Will there be a new-look car in victory lane?

January 29, 2016

Will there be a new-look car in victory lane?

January 29, 2016

shankA colorful Baker’s dozen field of diverse Prototypes is poised to make history at the 54th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The top class in the 50+ car field is a spicy blend of top teams and drivers with Daytona Prototypes and LMP2 combinations powered by BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Elan engines in what appears to be an exceptionally wide-open race.

Prior to yesterday’s running, few thought the Russian BR01 LM P2 Nissan-powered chassis would be an overall contender. Somebody forgot to tell IndyCar driver Mikhail Aleshin. The 28-year-old was seriously injured at California Speedway at the end of the 2014 season but came back to make his sportscar and Le Mans debut last year.

Powered by the Nissan engine which has dominated LM P2 competition around the world in recent years, the Russian was the quickest of all prototypes in yesterday’s wet qualifying – albeit behind seven Michelin-equipped GTLM cars and the PC car of Johnny Mowlem.

rolex_gal_4_1Of the rest of the contenders, a pair of Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) Ford EcoBoost Riley DPs will look to repeat the team’s 2015 win.

The CGR driver lineup features IndyCar superstar Scott Dixon and Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan, teamed with NASCAR stars Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson in the No. 02 car.

The combination proved to be the winning blend in 2015 and returns intact.

Fresh from a strong season in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, young Canadian star Lance Stroll teams with FIA World Endurance champion Brendon Hartley, Toyota’s 2014 WEC champion Alex Wurz and touring car legend Andy Priaulx in the CGR No. 01.

If it is self-explanatory that winners win and Scott Dixon is a master of the race winning universe. The 35-year old Kiwi came from behind yet again in 2015 to claim his fourth IndyCar championship, to go with his two victories here at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Dixon’s speed, consistency, humility, and calm under pressure make him a favorite of many fans and a shining example to younger drivers. Asked about the many talented drivers who have driven and won for CGR through the years, Managing Director Mike Hull simply says, “Scott is my guy.”

Hull is a big believer in driver match-ups and that approach usually puts Dixon in the car at the most critical stages of the race where he delivers multiple stints at a quick and consistent pace that competitors struggle to match.

rolex_gal_2_18Not to be outdone, Chevrolet fields a fiercely powerful foursome led by the No. 5 Action Express DP of 2014 Rolex 24 race winners Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa being joined by Filipe Albuquerque and the legendary Scott Pruett.

Pruett is looking to break a tie with Hurley Haywood and claim an unprecedented sixth Rolex 24 victory.

Looking to build upon their breakthrough 2015 success which saw them claim two victories, Dane Cameron and Eric Curran have Simon Pagenaud and Jonny Adam aboard the No. 31 Whelen Action Express.

The hometown-based No. 90 VisitFlorida Racing counters with Ryan Dalziel, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

The Wayne Taylor Racing team of Ricky Taylor and Jordan Taylor are joined again joined by Max Angelelli and have been strong contenders in the each of the past two years at Daytona.

Honda features both the Honda HPD Ligier of Michael Shank Racing with John Pew and Ozz Negri, joined by A.J. Allmendinger and Olivier Pla; and the Patrón ESM Honda HPD of Scott Sharp, Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and Pipo Derani.

The ESM team regularly competes on the FIA-WEC series and Michael Shank Racing recently announced its plans to enter the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hour race.

Perhaps the cars to watch most closely will be the pair of repowered Mazda Prototypes.

Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez and Spencer Pigot shoe the No. 55 car while Mazda stalwarts Joel Miller, Tom Long and Ben Devlin are aboard the No. 70. An off-season switch to the MZ-2.OT Mazda engine has catapulted the Mazdas well up the field and the team has shown considerable pace in pre-race testing.

The dark horses in the Prototype field are the radical Elan powered DeltaWing driven by Katherine Legge, Andy Meyrick, Sean Rayhall and Andreas Wirth which set the fastest time of this morning’s session, plus the venerable BMW powered No. 50 entry featuring Dorsey Schroeder.

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