every chance of scoring the team's 100th IMSA win this weekend. Qualified 9th in GTLM class.

#24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE, GTLM: Jesse Krohn, John Edwards, Mozzie Mostert, Alex Zanardi

#24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE, GTLM: Jesse Krohn, John Edwards, Mozzie Mostert, Alex Zanardi
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

Zanardi may have stolen the headlines because… well, because he's a sensational athlete with the heart of a lion. But this squad is strong throughout. Full-timers Edwards and Krohn can wring the most from any opportunity, while Mostert is a super talent in a tin-top, as he proves regularly in Supercars. The M8s have yet to show great speed over a flying lap, but team owner Bobby Rahal is confident they can shine in the race. Qualified 7th in GTLM class.

#25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE: Augusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi, Philipp Eng, Colton Herta

#25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE: Augusto Farfus, Connor De Phillippi, Philipp Eng, Colton Herta
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Photo by: Art Fleischmann

Drafted in as a late replacement for the visa-inhibited Tom Blomqvist, Farfus has slotted in easily to the RLL team having raced for Rahal at Daytona three previous times. De Phillippi scored two wins last season in the BMW M8, while Philipp Eng and rookie Colton Herta are well on the pace. Should the BMW be right on the pace, come Sunday morning expect this quartet to be in with a chance of victory. Qualified 8th in GTLM class.

#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, GTLM: Davide Rigon, Miguel Molina

#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, GTLM: Davide Rigon, Miguel Molina
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

Risi Competizione gets something of a sympathy vote for being the only single-car team in a class of works machinery. Oh, and because it campaigns a gorgeous Ferrari. But there's nothing wrong with the driving talent either. Pier Guidi won the GTD class in the Rolex 24 back in 2014; Calado won the GTE Pro title in WEC in 2017; Rigon has a Spa 24 Hour victory to his name; Molina won the SprintX title in what was called the Pirelli World Challenge in 2018 and is one of the fastest Ferrari sportscar racers in the world today. Qualified 4th in GTLM class.

#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, GTLM: Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais

#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, GTLM: Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

This trio have won Le Mans (2016) and the Rolex 24 (2017) together. They know how to go quick without making mistakes, they know how to dice, the team knows how to roll the dice, and the Ford should be fast enough to win, even though it hasn't looked quite as quick as in previous years. That apart, there appear to be no reasons not to believe this is going to be a winning contender. Qualified 6th in GTLM class.

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

#67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon
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Photo by: Art Fleischmann

The defending Rolex 24 GT Le Mans winners Westbrook and Briscoe went on to finish second in the championship while Dixon scored his fifth IndyCar title for Chip Ganassi Racing. All three drivers are now Rolex 24 winners, with Briscoe having won for Corvette in 2015 as well as last year, and Dixon having won overall in both 2006 and ’15. Victory contenders again? For sure. Qualified 3rd in GTLM class.

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

#911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM: Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, Frederic Makowiecki
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

The 2014 Rolex 24 GTLM winners Tandy and Pilet closed out the 2018 IMSA season with victory at Petit Le Mans, having also clinched victory in the Sebring 12 Hours. The RSR seems to have benefited from the Michelin compound change in the offseason and it would be hard not to say the class polesitter is marginally favorite to win the race. Qualified 1st in GTLM class.

#912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM: Mathieu Jaminet, Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor

#912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM: Mathieu Jaminet, Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

Few would bet against Porsche in any class in any endurance race, but with this line-up it be foolhardy in the extreme. Bamber has twice won Le Mans overall (in a Porsche); Vanthoor won the GTE Pro class at Le Mans last year; Jaminet is being groomed by Porsche for stardom and raced in the GTD class with Wright Motorsport at the Rolex 24 last year.

#8 Starworks Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3, GTD: Parker Chase, Ryan Dalziel, Ezequiel Perez Companc, Chris Haase

#8 Starworks Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3, GTD: Parker Chase, Ryan Dalziel, Ezequiel Perez Companc, Chris Haase
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

Dalziel, a 2010 overall Rolex 24 winner, is rekindling his WeatherTech Championship relationship with Starworks Motorsport after spending the past several seasons with Tequila Patrón ESM. And they’ve achieved a lot together, including a win at Le Mans and an FIA WEC title. Dalziel and Chase achieved success together last year in World Challenge, where Chase was the SprintX/Pro-Am champion. Longtime Audi factory pilot Haase is back for his fourth Rolex 24 in 2019, while Companc is back for a third straight year and first time in an Audi after running Lamborghinis previously.

#9 PFAFF Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, GTD: Scott Hargrove, Zacharie Robichon, Lars Kern, Dennis Olsen

#9 PFAFF Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, GTD: Scott Hargrove, Zacharie Robichon, Lars Kern, Dennis Olsen
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

Full-timers Hargrove and Robichon are the past two champions of the IMSA-sanctioned Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama. Hargrove took a Pirelli World Challenge title in 2018, while Robichon combined his dominance of the Canadian GT3 Cup season with seven wins in the GT3 Cup Challenge USA. Kern is a longtime Porsche test driver while Olsen won the 2017 German Porsche Carrera Cup. The only thing going against them is that none of the quartet has any Rolex 24 Hours experience. Qualified 8th in GTD.

#11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3, GTD: Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart, Kang Ling

#11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3, GTD: Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart, Kang Ling
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

Three of last year's four GTD-class Rolex 24 winners have reunited – Ineichen, Bortolotti and Breukers. Meanwhile Engelhart drove GRT other Huracan last year and is competing in his fifth Rolex 24 this year. Logic suggests this will be one of the cars to beat come Sunday morning. Qualified 5th in GTD class.

#12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, GTD: Frank Montecalvo, Townsend Bell, Aaron Telitz, Jeff Segal

#12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, GTD: Frank Montecalvo, Townsend Bell, Aaron Telitz, Jeff Segal
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

For 2019, the new AIM Vasser Sullivan team took over the Lexus account previously held by 3GT Racing, and while qualifying was somewhat disappointing, the RC Fs have looked rapid in other sessions. Full-timer Bell, the 2015 GTD champion, won the 2014 Rolex 24 in GTD and the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours in GTE Am – and both of those enduro victories were earned with Segal, who'll race just the Endurance Cup rounds this year. Sportscar stalwart Montecalvo will be Bell’s season-long co-driver, while Road To Indy ace Telitz is making his Rolex 24 debut. Qualified 14th in GTD class.

#13 Via Italia Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, GTD: Chico Longo, Victor Franzoni, Marcos Gomes

#13 Via Italia Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, GTD: Chico Longo, Victor Franzoni, Marcos Gomes
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

Franzoni is an open-wheel ace who earned the Pro Mazda championship in 2017 and won an Indy Lights race last year. Longo competed in three consecutive Rolex 24s from 2013 through 2015 and is back for his first run since then. Gomes was Longo’s Rolex 24 co-driver in 2014 and 2015 and made five starts last year in the NASCAR K&N East Series. Bertolini won the GTE Pro class in the 2012 Sebring 12 Hours and has made 23 IMSA starts dating back to 2012. This will be his fourth Rolex 24 appearance. Qualified 1st in GTD class.

#14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, GTD: Richard Heistand, Jack Hawksworth, Austin Cindric, Nick Cassidy

#14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, GTD: Richard Heistand, Jack Hawksworth, Austin Cindric, Nick Cassidy
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

Hawksworth brings his experience from the past two seasons as part of the 3GT Racing Lexus team to the new AIM Vasser Sullivan venture. He’ll be teamed for the full 2019 season with Heistand, who previously has raced Porsche Supercup, Atlantic Championship and Star Mazda. Cindric is a NASCAR Xfinity Series regular competing in his third consecutive Rolex 24. New Zealander Cassidy is a star of both Super GT and Super Formula in Japan and is making his first Rolex 24 appearance. Qualified 12th in GTD class.

#19 Moorespeed Audi R8 LMS GT3, GTD: Will Hardeman, Alex Riberas, Andrew Davis, Markus Winkelhock

#19 Moorespeed Audi R8 LMS GT3, GTD: Will Hardeman, Alex Riberas, Andrew Davis, Markus Winkelhock
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

The longtime GT3 Cup Challenge USA team enters the WeatherTech Championship with one of the many top quality GTD line-ups. Hardeman drove the team’s GT3 Cup entry the past several years and won at Sebring in 2018. His full-season co-driver will be Riberas, a two-time GTD race winner. Winkelhock is a longtime Audi factory racer, while Davis is a past IMSA champion. If the team and car are up to the task of winning, so too will be the drivers. Qualified 19th in GTD class.

#29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS: Daniel Morad, Christopher Mies, Dries Vanthoor, Ricky Feller.

#29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS: Daniel Morad, Christopher Mies, Dries Vanthoor, Ricky Feller.
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

Morad won the Rolex 24’s GTD class in 2017 and that same year Mies, an Audi factory racer took victory for Montaplast at Petit Le Mans. Last year’s Bathurst 12 Hours winner Vanthoor appears to have similar talent to his older brother Laurens, the works Porsche driver, and is making his first Rolex 24 start this year. Feller is an 18-year-old Swiss driver with previous Audi experience making his first Rolex 24 appearance. Qualified 15th in GTD class.

#33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, GTD: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Luca Stolz, Felipe Fraga

#33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, GTD: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Luca Stolz, Felipe Fraga
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

Keating has turned himself into one of the best amateur drivers in IMSA today, while full-time partner Bleekemolen is not only quick but also great in defense and at nursing his tires over a stint. Keating, Bleekemolen and Stolz won the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup in GTD last year, the second consecutive such title for Keating and Bleekemolen. Fraga is a past Stock Car Brazil champion. This is our tip for GTD honors come Sunday afternoon. Qualified 2nd in GTD class.

#44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracan: John Potter, Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly, Marco Mapelli

#44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracan: John Potter, Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly, Marco Mapelli
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Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / LAT Images

For 2019, full-time co-drivers Potter and Lally have switched from an Audi R8 to a Lamborghini Huracan, the platform that won the GTD championship last year in the hands of Paul Miller Racing. The duo is aiming for a third Rolex 24 victory together (that would be a sixth class win for Lally), and could scarcely have done better than hire Pumpelly, a two-time Rolex 24 class winner, and Mapelli, a Lamborghini factory racer. Expect a strong showing. Qualified 7th in GTD class.

#46 EBIMOTORS Lamborghini Huracan GT3: Emanuele Busnelli, Fabio Babini, Taylor Proto, Giacomo Altoe

#46 EBIMOTORS Lamborghini Huracan GT3: Emanuele Busnelli, Fabio Babini, Taylor Proto, Giacomo Altoe
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

One of the surprises of qualifying was that EBIMOTORS was fourth fastest and quickest of the Lamborghini Huracans. The Italian team is making its second Rolex 24 appearance in the past three years. Babini has made 17 IMSA starts going back to 2000 and is racing in his fifth Rolex 24. Busnelli is racing in his third Rolex 24. Proto, a Lamborghini Young Driver, is making his Rolex 24 debut. Giacomo Altoe is an 18-year-old with TCR experience. Qualified 4th in GTD class.

#47 Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3: Steve Dunn, Don Yount, Linus Lundqvist, Milos Pavlovic

#47 Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3: Steve Dunn, Don Yount, Linus Lundqvist, Milos Pavlovic
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

The PPM team's recent heritage is the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series, so there's not much they need to learn about the Huracan. Yount – who claimed his first GTD win last year at Watkins Glen – is returning for his fourth Rolex 24 appearance. Pavlovic, a past Lamborghini Super Trofeo champion, will make his second Rolex 24 start. Dunn and Lundqvist are making their respective WeatherTech Championship debuts this weekend. Qualified 22nd in GTD class.

#48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GTD: Bryan Sellers, Ryan Hardwick, Corey Lewis, Andrea Caldarelli

#48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GTD: Bryan Sellers, Ryan Hardwick, Corey Lewis, Andrea Caldarelli
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Photo by: Art Fleischmann

Unsurprisingly, the defending IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship's GTD title winning team has been able to put together a stellar line-up, despite Sellers' amateur co-driver Madison Snow retiring in the offseason. His replacement Hardwick is a Lamborghini Super Trofeo champion in North America and the world, Corey Lewis won Sebring 12 Hours with the team last year, and Caldarelli is back for his third consecutive Rolex 24 as part of the PMR squad. Last year, they finished third at Daytona. Qualified 9th in GTD class.

#51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3, GTD: Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, Daniel Serra

#51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3, GTD: Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda, Daniel Serra
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

Few flaws in the driver lineup at Spirit of Race. Dalla Lana will be making his 10th Rolex 24 start. Lamy, an F1 veteran, is making his ninth start at Daytona, with Lauda – son of F1 legend Niki Lauda – making his fifth Rolex 24 apparance. Serra was the GTD polesitter last year at Daytona and co-drove to a GTD class victory last year at Petit Le Mans. Qualified 6th in GTD class.

#57 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3: Katherine Legge, Ana Beatriz, Simona De Silvestro, Christina Nielsen

#57 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3: Katherine Legge, Ana Beatriz, Simona De Silvestro, Christina Nielsen
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

What do you get when you add three former IndyCar racers with a two-time GTD champion? The #57 Acura, which carries Daytona's first all-female driver lineup since 1994. Nielsen was GTD champion in 2016 and 2017, Legge was GTD runner-up last year, Beatriz was quickest in GTD prequalifying during the Roar Before the 24, and De Silvestro is proving her tin-top mettle in Supercars these days. A dark horse for victory, we feel. Qualified 11th in GTD class.

#63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3: Cooper MacNeil, Toni Vilander, Jeff Westphal, Dominik Farnbacher

#63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3: Cooper MacNeil, Toni Vilander, Jeff Westphal, Dominik Farnbacher
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Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / LAT Images

Yet another top quality GTD line-up. MacNeil and Vilander are the full-timers this year in the WeatherTech Ferrari which captured Petit Le Mans victory last October. Vilander has twice won his class at Le Mans and two years ago won the Bathurst 12 Hours - all three triumphs coming at the wheel of a Ferrari. Farnbacher won the Rolex 24 on his debut in the race back in 2005 and won another 10 years later with Riley Motorsports. And Westphal has won IMSA races with Scuderia Corsa. Another victory contender, without question. Qualified 16th in GTD class.

#71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: Maximilian Buhk, Fabian Schiller, Dominik Baumann, JC Perez

#71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: Maximilian Buhk, Fabian Schiller, Dominik Baumann, JC Perez
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

P1 owner/driver Perez is back for his second consecutive Rolex 24 as part of a 2018 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup program. Buhk was part of the team’s lineup at Motul Petit Le Mans, which was his first WeatherTech Championship experience. Baumann, who scored two wins for Lexus with 3GT Racing last year, joins the P1 squad, while German driver Schiller is appearing in his first Rolex 24 this weekend. Qualified 21st in GTD class.

#73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R: Patrick Lindsey, Patrick Long, Matt Campbell, Nicholas Boulle

#73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R: Patrick Lindsey, Patrick Long, Matt Campbell, Nicholas Boulle
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

Adding Porsche factory driver Long to your line-up always boosts your chance of success and that's exactly what PPM owner Lindsey has done as he returns to the series full-time. Long is a four-time IMSA champion yet somehow has 'only' one Rolex 24 victory (so far). Boulle also has a Daytona winner’s watch, from winning the Prototype Challenge class in 2017. Australian driver Campbell has raced Supercars and competed in the Bathurst 12 Hours several times, but is making his first Rolex 24 appearance. Qualified 10th in GTD class.

#86 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3: Mario Farnbacher, Trent Hindman, Justin Marks, AJ Allmendinger

#86 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3: Mario Farnbacher, Trent Hindman, Justin Marks, AJ Allmendinger
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Photo by: Jake Galstad / LAT Images

Expect to see this car running at or near the front, whoever's at the wheel, barring unforeseen circumstances. The NSX has proven a fine GT3 car, Shank's team won this race overall back in 2012 (with Allmendinger in the line-up), and all four drivers are fast yet smart. Hindman is a champion in both the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and Lamborghini Super Trofeo, Farnbacher has won at least one WeatherTech Championship race each year going back to 2015, and Marks won the GT class in the 2009 Rolex 24 Hours. Qualified 3rd in GTD class.

#88 WRT Speedstar Audi Sport Audi R8 LMS GT3: Frederic Vervisch, Kelvin van der Linde, Ian James, Roman DeAngelis

#88 WRT Speedstar Audi Sport Audi R8 LMS GT3: Frederic Vervisch, Kelvin van der Linde, Ian James, Roman DeAngelis
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

James, who became the backbone of Panoz Racing's success in the GTS class of World Challenge, has made 26 total IMSA starts at Daytona, while van der Linde made his debut in the race last year. De Angelis won last year’s IMSA Prototype Challenge race at Daytona and was a front-runner in both GT3 Cup Challenge USA and Canada in 2018. This will be his first Rolex 24 appearance, as it also will be for Vervisch, who previously raced in America in the Atlantic Championship back in 2009. Qualified 20th in GTD class.

#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3: Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley, Dillon Machavern, Jens Klingmann

#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3: Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley, Dillon Machavern, Jens Klingmann
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

Auberlen has more wins than any other active IMSA driver – 58 – and is clearly hoping to at least match Scott Pruett's record of 60. His season-long co-driver will be Foley, who is making his second Rolex 24 start. Machavern, a 2017 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) champion, picked up his first WeatherTech Championship race win last year with Turner Motorsport at Watkins Glen. Klingmann also has won three WeatherTech Championship races with Turner. Qualified 24th in GTD class (failed to set a time).

#99 NGT Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R: Jurgen Haering, Sven Muller, Klaus Bachler, Steffen Goerig, Alfred Renauer

#99 NGT Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R: Jurgen Haering, Sven Muller, Klaus Bachler, Steffen Goerig, Alfred Renauer
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Photo by: Richard Dole / LAT Images

Three of the five drivers in the NGT lineup – Haering, Goerig and Renauer – will be making their first appearance in the Rolex 24. The other two drivers – Bachler and Muller – each will be participating in their fourth straight Daytona enduro. NGT has fielded full-time entries in the GT3 Cup Challenge USA the past several years and won the 2018 Gold Cup title last year, but also has extensive WeatherTech Championship and American Le Mans Series experience. Qualified 17th in GTD class.

#540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R: Timothy Pappas, Matteo Cairoli, Dirk Werner, Marco Seefried

#540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R: Timothy Pappas, Matteo Cairoli, Dirk Werner, Marco Seefried
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BSR owner Pappas recently committed to racing the four Michelin Endurance Cup rounds in IMSA competition as well as the Intercontinental GT Challenge. With Porsche factory driver Werner in the lineup, as well as Seefried and Porsche Young Professional Cairoli, the team has a strong chance of success if the updated 911 GT3 R delivers as promised. Qualified 13th in GTD class.

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About this article

Series IMSA
Event Daytona 24
Author David Malsher