Home » FEATURE STORY, Sports Cars

Rolex 24 Set To Start 2019 Racing Season

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, January 24 2019
North America’s biggest sports car endurance event is set to get rolling this weekend in Daytona.


The 57th running of the Rolex 24 on the infield course at Daytona International Speedway is set for the upcoming weekend. The twice-around-the-clock event features top drivers from the worlds of sport cars, IndyCars and Formula 1.

The IMSA WeatherTech Series season-opener features new teams, drivers new to the event, new rules and new marques.

Live coverage of the Rolex 24 race begins on NBCSN at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 26.

The following is information on the categories, teams and drivers which will take part this weekend:

The Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class includes professional teams and drivers with manufacturer-backed programs from Acura, Cadillac, Mazda and Nissan. After running in a combined Prototype class each of the past two seasons, LMP2 teams now will shift to its own class with Pro-Am driver lineups.

DPi ClassNo. 5 Mustang Sampling RacingCadillac DPi-V.RJoao Barbosa/Mike Conway/Filipe Albuquerque/Christian Fittipaldi
Barbosa, Albuquerque and Fittipaldi return to defend their 2018 Rolex 24 victory and welcome Conway – who has previously been part of the Action Express Racing sister No. 31 Cadillac team – to the No. 5 driver lineup. A victory this weekend would be Barbosa’s fourth overall Rolex 24 win and fifth class victory and would send Fittipaldi into retirement as a four-time overall Rolex 24 winner as well. It would be the third Rolex 24 win (he won the GT class in 2013 in addition to last year’s overall and Prototype class victory) for Albuquerque and would be the first for FIA World Endurance Championship regular Conway. Barbosa and Albuquerque will continue into the rest of the WeatherTech Championship as full-time drivers of the No. 5 Cadillac.

No. 6 Acura Team PenskeAcura ARX-05 DPiJuan Pablo Montoya/Dane Cameron/Simon Pagenaud The same trio who shared the No. 6 Acura DPi in its maiden voyage at last year’s Rolex 24 are back and hungry for more in 2019. Season-long teammates Montoya and Cameron came oh-so-close to victory a number of times in 2018, but a win this weekend would be their first as teammates. In addition to being a two-time Indy 500 winner, Champ Car champion and race winner in both F1 and NASCAR, Montoya owns three Rolex 24 winner’s watches. Cameron is a two-time WeatherTech Championship champion (2016 Prototype and 2014 GT Daytona) and Pagenaud won an American Le Mans title in 2010, but a Rolex 24 win would be their first.

No. 7 Acura Team PenskeAcura ARX-05 DPiRicky Taylor/Helio Castroneves/Alexander Rossi Taylor and Castroneves are reunited for a second consecutive season in the No. 7. They delivered the first win for the Acura DPi program last year at Mid-Ohio in a 1-2 sweep for Acura Team Penske, but like their teammates in the No. 6, they’re hungry for much more in Year 2. For IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup rounds like this weekend’s Rolex 24, they’ll be joined by none other than the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500, Rossi, who is back for his first Rolex 24 since 2014 when he was part of the DeltaWing driver lineup.

No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R – Renger van der Zande/Jordan Taylor/Fernando Alonso/Kamui Kobayashi. We’ve already talked about past Rolex 24 winners, WeatherTech Championship series champions and Indy 500 winners among the first three DPi cars on the entry list. Now, we’ve arrived at the two-time F1 World Champion, Alonso, who returns to the Rolex 24 with the No. 10 team after racing a United Autosports LMP2 machine last year. Of course, the car also has a former Rolex 24 winner in Taylor, and past IMSA champions in both Taylor and van der Zande. The stacked driver lineup is further enhanced by Kobayashi, an F1 vet who’s now a Toyota factory LMP1 driver (and Alonso’s teammate) in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

No. 31 Whelen Engineering RacingCadillac DPi-V.R – Felipe Nasr/Eric Curran/Pipo Derani. The last time we saw Nasr and Curran (before the Roar Before the Rolex 24 anyway) they were standing onstage at Chateau Élan in Braselton, Georgia holding Bishop-France Trophies as 2018 co-champions of the WeatherTech Championship Prototype class. It was Curran’s second Prototype title in three seasons, while Nasr’s title came in his first full year in the championship. This year, Nasr will be joined for the full season by his Brazilian countryman, Derani, with Curran moving to an IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup-only role with the team. Derani won the 2016 Rolex 24 with the Patrón ESM team. Curran and Nasr finished second to their No. 5 teammates last year. They’re hoping to go one spot better this year.

No. 50 Juncos RacingCadillac DPi-V.R – Will Owen/Rene Binder/Agustin Canapino/Kyle Kaiser. Newcomers to WeatherTech Championship competition in 2019, Juncos Racing brings a wealth of IndyCar and other open-wheel development series experience. Among the driver lineup, Owen is the only one with previous Rolex 24 experience, scoring a fourth-place result in his race debut last year with United Autosports. Kaiser won the 2017 Indy Lights title and made four IndyCar starts last year. Austrian driver Binder made six IndyCar starts last year with Juncos Racing and won four World Series Formula V8 races in 2017. Canapino has won 12 championships and 81 races in his native Argentina over the past 11 years.

No. 54 CORE autosportNissan DPi – Jon Bennett/Colin Braun/Romain Dumas/Loic Duval. Season-long co-drivers Bennett and Braun came within a whisker of winning the Prototype championship last year with an ORECA LMP2 car. This year, they’ll go into battle for the DPi championship with the field’s lone Nissan. Bennett and Braun have won the Rolex 24 before, back in 2014 as part of the Prototype Challenge (PC) class. Dumas and Duval have not, but they do have overall victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

No. 55 Mazda Team JoestMazda RT24-P DPi – Jonathan Bomarito/Harry Tincknell/Olivier Pla. Bomarito finished the 2018 season with a strong, third-place showing in the No. 55 Mazda DPi at Motul Petit Le Mans, and that performance coupled with a productive offseason has the 2010 Rolex 24 GT winner thinking he might be in line for another timepiece come Sunday afternoon. He’s the only one of the driving trio with a previous Rolex 24 win, but Tincknell and Pla are both Le Mans winners, so this group knows how to get it done in 24-hour races.

No. 77 Mazda Team JoestMazda RT24-P DPiOliver Jarvis/Tristan Nunez/Timo Bernhard/Rene Rast – If the Roar Before the Rolex 24 was any indication, the No. 77 Mazda is the car to beat in the DPi class. If anybody is going to do it, they’ll have to be quick, because Jarvis unofficially broke PJ Jones’ 1993 track record in garage and pit stall qualifying at the Roar. Jarvis already has won endurance racing’s crown jewels at Daytona, Le Mans and Sebring, but an overall Rolex 24 win would be his first. Ditto for Rast, who has two Rolexes from GT category wins in 2012 and 2016. Bernhard scored an overall Rolex 24 win in a GT car back in 2003, one of two Rolex 24 wins he owns along with three Le Mans victories and two Sebring victories. Nunez, meanwhile, is the driver with the most Mazda prototype experience, dating all the way back to the manufacturer’s first WeatherTech Championship Prototype effort in 2014.

No. 84 JDC-Miller MotorsportsCadillac DPi-V.RSimon Trummer/Stephen Simpson/Chris Miller/Juan Piedrahita – Fans of JDC-Miller Motorsports’ “Banana Boat” look will be seeing double this year, with both of the team’s new Cadillac DPi entries sporting the bright yellow color scheme. In the No. 84 Cadillac DPi, Trummer, one of the drivers of the team’s No. 85 entry in 2018, will team with Simpson for the full season. Simpson shared the No. 99 ORECA last year with Misha Goikhberg for the full season and with Miller for the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup rounds. That trio scored a popular victory in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and Simpson and Goikhberg combined to finish inside the top five in the Prototype driver standings in both 2017 and 2018. Trummer, meanwhile, competed in the full 2018 season with co-driver Robert Alon, scoring a season-best result of sixth in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Piedrahita, from Colombia, is a four-year veteran of Indy Lights with a pole last year at Gateway Motorsports Park and two career podium results.

No. 85 JDC-Miller MotorsportsCadillac DPi-V.RMisha Goikhberg/Tristan Vautier/Devlin DeFrancesco/Rubens Barrichello – Goikhberg, the 2017 and 2018 Jim Trueman Award winner for the top-performing Prototype sportsman driver, continues his longstanding relationship with JDC-Miller Motorsports with Vautier as his new-for-2019 full-season co-driver. Frenchman Vautier is embarking on his first full WeatherTech Championship season since running the full 2017 campaign in the GTD class with SunEnergy1 Racing and was the 2012 Indy Lights champion. DeFrancesco, the 19-year-old Canadian is back for his second straight Rolex 24 with JDC-Miller Motorsports after racing GP3 and Formula 3 last year. Brazilian fan favorite Barrichello – and 11-time F1 Grand Prix winner – is back for his first Rolex 24 since finishing second in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP in 2016.

LMP2 ClassNo. 18 DragonSpeedORECA/Gibson LMP2Roberto Gonzalez/Pastor Maldonado/Sebastian Saavedra/Ryan Cullen – As part of a two-car DragonSpeed LMP2 lineup for the 2019 Rolex 24, the No. 18 squad brings an intriguing mix of experience. Gonzalez has raced in Champ Car, the American Le Mans Series and each of the past two 24 Hours of Le Mans. Last year, the Mexican driver finished 12th in the Prototype class in the Rolex 24 alongside Saavedra in the No. 52 entry. Colombian Saavedra ran the full WeatherTech Championship season last year, scoring a best result of fifth at Mid-Ohio. He too has raced IndyCar and was a four-time Indy Lights race winner. Maldonado, another Colombian, is making his Rolex 24 debut in 2019, but owns 95 career Formula 1 starts and took a victory in the 2012 Grand Prix of Spain at the Catalunya circuit. Irish racer Cullen brings experience from GP3, Porsche Supercup and European Le Mans Series experience.

No. 38 Performance Tech MotorsportsORECA/Gibson LMP2Kyle Masson/Robert Masson/Cameron Cassels/Kris Wright –
Kyle Masson took a PC class victory in the 2017 Rolex 24 at the age of 19. Last year, his father, Dr. Robert Masson, won the IMSA Prototype Challenge MPC class in the series’ inaugural race at Daytona. Cassels also is a Daytona winner, taking the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) victory in 2017. Wright is the 2018 IMSA Prototype Challenge LMP3 champion. He finished second in class at Daytona last year.
No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen MotorsportsORECA/Gibson LMP2Matthew McMurry/Gabriel Aubry/Mark Kvamme/Enzo Guibbert – Although he’s just 21 years old, McMurry is already competing in his fifth Rolex 24 At Daytona. His best result of fifth came in his debut in a Michael Shank Racing Prototype back in 2015. It will be Kvamme’s sixth consecutive Rolex 24 with a best result of third in the PC class in 2017. French racers Aubry and Guibbert each will make their Rolex 24 debut this weekend, but both have previous 24 Hours of Le Mans experience.

No. 81 DragonSpeedORECA/Gibson LMP2Henrik Hedman/Ben Hanley/Nicolas Lapierre/James Allen – Lapierrewon both the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He still needs a Rolex 24 win to complete the trifecta, though. He’ll be joined by Hanley, who previously raced in the Rolex 24 with DragonSpeed back in 2017 and also will drive DragonSpeed’s new IndyCar in five races later this year. Hedman raced for DragonSpeed at Sebring in 2016 and at Daytona in 2017 as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans each of the past two years. Australian driver Allen finished sixth overall and fifth in the LMP2 class in his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut in 2017. This will be his first Rolex 24 At Daytona attempt.

A closer look at each team in GTLM and GTD:

GT Le MansNo. 3 Corvette RacingChevrolet Corvette C7.R – Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia/Mike Rockenfeller –Magnussen and Garcia have ended each of the past two WeatherTech Championship GTLM seasons atop the point standings and head into 2019 thinking three-peat. All three drivers have won the Rolex 24 at least once before, but it’s been a while (2015 for Magnussen and Garcia; 2010 for Rockenfeller) and they’ve not done it together… yet.

No. 4 Corvette RacingChevrolet Corvette C7.ROliver Gavin/Tommy Milner/Marcel Fassler –This trio of drivers emerged victorious in one of the most exciting Rolex 24 finishes ever, when Gavin edged teammate Garcia by a scant 0.034 seconds to win the GTLM class in 2016. After that, Gavin and Milner went on to win the 2016 WeatherTech Championship GTLM title. They also earned the distinction of taking Corvette Racing’s 100th victory at Lime Rock in 2016. Next up on the hit list: Corvette Racing’s 100th IMSA win, as they currently sit at 99 victories.

No. 24 BMW Team RLLBMW M8 GTEJesse Krohn/John Edwards/Chaz Mostert/Alex Zanardi – All eyes will be on the No. 24 BMW throughout the Rolex 24 weekend – and especially when Zanardi is either in the car, or getting in or out of the car. The Italian racer and two-time CART champion who lost his legs in a crash at EuroSpeedway Lausitz back in 2001 has been nothing short of inspirational since. There’s a slew of talent in all four drivers of the No. 24 BMW, though, and with a year’s worth of learning the M8 GTE now under the team’s belt, they should be right in the mix.

No. 25 BMW Team RLLBMW M8 GTEAugusto Farfus/Connor De Phillippi/Philipp Eng/Colton Herta –De Phillippi and then-co-driver Alexander Sims delivered the first two victories for the BMW M8 GTE anywhere in the world last year when they won at VIRginia International Raceway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Sims is now one of BMW’s full-time Formula E drivers, so De Phillippi was slated to co-drive for the full season with Tom Blomqvist. Unfortunately for Blomqvist, visa issues will prevent him from racing at Daytona, so the experienced Farfus will fill his spot. Eng, the 2015 Porsche Supercup champion, and second-generation racer Herta, who will race full-time in IndyCar later this year, solidifies the lineup.

 No. 62 Risi CompetizioneFerrari 488 GTEDavide Rigon/Miguel Molina/Alessandro Pier Guidi/James Calado –The Risi Ferrari carries four fantastic Ferrari factory drivers (say that five times fast), including one – Pier Guidi – with a previous Rolex 24 victory (GTD in 2014). The others also have achieved tremendous success. Calado co-drove to the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) GTE Pro championship in 2017. Molina won the SprintX championship in World Challenge last year, while Rigon is a FIA WEC regular and a past winner of the Spa 24 Hours.

No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi RacingFord GTJoey Hand/Dirk Mueller/Sebastien Bourdais – Two years ago, the No. 66 trio ended the Rolex 24 in victory lane, just as they had done the year before in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Last year, they dominated much of the race before their No. 67 Ford GT teammates went on take the victory with the No. 66 completing a 1-2 sweep for the team. At season’s end, Hand and Mueller went on to win the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup GTLM title. These guys are always a threat to win.

No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi RacingFord GTRyan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook/Scott Dixon –Their 2018 Rolex 24 GTLM victory gave the already accomplished Westbrook a “signature” win in one of motorsport’s crown jewels. It was Briscoe’s second Rolex 24 win in four years (he won the GTLM class in 2015 with Corvette Racing), and was Dixon’s third Rolex 24 victory after winning overall in 2006 and 2015. It turned out to be a good omen for him, as he went on to win his fifth IndyCar Series title at year’s end. Briscoe and Westbrook, meanwhile, finished second in the GTLM season standings.

No. 911 Porsche GT TeamPorsche 911 RSRPatrick Pilet/Nick Tandy/Frederic Makowiecki – They closed out the 2018 WeatherTech Championship in the best possible way, with a GTLM victory in Motul Petit Le Mans. They also won last year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. Tandy and Pilet won the Rolex 24 together back in 2014. They’re hoping to share the experience with Makowiecki this weekend.

No. 912 Porsche GT TeamPorsche 911 RSREarl Bamber/Laurens Vanthoor/Mathieu Jaminet – Bamber and Vanthoor know a thing or two about winning 24-hour races. Bamber’s done it twice at Le Mans overall in LMP1 machinery. Vanthoor won the GTE Pro class at Le Mans last year with a very special “Pink Pig” historic livery. And don’t look now, but there’s another historic livery on the car this weekend. Jaminet, meanwhile, is an up-and-comer in the Porsche ranks who raced his first Rolex 24 last year in the GTD class with Wright Motorsports.

GTD ClassNo. 8 Starworks MotorsportAudi R8 LMS GT3Parker Chase/Ryan Dalziel/Christopher Haase/Ezequiel Perez Companc ––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.

No. 9 Pfaff MotorsportsPorsche 911 GT3 RScott Hargrove/Zacharie Robichon/Lars Kern/Dennis Olsen – Hargrove and Robichon, who will co-drive the No. 9 Pfaff entry all year in the WeatherTech Championship, are the past two champions of the IMSA-sanctioned Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama. Hargrove took the 2017 title and last year won another championship in World Challenge. Robichon won all but one race en route to the 2018 GT3 Cup Challenge Canada title and also won seven of eight GT3 Cup Challenge USA starts. Kern is a longtime Porsche test driver who set a record around the famed Nurburgring circuit. Norwegian driver Olsen is a Porsche factory driver who won the 2017 German Porsche Carrera Cup. All four drivers will be competing in the Rolex 24 for the first time in 2019.

No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing TeamLamborghini Huracán GT3Rolf Ineichen/Mirko Bortolotti/Christian Engelhart/Rik Breukers – The No. 11 GRT Lamborghini team returns to defend their 2018 Rolex 24 GTD victory with three of the four drivers from last year’s winning lineup in Ineichen, Bortolotti and Breukers. Engelhart drove GRT’s No. 19 Lamborghini in last year’s Rolex 24 and is competing in his fifth Rolex 24 this year.

No. 12 AIM Vasser SullivanLexus RC F GT3Frank Montecalvo/Townsend Bell/Aaron Telitz/Jeff Segal The AIM Vasser Sullivan team makes its WeatherTech Championship debut with two Lexus RC F entries in GTD and an experienced core group of drivers, especially in the No. 12 machine. Bell is the 2015 GTD champion, a 2014 Rolex 24 winner in GTD and a 2016 GTE Am winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He’s returning to full-time WeatherTech Championship competition for the first time since that 2015 title-winning season. Segal – who is part of the team’s IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup lineup – was Bell’s teammate for the Rolex 24 and Le Mans wins and is a multi-time IMSA champion himself. Sports car veteran Montecalvo will be Bell’s season-long co-driver, while Indy Lights veteran Telitz makes his Rolex 24 debut.

No. 13 Via Italia RacingFerrari 488 GT3Chico Longo/Victor Franzoni/Marcos Gomes/Andrea Bertolini
The Via Italia Ferrari has an eclectic driver lineup for a spotlight appearance in the Rolex 24. Franzoni raced Indy Lights last year and finished fifth in the season standings with a victory at Road America. 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 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and has made 23 IMSA starts dating back to 2012. This will be his fourth Rolex 24 appearance.

No. 14 AIM Vasser SullivanLexus RC F GT3Richard Heistand/Jack Hawksworth/Austin Cindric/Nick Cassidy 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 multi-time champion of the Toyota Racing Series in his native country and is making his first Rolex 24 appearance.

No. 19 MoorespeedAudi R8 LMS GT3Andrew Davis/Alex Riberas/Will Hardeman/Markus Winkelhock The longtime GT3 Cup Challenge USA team enters WeatherTech Championship GTD competition with Hardeman, who drove the team’s GT3 Cup entry the past several years and won last year at Sebring. His full-season co-driver will be Riberas, a two-time GTD race winner who is back in the WeatherTech Championship full-time for the first time since 2016. Winkelhock is a longtime Audi factory racer, while Davis is a past IMSA champion still searching for his first Rolex 24 winner’s watch.

No. 29 Montaplast by Land MotorsportAudi R8 LMS GT3Daniel Morad/Christopher Mies/Dries Vanthoor/Ricky Feller Morad returns for his first Rolex 24 since winning in the GTD class back in 2017 as part of a talented lineup. Mies is an Audi factory racer who won Motul Petit Le Mans with the Montaplast team back in 2017. Vanthoor is the younger brother of Porsche GTLM driver Laurens Vanthoor and is making his first Rolex 24 start this year. He won the Bathurst 12 Hour last year. Feller is an 18-year-old Swiss driver with previous Audi experience making his first Rolex 24 appearance.

No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley MotorsportsMercedes-AMG GT3Ben Keating/Jeroen Bleekemolen/Luca Stolz/Felipe Fraga Keating, Bleekemolen and Stolz won the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup in the GTD class last year. It was the second consecutive such title for Keating and Bleekemolen, who are aiming for their first WeatherTech Championship GTD championship in 2019. Brazilian driver Fraga is a past Stock Car Brazil champion.

No. 44 Magnus RacingLamborghini Huracán GT3John Potter/Andy Lally/Spencer Pumpelly/Marco Mapelli Longtime co-drivers Potter and Lally are sharing a new Lamborghini in the GTD class as they go for their third Rolex 24 victory together. Lally is the winningest active driver in this year’s Rolex 24 with five previous class wins in the twice-around-the-clock classic. Pumpelly is a two-time Rolex 24 class winner who will complete the team’s IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup lineup. Mapelli is a Lamborghini factory racer competing in his second Rolex 24.

No. 46 EBIMOTORSLamborghini Huracán GT3Emanuele Busnelli/Fabio Babini/Taylor Proto The Italian team is making its second Rolex 24 appearance in the past three years. Babini has made 17IMSA starts going back to 2000 and is racing in his fifth Rolex 24. Busnelli is racing in his third Rolex 24, while Proto, a Lamborghini Young Driver, is making his Rolex 24 debut.

No. 47 Precision Performance MotorsportsLamborghini Huracán GT3Steve Dunn/Linus Lundqvist/Milos Pavlovic/Don Yount The PPM team moves up from Lamborghini Super Trofeo competition in the Rolex 24. 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 world champion, will make his second Rolex 24 start. Dunn and Lundqvist are making their respective WeatherTech Championship debuts this weekend.

No. 48 Paul Miller RacingLamborghini Huracán GT3Bryan Sellers/Ryan Hardwick/Corey Lewis/Andrea Caldarelli The 2018 GTD championship team returns with Sellers and new full-season co-driver Ryan Hardwick, the 2018 Lamborghini Super Trofeo AM world champion. Sellers and Lewis won at Sebring last year and are looking to build on last year’s Rolex 24 podium result. Caldarelli was part of that third-place performance and is back for his third consecutive Rolex 24 as part of the Paul Miller Racing lineup.

No. 51 Spirit of RaceFerrari 488 GT3Paul Dalla Lana/Pedro Lamy/Mathias Lauda/Daniel Serra The No. 51 Ferrari team returns for its annual Rolex 24 appearance. 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 Motul Petit Le Mans.

No. 57 Heinricher Racing with Meyer Shank RacingAcura NSX GT3Katherine Legge/Ana Beatriz/Simona De Silvestro/Christina Nielsen The No. 57 Acura will carry the first all-female driver lineup since 1994, and what a talented lineup it is. Nielsen won the WeatherTech Championship GTD championship in 2016 and 2017, while Legge was the GTD championship runner-up last year. Legge, Beatriz and De Silvestro are all Indy 500 veterans. Beatriz was quickest in GTD qualifying for pit and garage spaces at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 and will be part of the team’s IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup lineup. De Silvestro, a full-time racer in Australian Supercars, is making her Rolex 24 debut.

No. 63 Scuderia CorsaFerrari 488 GT3Cooper MacNeil/Toni Vilander/Dominik Farnbacher/Jeff Westphal MacNeil is back in the WeatherTech Ferrari with a new season-long co-driver in longtime Ferrari ace Vilander. The No. 63 squad carries momentum from winning the Motul Petit Le Mans to close out the 2018 season with MacNeil and then-co-drivers Daniel Serra and Gunnar Jeannette. Farnbacher won the Rolex 24 in his race debut back in 2005 and won another one 10 years later with Riley Motorsports. Westphal has won WeatherTech Championship races previously with Scuderia Corsa.

No. 71 P1 MotorsportsMercedes-AMG GT3Maximilian Buhk/Fabian Schiller/Dominik Baumann/JC Perez 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 moves to the No. 71 team after racing the 2018 GTD season with 3GT Racing. German driver Schiller is appearing in his first Rolex 24 this weekend.

No. 73 Park Place MotorsportsPorsche 911 GT3 RPatrick Lindsey/Patrick Long/Matt Campbell/Nicholas Boulle Lindsey returns as a full-time GTD competitor in 2019 after racing the FIA WEC last year and welcomes a new season-long co-driver in Long, a Porsche factory ace. Long is a four-time IMSA champion and was a 2009 Rolex 24 winner. Boulle also has a Daytona winner’s watch, which he scored in the Prototype Challenge class back in 2017. Australian driver Campbell has raced Australian Supercars and has competed in the Bathurst 12 Hour several times, but is making his first Rolex 24 appearance.

No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-AgajanianAcura NSX GT3Mario Farnbacher/Trent Hindman/Justin Marks/AJ Allmendinger Farnbacher and Hindman are the new season-long co-drivers of the No. 86 Acura. Hindman is a champion in both IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge and Lamborghini Super Trofeo, while Farnbacher has won at least one WeatherTech Championship race each year going back to 2015, despite being a part-time driver each of the past two years. Marks won the GT class in the 2009 Rolex 24 and NASCAR veteran Allmendinger was an overall Rolex 24 winner in 2012.

No. 88 WRT Speedstar Audi SportAudi R8 LMS GT3Frederic Vervisch/Kelvin van der Linde/Ian James/Roman De Angelis The No. 88 squad brings a mix of experience to the Rolex 24 with all four drivers looking for their first Rolex 24 victory. James 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.

No. 96 Turner MotorsportBMW M6 GT3Bill Auberlen/Robby Foley/Dillon Machavern/Jens Klingmann Auberlen is the winningest active driver in IMSA competition with 58 career victories and has a clear target in 2019, to eclipse Scott Pruett’s record of 60 IMSA wins. He’ll start that quest in the Rolex 24 with his season-long co-driver, Foley, who is making his second Rolex 24 start. Machavern, a 2017 IMSAMICHELIN Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) champion, picked up his first career WeatherTech Championship race win last year with Turner at Watkins Glen. Klingmann also has won WeatherTech Championship races with Turner, a total of three in 2016 and ’17.

No. 99 NGT MotorsportPorsche 911 GT3 RJuergen Haering/Klaus Bachler/Sven Muller/Steffen Goerig/Alfred Renauer
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 with driver Victor Gomez IV – but also has extensive WeatherTech Championship and American Le Mans Series experience.

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, January 24 2019
One Comment

One Comment »