Roar Before the 24 Summary/Rolex 24 Preview: Debrief

Photo: http://www.gettyimages.com

By: Kobe Lambeth

Prototype

*It was extremely shocking not to see Action Express Racing lead any practice sessions this weekend. The Corvette DP’s have not shown the typical pace displayed in the past two seasons. However, I expect to see both Action Express entries to be on pace for the race. Newcomers, Filipe Albuquerque, and Scott Pruett were able to get laps this weekend. It is going to be weird seeing Pruett with another team this year after so many years with Chip Ganassi Racing. I am also excited to see Albuquerque make his Daytona Prototype debut as we all know how quick he is. Watch out for the Number 5 team as Albuquerque and Pruett will join Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi. The Number 31 Whelen sponsored Corvette DP also should be strong for the Rolex 24 as they have Dane Cameron, Eric Curran, Jonny Adam, and Simon Pagenaud.*

*The Rolex 24 will most likely be the final race for the Ford DP’s which will run in the hands of Chip Ganassi Racing. It was strange to see the Ford DP not even come close to matching its lap times from last year. They basically have the same package from last year’s race, which is why I do not understand why they have not been on pace with the P2’s and Corvette DP’s. However, I believe that they will be strong during the race as they have all-star lineups in both cars. Wurz, Hartley, Priaulx, and Stroll will be contenders, along with defending overall winners in the 02 car.*

*I am so impressed with the pace shown by Mazda during the pre-season test. They are right on pace with the typical Prototype leaders and they should expect a strong season. Bomarito, Nunez, Miller, and Long are four great drivers who should get the breakout season that they deserve. I would not be surprised to see Mazda win some races this season.*

*Michael Shank Racing is going to be tough to beat in the season opener. Adding Olivier Pla to the lineup made the team downright dangerous. Negri Jr., Pew, Allmendinger, and Pla is a great lineup that will shine brightly on the high banks of Daytona. Do not be surprised if this car wins the pole for the second straight year in a row.*

*This might be the last year that we see the Deltawing DWC13 in IMSA competition. I believe this might be a memorable season based on the lap times displayed by Panoz Deltawing Racing at the Roar. Tim Keene has done a fantastic job trying to get the team closer to the pace-setting DP’s and P2’s. Expect shocking results from this team this year and do not be surprised when they win their very first race.*

*I am so excited the see SMP Racing’s BR01 LMP2 car right on pace with the IMSA Prototypes. This is an exciting moment for sportscar racing. I love the idea of European teams coming to IMSA to showcase their talents, and I applaud SMP Racing for not being scared off by Balance of Performance concerns. They have four strong drivers and a great piece of machinery, so I definitely expect them to be “dark horses” during the race.*

*Tequila Patrón ESM displayed some great speed this weekend. It is great to see the team return to IMSA competition. Let me tell you something, Pipo Derani is on his way to an LMP1 factory contract in the immediate future. I am impressed with his speed, considering this is the first time at Daytona International Speedway. We already know who will be qualifying this Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 in a few weeks. Hopefully, the team will do well at Daytona and Sebring, so they will be able to commit to the entire North American Endurance Cup schedule.*

*It is uncharacteristic to see the Number 90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP down on the speed charts. They have not been close to the pace-setting cars all weekend. I believe that the team is still finding chemistry with new drivers, Ryan Dalziel, Marc Goossens, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. However, I expect the team to be contenders during the race as they have a few weeks to prepare. VisitFlorida.com Racing has plenty of momentum. so I believe that the team will get their act together.*

*Wayne Taylor Racing had one of the fastest Corvette DP’s all weekend. We saw the Taylor brothers and Max Angelelli turn laps in the car. However, it is still uncharacteristic that we did not see more consistent lap times for the Corvette DP’s. The P2’s finally discovered something to take on the Daytona Prototypes? Will the next round of Balance of Performance adjustments play a major role in the outcome of the season opener?*

*This is could potentially be the final Rolex 24 for the Highway to Help Daytona Prototype team. It is unknown if they will purchase new for 2017 LMP2 machinery.*

Prototype Challenge

*CORE Autosport showed great speed this weekend. Braun, Bennett, Wilkins, and Plowman will definitely be strong for race weekend and do not be surprised if they go to victory lane.*

*Performance Tech has an “interesting” lineup as James French returns  and he will be joined by Jim Norman, his son Josh (not related to Carolina Panthers star cornerback), and Brandon Gdovic.*

*Both Starworks entries showed speed and they will probably be the biggest threat to CORE Autosport on race weekend.*

*No offense towards the teams, but there is simply not a lot of story lines in Prototype Challenge class. There is currently not a lot of interest and the class will disappear within the next few years.*

GT Le Mans

*Team RLL’s new toys looked stronger than the BMW Z4 GTE this weekend. The BMW M6 GTLM looked strong as it was right on pace with their competitors. Both entries are stacked with driving talent, so watch out for BMW!*

*Corvette Racing showed their typical pace (always near the front) and their full-season lineups remain the same. However, they have new endurance drivers and looked to Audi to find the “newbies.” Mike Rockenfeller and Marcel Fassler easily adapted to the Corvette C7R this weekend. “Rocky” previously drove the Number 90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP for the NAEC rounds and Fassler drove for Corvette a few years ago. I cannot wait to see the Audi boys drive the American muscle car in a few weeks!*

*Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford GT machines were on pace with their competitors. I am so excited to see this supercar compete against the best GT programs in the world. The team has six world-class drivers in two cats, so I expect both entries to challenge for victory in GTLM.*

*I absolutely love the revised look of the factory Porsches! They look more “racey” if that is even a word. It was not surprising or alarming to see the two Porsche 911 RSR’s at the bottom of the speed charts. However, they will certainly show great race pace as they always do. I will be shocked if both factory Porsches struggle during the race.*

*Risi Competizione was not at the Roar as they are trying to get their chassis in time for the race. Honestly, I think it would be better for them to wait for Sebring to get the car on the race track. It would save the team plenty of stress as they try hard to get ready for Daytona. However, I admire the hard work to make the race! I am excited to see Fisichella and Vilander work together.*

*Scuderia Corsa showed great pace all weekend long as they will make their debut in the GTLM class in a few weeks. The team previously announced that they would compete for the North American Endurance Cup, but rumors suggest that we could see a full-season effort with Memo Rojas and one of their NAEC drivers (most likely Alessandro Pier Guidi).*

*I am happy to see that SMP Racing entered a new Ferrari 488 GTE, but one thing is puzzling to me. How do you have Gianmaria Bruni as one of your drivers and not lead a single session this weekend! I believe that “Gimmi” Bruni is one of the best GTE drivers on this planet. It is hard to believe that SMP’s Ferrari did not go faster than it did during the pre-season test.*

GT Daytona

*Alex Job Racing set some impressive lap times with their new Porsche 911 GT3 chassis. They will definitely be contenders during race weekend.*

*It a great to see Aston Martin Racing return to the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, but in the GTD category. You will see the Number 98’s drivers from the GTE-Am class from last season, along with star driver Richie Stanaway. This is going to be a strong lineup to watch for!*

*Nick Catsburg is going to have a breakout season. He set some impressive lap times at the Roar, and Black Swam Racing has a fantastic group of drivers: Tim Pappas, Andy Pilgrim, and Patrick Long.*

*I am happy to see NASCAR road course ringer Justin Marks join Spencer Pumpelly and Corey Lewis for the Rolex 24. This is going to be another strong lineup in the GT Daytona class, which will feature great talent this year.*

*The joint effort between Flying Lizard Motorsports and Krohn Racing set some nice lap times in the previous generation Audi R8 GT3. Krohn, Jonsson, Kaffer, and Haase is a great lineup!*

*I am ecstatic to see the European squad, Frikadelli Racing, try their hand at the Rolex 24! We do not typically see many international squads commit to American races. They did a great job at the Roar and I hope to see them do well. I am familiar with two of their drivers, Sven Muller, and Connor De Phillippi.*

*It is always awesome to see Konrad Motorsport at Daytona. They showed some great speed in their Lamborghini’s this weekend! This team is definitely going to be a contender on race weekend.*

*Magnus Racing did a good job adjusting to their new Audi R8 LMS GT3. With Andy Lally, John Potter, Marco Seefried, and René Rast on the team, they will definitely be a contender, even with a new piece of machinery.*

*Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler appear to be settling in with their new team, O’Gara Motorsport just fine as they have set consistent lap times during the Roar. It will be interesting to see if they can out duel their former team, Scuderia Corsa.*

*Park Place Motorsports is going to have a strong season with the addition of Porsche factory driver, Jorg Bergmeister. The team had a crash, but shockingly repaired it to return to testing action! This squad is definitely a fan favorite.*

*Paul Miller Racing’s transition from the Audi to Lamborghini has gone well as they were fast this weekend. I am excited to see how Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers will do throughout the season.*

*Riley Motorsports will run a similar schedule from last year: one full-time GTD entry and one car for the NAEC rounds. If IMSA gets the Balance of Performance correct, then expect Ben Keating’s Dodge Viper GT3 to compete for the championship!*

*Scuderia Corsa did a great job by bringing back Alessandro Balzan to partner Christina Nielson. I cannot wait to see this duo compete for the championship after showing great speed at the Roar.*

*I am happy to see another international entry: Spirit of Race’s Ferrari 458 GT3. They displayed consistent speed throughout the weekend.*

*It is amazing to see Stevenson Motorsports return to IMSA competition but this time with an Audi R8 LMS GT3. I predict that they will contend for the championship as they have great drivers to lead them to victory. Watch out for this squad on Sunday afternoon during the Rolex 24!*

*TRG-AMR is taking a “different” approach to sportscar racing this season but I like it! Partnering with Formula One driver, Sergio Pérez could turn out to be a great move. I am looking forward to seeing how strong this lineup will be during the Rolex 24. Most importantly, who will pilot the 007 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 for the entire season?*

*Turner Motorsport will field two full-time entries this season. The new BMW M6 GT3 machines appeared to be on the “opposite end” of the speed charts, similar to the BMW Z4 GT3. I do not know how fast the car was in a straight line, but I assume the team has a lot to do before the Rolex 24. Hopefully, they will get the situation solved and show up in a few weeks with a chance to win!*

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