It’s a dawn of a new era for sports car racing, as the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship kicks off this weekend on the famed Florida high banks for the 52nd annual Rolex 24 at Daytona.
To gear up for the history-making event, FOX Sports SPEED previews the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic with a team-by-team look at the 67 cars that are set to compete in the season-opening round.
First up is a preview of the highly competitive GT Daytona (GTD) class.
TV Schedule (Sat. Jan 25-26):
2pm-4pm ET on FOX
4pm-9pm ET on FOX Sports 2
9pm-7am ET on IMSA.com
7am-3pm ET on FOX Sports 1
GT Daytona (29 Entries)
Flying Lizard Motorsports (Audi R8 LMS): Switching from Porsches to Audis for 2014, the ALMS stalwarts embark on a new challenge but have clearly not lost any speed. Both of the California-based team’s new cars for Seth Neiman, Dion von Moltke, Alessandro Latif and Filipe Albuquerque (No. 35) and Spencer Pumpelly, Nelson Canache, Markus Winkelhock and Tim Pappas (No. 45) should be prime contenders for the win.
Alex Job Racing (Porsche 911 GT America): Winners in 2013 with Audi, one of the most successful endurance racing squads are in contention for victory again, but with two new Porsches in its arsenal. Both the No. 22 WeatherTech-backed 911 of Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen, Shane van Gisbergen, LP Dumoulin and Shane Lewis, plus the Team Seattle-entered No. 23 car of Ian James, Mario Farnbacher, Marco Holzer and Alex Riberas will likely be among the cars to beat come 2:10 p.m. on Sunday.
Scuderia Corsa (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3): The 2013 Rolex Series GT champions have turned up with three Prancing Horses, but only one with a legitimate shot of victory. Look for the No. 63 car of Alessandro Balzan, Jeff Westphal, Toni Vilander and Lorenzo Case to be a threat for top honors, with Scuderia Corsa’s Nos. 64 and 65 entries likely aiming for a top-15 finish.
Level 5 Motorsports (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3): Moving from P2 to GTD, the Scott Tucker-owned operation should be one of the leading contenders with its pair of new Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 cars. Tucker and Jeff Segal are joined by Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell in the No. 555 car, while former Rolex 24 winner Terry Borcheller and Mike LaMarra are among the drivers in the No. 556 Ferrari. Following encouraging pace at the Roar, both will likely be fighting for top-five finishes.
Paul Miller Racing (Audi R8 LMS): Like Flying Lizard, Paul Miller Racing also switches from Porsche to Audi machinery for 2014 and is likely to be among the contenders for the win. Boasting factory drivers Rene Rast and Christopher Haase, who join Bryce Miller and Brit Matt Bell, it makes for one of the strongest lineups in the field. The No. 48 Audi shouldn’t be overlooked as a potential class-winning effort.
Snow Racing (Porsche 911 GT America): Having been quick at the Roar, the Snow Racing/Wright Motorsports Porsche could surprise more than a few people, specially with its strong lineup of Jan Heylen, Marco Seefried and 18-year-old Madison Snow, who makes his second Rolex 24 start. A podium, or even a potential class win for this effort could be in the cards.
Magnus Racing (Porsche 911 GT America): The former Rolex 24 class winners could be in prime position again to repeat, with team owner John Potter and Andy Lally being joined by Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler and JF Dumoulin in the No. 44 Porsche 911 GT America. Always considered to be a contender in endurance races, don’t count Magnus out.
Riley Motorsports (SRT Viper GT3-R): SRT’s new GT3-based Viper makes its debut with a lineup stacked with talent. With names like Jeroen Bleekemolen and Emmanuel Collard, along with Ben Keating and Jeroen’s brother, Sebastiaan, the No. 33 entry could be one of the dark horse picks for the race, especially with a recent favorable performance break from IMSA.
NGT Motorsport (Porsche 911 GT America): The Florida-based team, which became a regular contender in ALMS GTC competition, remains with Porsche for 2014. NGT’s 911 features an impressive crop of pilots, led by Porsche Supercup star Kuba Giermaziak and 2013 Supercup champion Nicki Thiim. Henrique Cisneros and Christina Nielsen complete the lineup, which should be within a chance of a top-five finish.
Park Place Motorsports (Porsche 911 GT America): Both of the Horton Autosport-run 911s could be dark horse picks for the class win. The No. 71 Porsche sees factory driver Timo Bernhard, Porsche Supercup driver Norbert Siedler and full-season pilots Dr. Jim Norman and Craig Stanton, while Kevin Estre and Connor De Phillippi are sure to shine in the No. 73 entry alongside Patrick Lindsey, Jason Hart and Mike Vess.
Spirit of Race (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3): The pair of AF Corse-run Ferraris could very well play a factor in the race’s outcome as well, particularly the No. 51 entry of Matt Griffin, Marco Cioci, Michele Rugolo and Jack Gerber. Look for the No. 49 Ferrari to be fast in the hands of Davide Rigon and Paolo Ruberti as well. Gianluca Roda and Piergiuseppe Perazzini complete the driving force in the second entry. Top-10 finishes for both cars should be an easy target, as long as they stay out of trouble.
Fall-Line Motorsports (Audi R8 LMS): After a partial-season effort last year, Fall-Line steps up to a full-time program with its mid-engined sports car, with Charlie Putman and Charles Espenlaub being joined by Audi factory driver Oliver Jarvis and fellow Brit James Walker for the 24. It’s a strong lineup that could be considered one of the sleepers for the race. Don’t count out the Chicago area-based team from a potential top-five.
GMG Racing (Audi R8 LMS): After campaigning a brace of R8 LMS cars in the Pirelli World Challenge last year, GMG enters Alex Welch’s 2013 Rolex 24 class-winning Audi in a bid for a potential repeat with the chassis. Welch is joined by team owner James Sofronas and Audi factory drivers Frank Stippler and Marc Basseng, which makes for a strong lineup in the Pro-Am ranks. A top-five finish is possible.
Dempsey Racing (Porsche 911 GT America): Returning with Porsche for 2014, Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster hope to rekindle some past magic at Daytona with the addition of factory driver Marc Lieb and GT ace Andrew Davis in the No. 27 entry. The team’s No. 28 Porsche, run in conjunction by Konrad Motorsport, sees 24 Hours of Dubai winners Christian Engelhart and Rolf Ineichen being joined by Klaus Bachler, Lance Willsey and team boss Franz Konrad, a lineup that could produce some surprises.
TRG-AMR (Aston Martin V12 Vantage): While usually fielding up to a half-dozen Porsches, the Kevin Buckler-led squad has a modest two-car Aston Martin program this year. James Davison and Brandon Davis lead the charge in the No. 007 entry with David Block and Al Carter, while Calum Lockie is joined by Pete McIntosh, Robrt Nimkoff and Max Riddle in the No. 009 car. While not expected to fight for the win, a top-five may be possible for the No. 007 Aston.
GB Autosport (Porsche 911 GT America): While being a new team, the key players of GB Autosport are no strangers to the sports car world. The Cole Scrogham-led squad features a quick lineup of Damien Faulkner, Patrick Husiman and Bob Faieta. Look for the Tully’s Coffee entry to be among the cars fighting for a top-10 finish if they can stay out of trouble for 24 hours.
Turner Motorsport (BMW Z4 GT3): Will Turner’s squad debuts its ex-Marc VDS Racing BMW Z4 GT3 for full-season drivers Dane Cameron, Paul Dalla Lana, as well as BMW factory driver Augusto Farfus and Finn Markus Palttala. While having lacked top speed, just like its big brother in GTLM, the V8-powered beast is unlikely to set the world on fire at Daytona but could be around at the end of the race if it doesn’t face any mechanical woes and all four drivers keep it out of trouble.
SMP/ESM Racing (Ferrari 458 Italia GT3): The Franco-Russian squad, supported at the Rolex 24 by Extreme Speed Motorsports, is not likely to set the world on fire but could be there at the end of 24 hours, should all five of its drivers stay out of the walls. Team co-principals Sergey Zlobin and Boris Rotenberg are joined by Ferrari ace Mika Salo, Maurizio Mediani and newly signed Schmidt Peterson IndyCar pilot Mikhail Aleshin.
Muehlner Motorsports (Porsche 911 GT America): Unlikely to be a contender for the class win or podium, the European squad still boasts some notable driving talent behind the wheel of its two Porsches, including Swiss sports car ace Alexandre Imperatori and reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion Earl Bamber in the No. 18 car. Road racing veteran Randy Pobst leads the charge in the No. 19 entry, which is nearly entirely filled with gentlemen drivers.