Roar Before the 24: Friday

Photo: http://www.thecarconnection.com

By: Kobe Lambeth

News & Notes

*Shocking news from the Stevenson Motorsports team. It appears that we will see only one full-time entry from the team as they have stacked all four of their original drivers in the Number 6 Audi R8 LMS GT3. Matt Bell, Lawson Aschenbach, Andrew Davis, and Robin Liddell will pilot that entry at the Roar and the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The Number 9 Audi R8 LMS GT3 will be driven by road racing veterans Boris Said and Kenny Habul. It is great to see Habul make his IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship debut after a strong 2015 season of road racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Said and Habul will be joined by Tristan Vautier and Audi veteran, Dion von Moltke. It will be interesting to see what Stevenson Motorsports’ plans will look like this upcoming season.*

*Sportscar and Audi legend, Tom Kristensen will serve as the grand marshal for this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. In the future, I would love to see him come out of retirement and run for overall honors at Daytona.*

*Towards the end of the first practice session, Lance Stroll crashed the Number 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford DP. Hopefully, Lance’s confidence will not take a major hit from this incident. This is a learning experience for him as he gets comfortable with the Daytona Prototype chassis.*

*Ozz Negri Jr. set the fastest time in the first practice session with a lap time of 1:39.655. The only Prototype to eclipse the 1:39-minute mark. Wayne Taylor Racing’s Corvette DP was second quickest with a lap time of 1:40.511. One exciting moment in this session was to see the SMP Racing BR01 LMP2 car finish third quickest of the Prototype cars. This is the very first IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship race for the Russian squad. One of the biggest questions heading into the weekend is what kind of lap times the new gasoline powered Mazda’s would set. In the first session, Tom Long set a lap time of 1:43.105, which is pretty good considering the completely different program. Hopefully, they will find some more speed before the Rolex 24 in a few weeks. CORE Autosport was fastest in the Prototype Challenge class. Mark Wilkins set a lap time of 1:42.423, and Starworks Motorsport finished behind them.*

*The GT classes look extremely different compared to last year as there are new GTE Regulations, along with GT3-spec machinery in GT Daytona. In GT Le Mans, Lucas Luhr set the fastest lap time of 1:45.088 in Team RLL’s new BMW M6 GTLM chassis. Corvette Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing’s new Ford GT round out the top three. Tim Pappas set the fastest time in GT Daytona for Black Swan Racing with a lap time of 1:48.822. Magnus Racing and Stevenson Motorsports round out the top three in their brand new Audi R8 GT3’s.*

*Laurens Vanthoor will join Michael Shank Racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with drivers Ozz Negri Jr. and John Pew. What an exciting driver lineup! This trio will definitely be a threat in the LMP2 category when June arrives. The team is also considering running the Spa round of the FIA World Endurance Championship to prepare for Le Mans. I believe that this is a great idea for the team to practice the ACO rules package. However, racing a Spa is going to take a lot of planning and funding, so nothing is set yet.*

*O’Gara Motorsport has confirmed that Richard Antinucci and Edoardo Piscopo will join full-season drivers Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.*

*Michael Shank Racing once again leads the second and final practice session of the day. Olivier Pla set a lap time of 1:39.445 with Pipo Derani in second place overall with a lap time of 1:40.328. The Honda-powered Ligiers appear to be extremely strong this weekend. Will the strong showings lead to Balance of Performance adjustments ahead of the season opener? We will find that out within the next few weeks! Also, what happened to the dominance of the Corvette DP’s? LMP2 cars are currently winning on the high banks of Daytona. Which chassis will prevail in a few weeks time: Daytona Prototype, LMP2, or the Deltawing? Mazda improved their pace to 1:41.055, which is a significant improvement! I hope that the team will continue to find speed throughout the weekend. CORE Autosport’s Colin Braun led Prototype Challenge with a lap time of 1:42.800 followed by Starworks Motorsport.*

*Team RLL’s new BMW M6 GTLM chassis is extremely fast right out of hauler! Augusto Farfus and Kuno Wittmer led the second and final practice session followed by Corvette’s Antonio Garcia and Ford’s Richard Westbrook. GT Le Mans is going to be the most competitive GT class in the world once again. Raffaele Gianmaria led GT Daytona in his Ferrari 458 GT3 with a lap time of 1:48.358 followed by the Ben Keating owned Dodge Viper GT3 and Franz Konrad’s Lamborghini Huracán GT3.

*Turner Motorsport finally got their brand new BMW M6 GT3 machines on the track in the final practice session of the day.*

*Mazda’s new engine will be known as the MZ-2.0T. Wow, what an interesting name! Let’s all hope that the new engine will help decrease the gap between them and the leading Prototypes.*

*As I previously predicted, Olivier Beretta and Davide Rigon will join Risi Competizione’s full-season drivers, Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Very surprised they did not elect to go with five drivers and add Sam Bird.*

*Scuderia Corsa expects to have their new Ferrari 488 GT3 car by the 12 Hours of Sebring. I cannot wait to see the GT3 version of this beautiful new prancing horse!*

What will tomorrow bring? Make some wild predictions!

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