Manufacturer prototype battle heats up
Manufacturer prototype battle heats up
This year’s 53rd Annual Rolex 24 At Daytona is the first major race of the year in the U.S. and kicks off the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
The race is expected to produce a relentless battle featuring Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, BMW and Mazda powered prototypes and a pair of independent threats. Here is a brief rundown of the top Prototype class:
Chevrolet enters the Rolex 24 At Daytona as the defending 2014 race and TUDOR United SportsCar Series Prototype Manufacturer champions. Chevrolet has updated the new Corvette DP bodywork to reflect the styling of the C7 production Corvette.
Leading the Chevy charge are the defending Rolex 24 and TUDOR series champions from Action Express Racing
The team ran the table last year with four championships including team, and driver titles for Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, who are joined here again by Sebastian Bourdais.
Joining Action Express for 2015 is the Whelen Engineering Corvette DP with drivers Dane Cameron and Eric Curran and for Daytona, veteran Max Papis, a former Rolex 24 winner, and Phil Keen.
Adding to the bowtie brigade is a pair of 2014 race winners. The 2014 Daytona and TUDOR Championship runners up from Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP have Max Angelelli returning to partner with brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor.
The former Spirit of Daytona team is now rebranded as VisitFlorida.com Racing with drivers Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante joined by Mike Rockenfeller.
Ford enters a second season with a pair of Ford EcoBoost Riley DPs entered by the five-time Rolex 24 winning Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
Veteran ace Scott Pruett and new teammate Joey Hand combine with Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam while IndyCar’s Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan join Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray. The team has been quick in the official tests and is certainly a major threat as the eight driver combined tally is 144 race wins and 11 championships.
Michael Shank Racing is celebrating ten years in sports car racing and looking for a second win here. The winners of the 2012 Rolex 24 have partnered with Honda Performance Development to power their new Ligier JS P2.
Longtime drivers John Pew and Ozz Negri will team for their 58th start together. Joining them here will be AJ Allmendinger and Matt McMurry, the youngest driver to have competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Scott Sharp’s Tequila PatrÃ³n Extreme Speed Motorsports team enters its sixth year in sports car racing with two new Honda Performance Development ARX-04b coupes. The Florida-based team features Sharp and Ryan Dalziel paired with David Heinemeier Hansson while Ed Brown and Johannes van Overbeek are teamed with Jon Fogarty.
The Speed Source MAZDA factory team returns with their SKYACTIV prototypes for 2015. The Multimatic-built, Lola-based P2 cars have undergone extensive updates, producing solid gains for the turbo-diesel powered prototypes.
New signing Jonathan Bomarito joins nineteen year-old Tristan Nunez in one car with team owner Sylvain Tremblay while Tom Long and Joel Miller are joined by Ben Devlin.
The Florida-based Starworks team led by Peter Baron lives up to its name at Daytona with F1’s Rubens Barrichello, 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, factory Porsche LMP1 driver Brendon Hartley, Tor Graves and Scott Mayer, aboard their Riley-BMW DP .
Meanwhile after a 12-year hiatus, FOX commentator Dorsey Schroeder joins with Bryon DeFoor, David Hinton and Jim Pace in their Fifty Plus Racing Endures for a Cure, Inc. / Highway to Help Race Team Riley-BMW.
A multiple championship driver, Schroeder now 61 years old, has shed 20 pounds in training for his chance to race again in the Rolex 24.
Making its Rolex 24 debut after acquiring a Dinan BMW- powered Riley DP from Michael Shank Racing is a new Ohio-based team formed by Robert Gewirtz. The start-up team will feature Gewirtz, Mark Kvamme and Shane Lewis.
While the big manufacturer tied Prototype teams will lead the marketing, if not on track battles, two highly capable independent entries pose outside threats.
Tracy Krohn’s veteran Le Mans Krohn Racing team trades his GTLM class Ferrari F458 for a new Onroak-built Ligier JS P2 prototype for 2015. Krohn Racing was the first American team to commit to the Ligier and is the first prototype fitted with the Judd V8.
Speeding the development are the two primary Ligier JS P2 development drivers, Alex Brundle and Olivier Pla, who will pair with Krohn and team regular Nic Jonsson.
Dr. Don Panoz’s Georgia-based DeltaWing Racing Cars team returns with their radical DeltaWing DWC13 featuring a number of off-season improvements for the Elan-powered prototype. The team ended the 2014 season with a solid fourth place finish in the ten-hour Petit Le Mans.
Drivers Katherine Legge, Gabby Chaves, Andy Meyrick and Memo Rojas have all shown strong race pace.