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NBC Sports Set for More than 60 Hours of WeatherTech Championship Action in 2021
Coverage Begins this Weekend with Motul Pole Award 100 on NBCSN; Three Hours of Rolex 24 Coverage Airing on NBC Network

 
Jan. 20, 2021
By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NBC Sports saw significant gains in viewership for its broadcasts of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races in 2020. This weekend, it will attempt to continue that growing momentum as the 2021 season gets underway.
 
Live coverage begins Sunday with the Roar Before the Rolex 24’s inaugural Motul Pole Award 100 race on NBCSN. The 100-minute race determines the starting positions for the 59th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 30-31.
 
The Motul Pole Award 100 and the Rolex 24 At Daytona will draw some of the best drivers from all forms of motorsports -- NASCAR’s Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon, IndyCar’s Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi -- as well as WeatherTech Championship regulars like Ricky Taylor, Renger Van der Zande and Ryan Briscoe.
 
Former NASCAR star driver, Jimmie Johnson, will also take part in the Rolex 24, as will Kevin Magnussen, who is making the transition from Formula One to IMSA.
 
Dave Burns, Calvin Fish and Kevin Lee will lead NBCSN’s broadcast of the Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying race at the Roar Before the 24 on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET. Live coverage of the Rolex 24 At Daytona begins Jan. 30 at 3:30 p.m. on NBC, which will host the start and finishing hours of the 24-hour race.
 
Coverage of the 2021 season resumes March 20 with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts. The remaining 10 races of the season -- including events at Watkins Glen International, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta -- will be offered across NBC Sports’ platforms.
 
Overall, NBCSN will offer more than 51 hours of programming of WeatherTech races during the 12-race 2021 season, with nine hours of programming set for NBC network.
 
Among the highlights of live IMSA coverage on NBC are first hour and final two Hours of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, three hours of the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR at VIRginia International Raceway on Aug. 22, and the first three hours of the Motul Petit Le Mans on Oct. 9. 
 
*Same day-delay

 

WeatherTech Championship Season Finds Familiar Faces in New Places
A Wealth of Driver Favorites Have Changed Teams and Classes

 
Jan. 19, 2021
By John Oreovicz
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – You might need a scorecard to keep track of the first few rounds of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
 
Changes in affiliations between teams and manufacturers produced more than the usual amount of shuffling in driver lineups. And since this has been a shorter offseason than usual, it may take a bit longer to remember who has gone where.
 
Barely 60 days have passed since the checkered flag flew on the 2020 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, precious little time for teams to button up contracts. With so many faces in new places, the annual Roar Before the Rolex 24 test – which includes a 100-minute qualifying race for the first time this year – will be more important than ever.
 
Acura’s decision to split its pair of Daytona Prototype international (DPi) entries between Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian was the key domino in the offseason movement.
 
Ricky Taylor and Dane Cameron, incumbents from Acura’s 2018-20 DPi affiliation with Team Penske, will continue to anchor the marque’s lineup. Taylor returns “home” to the operation run by his father to team with Filipe Albuquerque, who most recently raced Cadillacs for Action Express Racing. Cameron will share MSR’s full-time entry with Olivier Pla, a veteran of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) Ford GT program and Mazda Motorsports’ DPi effort.
 
Team Penske’s other previously full-time DPi drivers will provide continuity to the 2021 Acura program by competing in the endurance races, starting with the season opener, the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Juan Pablo Montoya will drive for MSR and Helio Castroneves for WTR. Alexander Rossi, an endurance driver for Team Penske, maintains his Acura links with WTR, while Simon Pagenaud has jumped to the Cadillac ranks.
 
Pagenaud will be part of the Action Express “star” car at Daytona, the No. 48 Ally Racing Cadillac, along with two-time defending Rolex 24 co-champion Kamui Kobayashi, NASCAR champion turned IndyCar rookie Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller, who returns to Prototypes after spending recent years as an Audi factory driver in the DTM touring car series and being an add-on for Corvette Racing in WeatherTech Championship GTLM endurance races.
 
AXR’s full-time entry piloted by Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac, has a star co-driver of its own: 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott will make his Rolex 24 debut, along with 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship champion Mike Conway, making his fourth Rolex start in the No. 31.
 
While Cadillac lost WTR to Acura, the American marque picked up a worthy substitute: Seven-time IMSA champion Chip Ganassi Racing returns to sports car racing after a one-year sabbatical, stepping up from the GTLM category into DPi with drivers Kevin Magnussen and Renger van der Zande. The latter comes to CGR from WTR, where he joined Kobayashi as the Rolex 24 winner in 2019 and ’20.
 
In GT racing, Nick Tandy has been synonymous with Porsche for more than a decade. His accomplishments with the German marque include overall victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Nurburgring 24 Hours and the Spa 24 Hours, plus 13 wins in WeatherTech Championship GTLM competition since 2014.
 
But for 2021, the 36-year-old native of Bedford, England, has moved to Corvette Racing, teaming with incumbent Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette C8.R for the full season. For endurance races including the Rolex 24, they will be joined by Alexander Sims, who served as a factory BMW driver the last four years.
 
Given that he’s staying in GTLM and that Corvette switched to a mid-engine layout last year, Tandy’s learning curve isn’t as steep as it could be. But he still faces a tall task getting up to speed quickly with a new car, team procedures and personnel.
 
Sims competed full time for BMW Team RLL in GTLM in 2017 and ’18, winning five times and finishing second in the standings in 2017. For the last two years, BMW utilized Sims in Formula E, the electric-powered championship for semi-open-wheel cars.
 
The 32-year-old London native has run just one sports car race in the last two years, in a front-engine BMW M6 GTLM, so his adjustment from the comparatively low-power Formula E single-seater will be much greater.
 
Over the last two months, Sims and Tandy spent plenty of time in the GM Racing simulator in North Carolina, and Corvette Racing conducted a private test at Sebring International Raceway to get them seat time in the C8.R.
 
Other changes of note regarding familiar WeatherTech Championship drivers include:
 
  • WeatherTech Racing and Cooper MacNeil stepping up from GTD to the GTLM class to field the No. 79 Porsche 911 RSR-19 in partnership with Proton Competition. MacNeil will share the car with a rotating cast of Porsche factory drivers throughout the 2021 season, opening the year alongside Richard Lietz, Kevin Estre and Gianmaria Bruni at the Rolex 24;
  • Ryan Briscoe, also a Rolex 24 DPi winner last year with WTR, hopping into the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari GTD entry for the Rolex;
  • Earl Bamber, who won 25 races and the 2019 GTLM title with Porsche, forming his own team with Rob Ferriol (Team Hardpoint/EBM) for a full-season GTD entry;
  • Patrick Pilet, who picked up 12 wins and the 2015 crown while a member of Porsche’s GTLM program from 2014-2019, co-driving the Black Swan Racing Porsche this year at the Rolex;
  • Joao Barbosa moving from the Mustang Sampling Racing DPi to the Sean Creech Motorsport entry in the new Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class;
  • Long-time Corvette Racing driver Oliver Gavin heading to Vasser Sullivan Racing for its GT Daytona (GTD) run at the Rolex 24;
  • Mario Farnbacher, the two-time reigning GTD champion with the Meyer Shank Acura NSX GT3 program that was halted in favor of the DPi effort, joining Magnus with Archangel in an Acura for the Rolex 24.
 
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 runs Jan. 22-24 on the Daytona International Speedway 3.56-mile road course, with the Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying race on the final day. Rolex 24 At Daytona action runs Jan. 27-31. Live coverage of the 24-hour race begins at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Jan. 30 on NBC.
Want to Race a Corvette? Yes, We Do!
Tandy, Sims Didn’t Hesitate to Join GTLM Team
Jan. 14, 2021
By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Nick Tandy had been racing for Porsche’s factory team for seven years. When the program left the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Le Mans (GTLM) class at the end of the 2020 season, he found himself out of work.
 
Fortunately, unemployment was only temporary. When Corvette Racing asked him to join their team, Tandy didn’t hesitate to say yes.
 
“It was an easy decision to make,” he said. “Yes, I loved my family at CORE (autosport) and Porsche, but at the end of the day there was no option to go racing in GTLM and IMSA, which has been my favorite race series and my favorite racing across the globe over the last 15 years.”
 
Tandy will team with Tommy Milner as full-time drivers of the No. 4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. They’ll be joined by Alexander Sims for endurance races, including the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 30-31.
 
Milner, who has won 13 races in his nine years in the No. 4 Corvette, is enthused about the new lineup.
 
“I’m excited about it,” Milner said. “I’ve raced against those guys in GT for many years, and I know how tough they are as competitors. I’m happy I don’t have to race against them now and can race with them.” 
 
Tandy, who won 15 races in his seven years with Porsche in GTLM competition, replaces Oliver Gavin, whose 19-year run with Corvette Racing ended with the 2020 season-ending Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in November.
 
Gavin announced Tuesday that he’ll be joining Vasser Sullivan Racing's No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 for the Rolex 24 with full-season drivers Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz.
 
Official preparations for the Rolex 24 begin Jan. 22 with testing during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. A recent test in the C8.R went smoothly, Tandy said.
 
“The thing that pleased me most is how natural the C8.R felt straightaway,” he said. “There are, of course, many nuances and bits and pieces on how to extract time and consistency out of the car and the tires on which Corvette Racing compete. It felt pretty comfortable and familiar after a day’s running. This was a big positive for me.”
 
Sims spent the past two seasons competing with BMW i Andretti Motorsport in Formula E and raced with BMW Team RLL in the GTLM class in the WeatherTech Championship in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, the team finished second in the final standings with wins at Watkins Glen International, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and in the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. 
 
Like Tandy, Sims didn’t need much time to consider Corvette’s offer.
 
“Ever since my participation in IMSA ended and going off to do Formula E, it was the single championship I was most driven to get back involved with,” Sims said. “It absolutely was the top one that I’ve been involved in within GT racing that I’ve enjoyed. Competition-wise, the tracks, the format of racing, competitors – everything about it is just fantastic. The opportunity to drive with Corvette was something that took very little time to consider.” 
 
It’s likely to be a competitive campaign. Tandy has won at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Nurburgring and the 24 Hours of Spa. The 15 IMSA victories on his résumé include the Rolex 24, the Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans. He’s also won at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
 
The No. 4 Corvette finished third in the GTLM standings in 2020, with the team’s No. 3 car taking the championship with Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor, who return for 2021.
 
“We’re looking to equal that and getting some of the highlight race wins is a pretty big program goal – Daytona, Sebring and beyond that,” Milner said. “We’re looking forward to getting the season going again and seeing how it all shakes out.”
 
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 is scheduled for Jan 22-24 and concludes with the Motul Pole Award 100, a qualifying race to set the Rolex 24 starting order. Live coverage of the 59th Rolex 24 At Daytona begins on NBC at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Jan. 30. 

 

What’s Up? The Car Count at The Roar Before the Rolex 24
Fifty Entries and Qualifying Race Highlight Test Weekend
Daytona International Speedway – Daytona Beach, Fla.
January 22-24, 2021
Jan. 13, 2021
By Mark Robinson
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Roar has more in store in 2021. That’s for sure.

 
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 – the annual test session preceding the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona that tips off the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season – is witnessing an increase in the number of classes and number of entries participating from 2020. The three-day Roar from Jan. 22-24 takes on added significance as well since it will be climaxed for the first time by a 100-minute qualifying race to set the grid for the Rolex 24 that starts six days later.

 
A total of 50 cars are entered and expected to participate in the Roar. In all, four practices, a qualifying session and a warm-up will be available to WeatherTech Championship competitors prior to the Motul Pole Award 100. The race to determine the starting grid rolls off at 2:05 p.m. ET Sunday, Jan. 24 and will stream live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold, with a telecast airing on NBCSN at 4:30 p.m.

 
Roar Before the Rolex 24: Entry list

 
The Roar was moved this year to the week prior to the Rolex 24 to lessen travel demands on teams and personnel. The Roar schedule also includes the season-opening race for the IMSA Prototype Challenge and test sessions for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

 
Driver names are yet to be officially confirmed for the entry list, but here is a look at the cars and drivers who have been announced during the off-season.

 
In WeatherTech Championship action, the top-tier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class appears wide open with seven entries following a number of off-season moves. Acura Team Penske disbanded its program after winning the past two season championships. Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the past two Rolex 24s running a Cadillac, has switched to an Acura for the No. 10 Konica Minolta entry and brought on three drivers – Ricky Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi – who helped Penske win the 2020 championship title, as well as two-time Rolex 24 winner Filipe Albuquerque.

 
Chip Ganassi Racing returns to WeatherTech Championship action after sitting out a year, fielding a Cadillac DPi whose lineup includes two-time defending Rolex 24 DPi and overall winner Renger van der Zande and Formula 1 veteran Kevin Magnussen. Magnussen – who will co-drive the No. 01 machine for the full 2021 season alongside van der Zande – will make his public IMSA debut at the Roar.

 
Action Express Racing boasts a pair of star-studded DPi entries. Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr are back in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac and will be joined by endurance race stalwart Mike Conway and reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott. The No. 48 Ally Cadillac Racing DPi features seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champ Jimmie Johnson, Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, international sports car standout Mike Rockenfeller and Kamui Kobayashi who, like van der Zande, won the Rolex 24 the last two years with Wayne Taylor Racing.

 
The Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class has seen its Roar entry list swell to 10 this year, including two ORECA LMP2 07s for DragonSpeed USA, the two-time defending Rolex 24 class champion. Ben Hanley returns to the No. 81 DragonSpeed entry to defend his 2020 victory, with three new teammates surrounding him.

 
The No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA is back on the LMP2 grid again after finishing second in last year’s Rolex 24 and going on to claim the season championship. Among the car’s drivers is endurance-race junkie Ben Keating, the Texan who will again pull double duty by also co-driving a TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in the GT Daytona (GTD) class. And don’t forget about Austin Dillon, the 2018 NASCAR Daytona 500 winner who’s scheduled to co-drive the No. 51 RWR-Eurasia Ligier LMP2.

 
Reigning GT Le Mans (GTLM) season champions Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor return to drive the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R in the Roar, along with endurance add-on Nicky Catsburg. On the No. 4 side of the Corvette team, Tommy Milner returns with a new cast of co-drivers in former Porsche factory driver Nick Tandy and ex-BMW factory racer Alexander Sims. But a Corvette hasn’t won the Rolex 24 since 2016.

 
That honor has gone most recently to BMW Team RLL, which has won its class the past two years at the Rolex. Three of the drivers from the victorious No. 24 BMW M8 GTE – John Edwards, Jesse Krohn and Augusto Farfus – are back to defend their 2020 Rolex win and are joined by Marco Wittman. The No. 25 BMW was the class winner two years ago, with Connor De Phillippi and Philipp Eng still forming half the driving quartet along with Timo Glock and Bruno Spengler.

 
Porsche, meanwhile, is returning to the GTLM class after all in 2021 with last week’s announcement of the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing 911 RSR-19 for drivers Cooper MacNeil, Kevin Estre, Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni.

 
Rounding out a solid GTLM field will be Risi Competizione, which returns at the Roar to prepare for Rolex 24 competition in the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE with a quartet of Ferrari factory pilots sharing the cockpit.

 
The GTD class is loaded this year, with 20 Roar entries encompassing nine manufacturers. Heading the list is Paul Miller Racing, which returns intact the driver lineup that won last year’s Rolex 24 (Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Corey Lewis and Andrea Caldarelli) – though the number on the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 has changed from 48 to 1.

 
John Potter, Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly finished second a year ago in the Rolex 24 in the No. 44, though the Magnus with Archangel entry is changing this season from running a Lamborghini to an Acura NSX GT3. The team added a not-so-secret weapon for the Roar and Rolex 24 in fourth driver Mario Farnbacher, the two-time reigning GTD season champion when he piloted an Acura for Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian.

 
The Roar GTD entry list also has seen an influx of talent that succeeded in other WeatherTech Championship classes recently. Among them are DPi and GTLM standout Ryan Briscoe (entered in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE), former Corvette Racing legend Oliver Gavin (No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3), past GTLM champions Laurens Vanthoor (No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R), Earl Bamber (No. 88 Team Hardpoint EBM Porsche) and Patrick Pilet (No. 540 Black Swan Racing Porsche), and 2019 Rolex 24 GTLM winner Colton Herta (No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3).

 
The Roar schedule finds WeatherTech Championship test sessions at 11:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. ET Friday, Jan. 22, as well as 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23. Live timing and scoring will be available for each session on IMSA.com.

Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23 and streams live on IMSA.com. Following a 10 a.m. warmup on Sunday, Jan. 24, the Motul Pole Award 100 wraps up the weekend starting at 2:05 p.m. that afternoon.

 

Elliott’s Road to Rolex 24 Precedes Run to NASCAR Title
Reigning Cup Series Champion Began Talks with IMSA Teams a Year Ago

 
Jan. 11, 2021
By Holly Cain
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Chase Elliott may still be collecting accolades for his impressive run to the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series championship in November, but truth be told, the 25-year-old had long been planning to make his Rolex 24 At Daytona sports car racing debut – planting the seeds and talking to IMSA teams before his title-winning stock car season even started.
 
Elliott, 25, will make his first Rolex 24 start in the Jan. 30-31 twice-around-the-clock event with the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship opener – joining seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and 2018 Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon, who are also on the grid.
 
“Definitely something I’ve had an interest in for a long time and had hopes an opportunity would come up at some point to do it,” Elliott said this week. “I didn’t really anticipate it would be this quick. We started talking about it about a year ago – around this time last year – we started discussing it and I expressed interest. There was some mutual interest and opportunity kind of came up and I was all about it.”
 
Nearly half of Elliott’s 11 career wins – five – at the NASCAR Cup Series level have come on road courses, including on the Daytona International Speedway road course last season. No NASCAR driver has collected more trophies than Elliott on road courses in the last three years.
 
Interestingly, Elliott insists that achievement is as much to do with his NASCAR team, Hendrick Motorsports, as with him. He attributes much of his success on road courses to former Hendrick teammate, NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon, who drove his car previously and holds the all-time NASCAR win record (nine) on road courses. 
 
Gordon won the Rolex 24 in 2017 with Wayne Taylor Racing, and Elliott is optimistic about being competitive in his first Rolex 24 on the 3.56-mile Daytona road course as well. But he doesn’t consider himself a “natural” road racer.
 
“I didn’t, really,’’ Elliott says. “A lot of people ask that. I just really kind of came into a good situation. Jeff (Gordon) was a really good road course racer and he and (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) had a really nice foundation and focused on a lot of things that I think are really important on the road racing front.
 
“When you step into a good situation like that, that already has a nice foundation already built, it certainly helps you learn. Not only learn quicker, but also learn the right way and learn the right things. I think more than anything, just kind of came into a good situation and was able to start focusing on the big hitters that makes road racing successful.”
 
Gary Nelson, team manager at Action Express Racing that fields the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac and a former NASCAR Cup Series championship crew chief, was immediately impressed with Elliott, who has done work on the simulator, had his seat fitted for the Cadillac DPi and will turn his first laps in car during the Jan. 22-24 Roar Before the Rolex 24 – the traditional testing weekend before the race.
 
“We were amazed at how quick Chase got up to speed (on the simulator), his feedback and how easy he was to work with,” said Nelson, who noted he has nothing but high expectations for Elliott in the 24-hour race.
 
Elliott will team with a trio of Rolex 24 veterans, Brazilians Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani and Brit Mike Conway. Nasr is a two-time Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts winner, and along with Conway, was runner-up with the Whelen team in the 2018 Rolex 24. Derani won the 2016 Rolex 24 and has three Sebring wins, including 2019 with this team. Adding the reigning NASCAR champion only fortifies an easy favorite for this month’s race.
 
“I’m really fortunate because it’s a good team, a really good group – the people that work on the cars, but also a good group of drivers, too,” Elliott said. “So, I’m excited to jump in there and try to learn.
 
“I think as you step into a situation like that, the biggest thing is just to not mess it up for them. That’s my mindset. I feel like they would have a great shot to win without me. It’s doable with three drivers, it makes it difficult, though, so having four, I think gives the drivers a little bit more of a chance to rest and to also, if someone isn’t feeling well, it makes the process better to have four.
 
“So my mindset is just to try to learn as much as I can from those other guys and not mess anything up for them.’’
 
Elliott is eager to get his first true seat time in the car and fully anticipates a learning curve. That newness is also something that makes the Rolex 24 such an important race for the NASCAR champion.
 
“I think that’s the cool thing about the Rolex in general. I feel like it brings together a lot of different disciplines into one race,” Elliott said. “I anticipate it’s going to be a challenge; I don’t think it’s going to be easy. Those guys that do that stuff all the time are very good at it, and they spend all year long developing and working on the skills to go fast in those specific cars.
 
“A lot of us that don’t drive those cars all year long, jumping in there in their biggest event of the year is a tough thing. I’m just going to try to learn and to learn fast and hope we can make it to the end.’’
 
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 weekend concludes with the Motul Pole Award 100, the qualifying race to set the Rolex 24 starting grid. It will stream live at 2:05 p.m. ET Sunday, Jan. 24 on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold with a same-day telecast at 4:30 p.m. on NBCSN.
 
WeatherTech Championship action on Rolex 24 race week begins with practice on Thursday, Jan. 28. Live coverage of the iconic race begins at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30 on NBC, with coverage shuttling between NBCSN, TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and the NBC Sports App before returning to NBC for the concluding hours at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31.

 

Time to Fire Virtual Engines for iRacing Pro Series Preseason Invitational
IMSA Drivers and Gamers to Compete Sunday in Identical LMP2s

 
Jan. 7, 2021
By David Phillips
IMSA Wire Service
 
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To say 2020 brought its share of challenges to the motorsports community is the height of understatement: events canceled outright, traditional dates and venues shifted, drivers and entire teams quarantined, spectator attendance limited – at best.
 
If racing had an overall winner in that star-crossed season, it was online motorsports, better known as “sim racing.” NASCAR, Formula One, IndyCar, IMSA ... virtually every sanctioning body embraced the leading sim racing platforms to stage virtual events featuring their drivers, teams, manufacturers and commercial partners during the pandemic. Talk about a win-win: The virtual racing not only exposed existing fans to the brave new world of sim racing, it introduced millions of “gamers” to the stars and cars of “real-world” racing.
 
Given its decade-long relationship with iRacing.com, IMSA was well positioned to ramp up its sim racing profile. Scores of participants from across the spectrum of IMSA-sanctioned series embraced the IMSA iRacing Pro Series that featured fields of three dozen or more GT Le Mans (GTLM) class cars and saw Bruno Spengler best Nicky Catsburg and Shinya Michimi for the virtual series’ title.
 
Small wonder that IMSA and iRacing have joined forces again to present the IMSA iRacing Pro Series Preseason Invitational this Sunday, at 2 p.m. ET. The event, which will stream live on iRacing’s Facebook, Twitch and YouTube channels, features one of iRacing’s newest virtual cars – the Dallara Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) – in a one-hour race on Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course.
 
The event has attracted some of IMSA’s top stars including, 2020 Rolex 24 At Daytona GTLM class winner John Edwards (the actual race, not a virtual one), defending IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Touring Car (TCR) champion Gabby Chaves, two-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM runner-up Richard Westbrook and Kenton Koch, a two-time winner in the 2018 Pilot Challenge season.

 
 
Koch scored something of an upset in Round 5 of the 2020 IMSA iRacing Pro Series when he qualified on pole and steered his shocking pink Ford GT to victory at the virtual VIRginia International Raceway. He thus became the first so-called privateer to break the stranglehold enjoyed by BMW and Porsche thanks, in part, to what amounted to factory support by the German manufacturers.
 
“It was kind of cool to win one for the privateers,” says Koch. “It was a bit of work to get the car to the point where it could win. To be honest, it was just as satisfying as winning in real racing.”
 
Some of Koch’s satisfaction came from the payoff for a considerable effort devoted to maximizing his digital Ford GT’s chassis setup, a process nearly as complex as fine-tuning its real-world counterpart. In contrast, Sunday’s IMSA iRacing Pro Series Preseason Invitational will be a “fixed setup” race, one where each competitor uses identical chassis settings. The normal myriad of adjustments available in iRacing’s “open setup” events will not be available.
 
“It’s nice that it’s going to be a fixed setup race because all you have to worry about is going racing versus trying to make the best setup,” Koch says. “It makes it more fair for the little guy. Now you can just go out and enjoy your time driving.”
 
While Koch and his fellow competitors enjoy their sim racing, they also take it seriously ... to a point.
 
“I’ve been sim racing since the days when the throttle was the ‘A’ on your computer keyboard and the brake was the ‘B’ key,” says Filipe Albuquerque, the veteran WeatherTech Championship driver with five career IMSA wins and the 2017 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup title to his credit. “Now with the nice steering wheels and pedals, I enjoy it even more.
 
“But I don’t take it as seriously as the proper sim racers who do 1,000 or 2,000 laps before a race,” says Albuquerque, who will pilot the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura DPi for Wayne Taylor Racing in the real-world 2021 WeatherTech Championship. “That would require me to play a lot and not spend as much time with my daughters and doing all the things that a good dad does.”
 
While he readily concedes he can’t match the ultimate pace of the top sim racers – be it in a routine iRacing event or against some of his real-world competitors in the IMSA iRacing Pro Series Preseason Invitational – Albuquerque derives real-world benefits from his sim racing efforts.
 
“I like to drive with the reference of real life and I try to be spontaneous,” he says. “I talk with my engineers at the Konica Minolta Acura and put the same gears in my car, even if those gears are not the best for the game. I still become familiar with the downshifts, the upshifts, when I’m hitting the rev limiter. I like that routine. I play one hour once in a while, and that’s it.
 
“I like to drive with guys that I know, so I love the IMSA races on iRacing. I’m always around the same guys, guys like Daniel Morad, Robert Wickens. Somehow, we are always around a second off the top guys – I don’t know what they’re doing there.
 
“It’s kind of annoying,” Albuquerque adds with a laugh, “but I can still have fun racing against the guys I know.”
 
Koch says the flip side of sim racing with your buddies is the opportunity IMSA iRacing events afford to compete with a different cast of characters from IMSA and other forms of motorsport.
 
“It’s cool to be able to race with guys you don’t normally compete against, and build relationships with them,” he says. “There’s a lot of respect to be gained on the sim. On the other hand, you can hurt yourself if you aren’t respectful in the eyes of the people you are driving against. Sure, the crash damage doesn’t cost anything and nobody gets hurt, but you don’t want to come across as ‘Oh, it’s just a game,’ because people put time into this.”
 
Ultimately, the IMSA iRacing Pro Series Preseason Invitational will be enjoyable and serious for all the competitors, not unlike the upcoming 2021 Rolex 24 At Daytona or any other event in the WeatherTech Championship. But for racing fans who can follow along on the live stream, it figures to be 100 percent fun.

 

IMSA West Coast Swing Moves to September for 2021
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 17, 2020) – IMSA’s planned West Coast road trip has shifted to September 2021 with the rescheduling of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca events.

 
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams were initially scheduled to travel north from Southern California to the Monterey Peninsula this coming April. Instead, the 2021 West Coast trip will begin at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on the weekend of Sept. 10-12, followed by the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach two weekends later on Sept. 24-26.

 
“The West Coast audience is extremely valuable to all of our stakeholders, and this necessary shift provides the best opportunity to serve our many IMSA race fans in California,” said IMSA President John Doonan. “Likewise, it is important to our WeatherTech Championship teams to have both California races back-to-back on the schedule. We’re grateful to our partners at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach and all involved for their flexibility.”

 
The two-hour, 40-minute headline race at WeatherTech Raceway scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 12 includes the WeatherTech Championship Daytona Prototype international (DPi), Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes. The weekend also includes a two-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race as well as a pair of races for both the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America and Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BF Goodrich Tires.

 
“The entire IMSA team is a valuable partner and as such, we must continue to be flexible in scheduling to be able to provide fans with the best possible racing event possible,” said John Narigi, president and general manager of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. “The spring race would have been ideal to kick-off our season for a variety of reasons, but we are ready to welcome fans, teams and sponsors back to the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship in September.”

 
The 100-minute Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach race on Saturday, Sept. 25 will include the Daytona Prototype international (DPi), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes. It will serve as the penultimate round of the 2021 WeatherTech Championship season for all three classes and the season finale of the WeatherTech Sprint Cup season for the GTD class.

 
“Thanks to everyone at IMSA for their help in making this transition of the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to the fall,” said Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President and CEO Jim Michaelian. “We want to conduct the event when we have the best opportunity to provide our guests with all of the attractive features of the Grand Prix in a safe and inviting environment. That will certainly include the Saturday IMSA W

 

New LMDh Cars Signal Bright Future for Prototype Racing

 
Dec. 17, 2020
By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It has been, to say the least, a positive few weeks of news for the future of global sports car racing.
 
First, Audi disclosed in late November that it planned to build a new LMDh prototype sports car when it debuts in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2023 and also return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which it won 13 times before departing in 2016. 
 
Then, on Tuesday, Porsche AG announced similar plans to build its own LMDh car to compete in IMSA and the FIA World Endurance Championship.  
 
More positive news surrounding 2023 is expected shortly, IMSA President John Doonan said Wednesday.
 
“You want it to be the right business model, but the other piece is when you have people step up to the plate and make a commitment,” Doonan said. “I don’t know if it will be before the end of the year, but definitely in the first quarter of 2021, fingers crossed, we’ll have a few more announcements.”
 
Plans for the new LMDh class were announced by IMSA and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) officials at Daytona International Speedway on the eve of the 58th Rolex 24 At Daytona. It will replace IMSA’s top prototype class, Daytona Prototype international (DPi), for the 2023 season.
 
The LMDh will have the same spine -- the car without bodywork, engine or hybrid system -- as the next generation of the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) car. Four constructors – Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and ORECA -- will build the spines, with individual manufacturers providing engines and bodywork.
 
Bosch, Williams Advanced Engineering and Xtrac will work together to provide the spec hybrid powertrain systems, with a combined power output of more than 670 horsepower (500 kilowatts).
 
Manufacturers are keen on the hybrid platform because of increasing sales of hybrid production vehicles. More than 5 million hybrid cars were on the road in the U.S. at the end of 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. 
 
“One of the things that has made all of us so happy and proud of LMDh is that it emulates what the manufacturers … have wanted for a while,” Doonan said. “It emulates what our audience has wanted for a while, and that is the ability for the best drivers, the best manufacturers and the best cars to compete on a global stage in and behind the same ruleset.”
 
The new class has been a long time in the making. After extensive talks among manufacturers, constructors and sanctioning bodies, the plan to include hybrid engine technology as part of a top prototype class was announced in January 2020.  
 
“No decisions were made in a vacuum,” Doonan said. “It was a sort of all hands on deck, meaning the ACO and IMSA leading the way, the manufacturers and the chassis constructors from LMP2 -- Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and ORECA -- and everybody around the table initially had mental skin in the game to do the right thing for the sport.”
 
Porsche’s announcement was greeted with almost universal praise from drivers, teams and manufacturers, including people likely to be competing against Porsche when the new class debuts in 2023, and those likely to be piloting the new car.
 
“Porsche will join LMDh in 2023,” tweeted Porsche factory driver Laurens Vanthoor. “Fighting for overall victory in @FIAWEC and @IMSA! My dream to win Le Mans/Daytona might come true after all. Super exciting news for all of us.”
 
Doonan said more than a dozen manufacturers have been involved in the LMDh discussions, and he expects more to join Porsche and Audi in committing to the class. The DPi class currently includes Acura, Cadillac and Mazda.
 
“Several others have indicated that they are moving down the process of approval,” Doonan said. “(That) gives all of us hope that come 2023 there could be a full grid of prototypes representing many manufacturers. To date, the table of the technical working groups has been around 15 manufacturers. You have an opportunity to have an historic battle at the front.
 
“If you have 15 manufacturers at the table and you got even 50 percent of that kind of participation? Think about that happening. That makes the hair on my arms stand up. It’s positive. Very positive.”
 
With the LMDh class, manufacturers will be able to use the elements currently employed in the DPi class that relate to their production vehicles, like engines and styling cues, and apply it to a class that would showcase a hybrid engine.
 
“That puts us into a league that further emulates road-car relevant technology,” Doonan said.
 
The buzz surrounding the LMDh switch in 2023 comes as IMSA gears up for next month’s Rolex 24 At Daytona and the kick-off of the 2021 WeatherTech Championship. A stacked DPi class field is expected, along with an impressive field of LMP2 cars and the introduction of the LMP3 class into the WeatherTech Championship.
 
There should be no shortage of prototype action the next two years. For now, though, the talk is about 2023 and beyond.
 
“Somebody always has to be first, and to have this become official last night by Porsche and Audi’s comments last week and knowing that there are all these others at the table gives us tremendous optimism and tremendous momentum,” Doonan said. “After a few step up and make these announcements, others tend to follow.” 
 
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 is scheduled for Jan. 22-24, with the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona set for Jan. 27-31.

 

IMSA Welcomes Toyota as Newest Michelin Pilot Challenge Manufacturer
It Brings to 18 the Total of Marques Competing Across IMSA Series
 
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 16, 2020) – The list of Official Automotive Partners in IMSA grew to an impressive 18 today with confirmation that Toyota will compete in the 2021 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season. Selected customers will race the Toyota GR Supra GT4 across the 10-event schedule in the first of a multiyear partnership between the manufacturer and IMSA.

 
The announcement marks the return of the Toyota brand to IMSA competition. Toyota totaled 53 race victories in the past – 51 coming in IMSA GT competition and two in the American Le Mans Series, including the overall triumph at the 2013 Motul Petit Le Mans.

 
“While this new program marks Toyota’s first foray into the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, Toyota’s IMSA history is stellar,” said IMSA President John Doonan. “The GR Supra GT4 program begins a new chapter, but if history is our guide, all the ingredients are in place for tremendous success. We’re delighted to welcome Toyota back to IMSA competition and into one of the most competitive classes of sports car racing anywhere in the world.”

 
The GR Supra GT4 to be used in Pilot Challenge competition is based on the GR Supra, Toyota Gazoo Racing's first global model from the Toyota Gazoo Racing Customer Racing Program. Developed and produced by Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe GmbH (TGR-E), the GR Supra GT4 has an in-line six-cylinder, 430-horsepower engine that includes a seven-speed sports automatic transmission with paddle shift. It has a high-strength roll cage on a lightweight steel body. The interior features a carbon fiber instrumental panel with a display and steering wheel specifically designed for GT4 competition globally.

 
Toyota Racing Development (TRD) U.S.A., Inc., will support Supra GT4 customers at all Pilot Challenge races with a systems engineer and spares truck. TRD announced in September the sale of the first customer GR Supra GT4 to Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR)-Latin America. Riley Motorsports, a mainstay in both the Pilot Challenge and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, will field the car in 2021 Pilot Challenge competition.

 
“We are thrilled to partner together with IMSA, racing in the Michelin Pilot Series with the GR Supra GT4,” said Tyler Gibbs, general manager, TRD U.S.A., Inc. “Toyota has a storied history in the series, and we look forward to a successful return to American sports car competition as the GR Supra GT4 hits the track at Daytona next month.”
Bill Riley, team principal of Riley Motorsports – the family-owned operation that has designed and built 13 winning cars at the Rolex 24 At Daytona – is thrilled over the new alignment with Toyota.

 
“We are really excited to be part of the new GR Supra GT4 racing program in IMSA next season,” Riley said. “It looks competitive right out of the box, and I know it won’t disappoint.”

 
Most Pilot Challenge races are two hours in length, but the 2021 season opens with the BMW Endurance Challenge At Daytona, a four-hour event on Friday, Jan. 29 at Daytona International Speedway. Teams will have the opportunity to test at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 from Jan. 22-24.

 

Taylors Have Three Crowning Reasons for Added Holiday Cheer
Father and Sons Each Earned an IMSA Title in 2020

 
Dec. 11, 2020
By Holly Cain
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – If the holiday season feels a little more special – the lights a little brighter, the cheer a bit merrier – in the Orlando homes of Wayne Taylor and his sons Ricky and Jordan, it is with three good reasons. Three large sparkling IMSA trophies will be among the glittering holiday décor.
 
The racing trio – who in 2017 won the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship Prototype class title together as a team with victories at in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and Motul Petit Le Mans – are coming off another season of achievement. This time, each Taylor won a significant and different IMSA championship in their own right.

 
Wayne Taylor, a former IMSA champion driver who owns the much-heralded, multi-championship team bearing his name, earned the prestigious 2020 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup crown in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class. It marked the first time in Taylor’s long and storied career that his team has taken that title.
 
Ricky, 31, co-drove with three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves to earn the 2020 WeatherTech Championship DPi driver and team championships for Acura Team Penske. They won four races, ultimately taking the DPi crown by a single point over Wayne Taylor’s No. 10 Cadillac.
 
Jordan, 29, co-drove with Antonio Garcia in a Chevrolet Corvette, winning the GT Le Mans (GTLM) driver and team championships for the factory Corvette Racing team. Jordan and Garcia hoisted five victory trophies and finished runner-up three times in dominating the 11-race season.
 
It was all enough to make a papa proud.
 
“2017 was the first year of the Cadillac program, and both Ricky and Jordan, Jeff Gordon and Max (Angelelli) drove for me and we won the Daytona 24, five races and a championship, and which was very hard to beat (personally), I think,’’ Wayne Taylor said.

 
“But then looking at this last year, and thinking about it, I think this year certainly tops everything because each one of us did something individually.’’
 
There is understandably great pride, even if Wayne Taylor tries so much to control it. He still laughs conceding more than once his team has caught him watching telemetry of his sons’ cars during a race.
 
“I am just really excited, really happy about the year and can’t say enough about them,’’ Wayne said of his sons. “I try not to say a lot about them because I don’t want to be ‘one of those dads,’ but I am still a dad.’’
 
His sons recognize that care, conceding they know their dad is watching. And they feel his pride.
 
“I don’t know if he gets in trouble with his team on the timing stand, but I know he’s always watching me and Jordan and it’s nice to know he’s always got an eye on us,’’ Ricky acknowledged. “He’s not going to stop being our dad when we left the team. And it’s nice knowing he’s there at the track and keeping an eye on us.
 
“At the same time, he wants to beat us, too. We all want to beat each other but we’re supportive of each other.’’

 
It’s easy to sense Wayne’s gratification. He and his wife Shelley also have plenty of reasons to feel good about the two sons they’ve raised. Ricky and Jordan are intelligent, engaging and possess a huge sense of well-tuned, oft-used humor. Jordan even has a famous social media alter ego, “Rodney Sandstorm,” when he dresses in disguise as a fan in homage to NASCAR Hall of Famer and former Rolex 24 At Daytona teammate Gordon. Jordan jokes that he’s actually been booked for a special appearance as Rodney.
 
“And I’ve never been asked to as Jordan Taylor, the race car driver,’’ he said laughing.
 
Gordon speaks of the Taylors as if they were his own extended family. He also laughs about Jordan’s “Sandstorm” tribute.
 
“He didn’t fool me with it,’’ Gordon said of the first time he saw Jordan assume the character. “But I loved how he took on this character and had so much fun with it. I think a lot of people have become fans not only of Rodney Sandstorm, but of Jordan because of it.

 
“There’s just this great balance between having fun and going out and competing at this high level which made it really enjoyable as well – feeling part of the Taylor family and knowing what that race meant to them. Not just to be a part of it, but to win it.’’

 
Gordon vividly recalls the final laps, the closing minutes of that 2017 Rolex 24 victory.
 
“It was really special to me,’’ he said. “When you’re sitting on the (pit box) over the whole span of time from testing in December all the way to the race, you really start to get so intricately involved in their history as a family and their efforts and then you become emotionally involved.
 
“So when that race was winding down and we had that shot at winning, it was intense. And then when it looked like it would be a win, everyone was practically in tears. That’s when I say it feels like family. When you’re running for Wayne, that’s what it’s like.’’
 
As race wins and championships indicate, the Taylors race with the kind of competitive spirit and talent that any team owner would value, one their father is grateful to have fostered and ultimately won with. In fact, Ricky will be rejoining his dad’s team in 2021, as Wayne Taylor Racing switches to an Acura DPi. Jordan will continue with Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette C8.R.

 
It’s been a carefully, thoughtfully guided career for both sons. Wayne insisted on proper training and that Ricky and Jordan become increasingly proficient as they moved up the ranks. It was a methodical exercise in learning, with no “gimmes” or special treatment. Now, all three are reaping the benefits.
 
That they would be together, racing professionally one day, wasn’t necessarily the plan from birth, but it soon became obvious that the talent gene was passed on.
 
“Before I was 10, I wanted to be a construction worker,’’ Jordan said with a laugh, adding that he played a little tennis as a kid and that Ricky was a standout soccer player growing up.
 
“I liked building things and working on things. But once my dad stopped driving fulltime and we stated go-karting and he could teach us, that’s when we fell in love with driving. Basically, that’s all we wanted to do and that’s where all the focus went.’’
 
Ultimately – as the 2020 season showed – it became a unique family dynamic of competing against one another. And it ended with the best possible outcomes despite the odds. Three teams, three Taylor championships.
 
“To have all three us of happy on any given weekend is nearly impossible,’’ Ricky explained. “But we are really happy and really excited with the season we all just had.’’
 
While the 2020 season produced individual herald, it took a family effort to get to this point. All three Taylor men are quick to credit Shelley Taylor for fostering that focus and providing support in such a unique situation.

 
“I think she’s the most important part of the family,’’ Ricky said of his mother, a sentiment echoed by Wayne and Jordan.
 
“I think that while we’re all kind of focused and have sort of target vision in our little world of race cars – what we think is the only important thing and we’re kind of stressed and worried – she does a really good job of staying steady,” Ricky explained. “More than just general advice, she kind of puts things in perspective.
 
“She doesn’t get caught up in the little details of everything and can look at it from a mom’s perspective and see what’s really important. For me, it’s perspective and steadiness that she brings us.’’
 
So, with great perspective, the Taylors will celebrate their triumphs this holiday season -- and this unprecedented special year of competition. One that produced triumph for all.
 
“We’re so lucky we grew up in a family where we all shared a passion,’’ Ricky Taylor said. “I just feel really lucky in that way.’’

 

Getting to Know You: No. 48 Cadillac DPi Drivers Learn About Car,
Each Other at Daytona Test
Johnson, Pagenaud and Rockenfeller Believe They Can Compete
for Rolex 24 Victory
Dec. 9, 2020
By Holly Cain
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – An Indy 500 winner, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and a Rolex 24 At Daytona and 24 Hour of Le Mans champion took their seats in the Daytona International Speedway media center Wednesday morning, ready to address a robust lineup of international media in a virtual news conference during a break in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship testing.
 
Simon Pagenaud, Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller were full of smiles (behind masks, of course) and optimism as they answered questions about next month’s 59th Rolex 24, where they will team with yet another international star, two-time defending Rolex 24 winner Kamui Kobayashi, in the No. 48 Action Express Racing/Ally Cadillac DPi-V.R.
 
Johnson, who retired from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition in November, will be making his eighth Rolex 24 start and first since 2011. He conceded Wednesday that part of his decision to step away from full-time racing was to take advantage of opportunities to compete in other disciplines. A chance just like this.
 
“It’s been a while,’’ Johnson said of getting behind the wheel of a sleek IMSA prototype. “The car has evolved I think two generations since my last race in the Rolex 24. And I think we’re 8-10 seconds faster with this DPi configuration than what I did in the GRAND-AM car. So (a) very fun car to drive, lots of downforce, lots of speed. The Action Express guys have the car running really nice. 
 
“We had a great day (testing) yesterday and super quick, so it’s just a really neat opportunity for me to still have an association with Ally. Mr. (Rick) Hendrick will be involved to a certain degree. To drive for Action, to have this opportunity to compete with Kamui, with Simon and with Mike, it’s just such a unique opportunity and one I’m really proud to be a part of,’’ added Johnson, whose best Rolex 24 finish is runner-up on two occasions (2005 and 2008).
 
This will be Pagenaud’s seventh Rolex 24 start. The 2019 Indy 500 champion moves from the Team Penske Acura program the last three years to the Action Express Cadillac. Rockenfeller won the 2010 Rolex 24 driving for Action Express. Kobayashi – who was not at the test and unavailable for the news conference – drove to victory the past two years at the Rolex 24 in the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac.
 
Sharing a race car with other champions in this legendary event is something the drivers agreed was essentially auto racing nirvana. The four come from varied backgrounds, but they share a common goal – to earn a new Rolex watch and stand atop the Daytona podium on Jan. 31 having bettered the world’s best.
 
“I’ve always looked up to Jimmie,’’ said Pagenaud, who is close friends with Johnson’s younger brother Jessie. “When I came to the U.S., he became the legend that he is and for me, I didn’t know much about oval racing – and Jimmie and I actually talked about this – he throughout the years made some special moves on ovals and inspired myself from his performance. He is the king.
 
“You look at what the king does and you try to emulate that yourself,” added Pagenaud, who was wearing the Action Express firesuit from when he drove for the team at Daytona in 2016. “It’s been very, very enjoyable to get to know him as a human being as well. We have very similar personalities and I think it’s going to be great chemistry on the team. And Rocky (Rockenfeller), we have friends in common so we spend time together often. 
 
“I really think we will have a fantastic time. We have a similar desire and I think (we are) at very similar times in our career on the team. Everybody seems to be very much on the same page.’’
 
While this week’s test marked the first time Johnson and Rockenfeller met, the German sports car champion noted that the two share a positive experience. Johnson sent well wishes after Rockenfeller’s frightening 2011 accident at Le Mans.
 
“Obviously, Jimmie, I didn’t know in person, but he was one of the few drivers back in 2011 that took the time to write me an email in his busy schedule when I had this accident, even without knowing me, and that meant a lot to me back in the day, I have to say,’’ Rockenfeller said. “I never expected we would race together in a car, so that’s great. 
 
“At the end of the day, I think the cool thing about our lineup is definitely there is no ego because everyone wants to do their best,’’ Rockenfeller added. “We all love racing and driving cars, but we love even more winning and that’s why we are here.”
 
Johnson said he was the first piece of the driver puzzle as the team was assembled. He was impressed by the deliberate way in which Action Express worked to fill out the lineup with other champions.
 
“I watched them take their time and be very methodical about how we’d all fit together,’’ Johnson said. “And of course, you have to meet all these criteria to be on the short list, but long story short, they were very intentional about us four together, and I think that’s why we feel the possibility is here and that we do truly have an opportunity to compete for the win.’’
 
The No. 48 Cadillac and the rest of the Rolex 24 At Daytona entries will return for the traditional Roar Before the Rolex 24 test session Jan. 22-24 that includes a new feature – the Motul Pole Award 100 qualifying race. Results from that race will set the starting grid for the Rolex 24 the following week. 
 

 

 

Return of the Champions

Chip Ganassi Excited to Rejoin IMSA in 2021 with Cadillac DPi

 
Dec. 2, 2020
By David Phillips
IMSA Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- They’re back.
 
After a one-season absence, Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR), together this time with Cadillac Racing, is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021. It figures to be a potent partnership: Between them, CGR and Cadillac count a collective nine IMSA championships and more than 75 IMSA wins, including a dozen overall and class victories in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. 
 
It’s not as if CGR wanted to watch IMSA from afar this season. It’s just that Ford brought the proverbial curtain down on its Ford GT program – and a partnership with CGR that produced a baker’s dozen of WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class wins, not to mention an historic class win in the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans – at the conclusion of the 2019 season. With no clear path forward, CGR opted to sit out the past season with an eye on 2021 and beyond.
 
“Unfortunately, we were not able to continue with our IMSA program in 2020,” says Ganassi, “but we kept a lot of the people employed. Some of those people will come back to the sports car racing program, we’ll shift some others from our IndyCar and NASCAR programs, and we’ll add some new people, I’m sure. 
 
“I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for sports car racing,” he continues. “I did some of it when I was starting out, and I’ve always enjoyed the Rolex 24, Sebring and we race at a lot of tracks that we have some knowledge about. So that helps. And we had some success in this series over the years. We want to go back to that. We feel we have something to offer and we want to measure ourselves against teams that are there all the time. And I’m sure they want to measure themselves against us, so it works well.”
 
The opportunity to return to their roots, competing for overall wins in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class, was certainly attractive; all the more so doing it in collaboration with Cadillac.
 
“Cadillac has enjoyed great success in IMSA themselves,” says Ganassi. “So it’s an honor to be chosen to represent them in IMSA. When the opportunity came along, we didn’t think about it too long before we said yes. I’m really, really excited to get back in IMSA with a leading manufacturer.”
 
The partnership with Cadillac is in keeping with CGR’s modus operandi of teaming with different, indeed rival, manufacturers across multiple racing platforms. Next year, CGR will defend its 13th IndyCar championship using Honda engines, field a pair of Chevrolet Camaros in the NASCAR Cup Series and, of course, campaign a Cadillac DPi in the WeatherTech Championship.
 
“It’s nice to be involved with IndyCars, IMSA and NASCAR,” Ganassi says. “You have the opportunity to see and learn about the best practices in each series, each form of racing if you will. You take that on board and integrate those practices into other areas of the team, and the organization grows and becomes stronger in the process. So I think we’re very fortunate in this market, in this economy, to be experiencing this little growth spurt.”
 
It’s a growth spurt that, along with the Whelen Engineering/Action Express Racing and JDC-Miller Motorsports teams, will see CGR team with Cadillac preparing for the upcoming 2021 WeatherTech Championship. And to be sure, CGR is gunning to win races and championships frequently over the next couple of years. But with the new LMDh prototype coming online in 2023, Ganassi also has his eyes on the future.
 
“We recognize and take pride in what we’ve accomplished,” says Ganassi. “But in racing your attention has to be focused on what’s ahead rather than what’s in the past. I think the hybrid technology is an example of that.”  
 
Case in point, in the coming year CGR will also enter the brave new world of Extreme E, the groundbreaking race series that will see electric SUVs competing in extreme environments around the world which have already been affected by climate and environmental issues. The five-race schedule is designed to highlight the impact of climate change and human interference in some of the world’s most remote locations, and to promote the adoption of electric vehicles to help preserve the environment and protect the planet.
 
“Extreme E is a very different proposition to anything we’ve done before,” Ganassi says, “but it’s where I think motor racing is headed in the future. When I started our team in 1990, one of the founding principles I built it on was innovation. I’ve always been passionate about pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and Extreme E checks that box for us in a big way.”
 
With events scheduled for far-flung corners of the world including Greenland, Senegal and Nepal, Extreme E is sure to expand CGR’s international reputation. As well, Ganassi hopes the return to sports car racing will eventually take his team back to a more, er, “conventional” international locale.
 
“Anytime you go racing, you want to compete against the best teams and the best manufacturers, in the best series, on the best tracks and in the best events,” he says. “I think IMSA checks all those boxes. I also think like most people in the U.S. in sports car racing, we’re cautiously optimistic that there will be some sort of path in the future to Le Mans. Again, we had some success there and we’d like to go back. Obviously, Le Mans is a world-class event and we’d love to go back there. If that happens, great. If not, so be it. We’re really happy to be racing sports cars in the United States.”
 
Speaking for IMSA and its fans, the feeling is mutual.
 

  Intercontinental GT Challenge

 

BMW’s Farfus and Catsburg win Kyalami 9 Hour and Drivers' title; Porsche crowned Manufacturers' Champions

> Home favourite Van der Linde shares victorious Walkenhorst M6
> GPX Racing’s podium helps Porsche retain Manufacturers’ title
> Audi Sport Team WRT finish runner-up
> Race result: 2020 Kyalami 9 Hour
> Final championship points: Drivers’ |
Manufacturers’

BMW’s Augusto Farfus and Nick Catsburg are the 2020 Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli Drivers’ champions after winning the Kyalami 9 Hour along with Walkenhorst Motorsport co-driver and home favourite Sheldon van der Linde.

Audi Sport Team WRT’s Frederic Vervisch, Mirko Bortolotti and Charles Weerts came home second ahead of Matt Campbell, Patrick Pilet and Mathieu Jaminet (GPX Racing) who sealed the Manufacturers’ crown for Porsche in third overall.

Campbell also set not one but two new GT3 lap records, his second a 1m42.021s.


JOY FOR BMW AND PORSCHE, DESPAIR FOR HONDA

The #34 M6 spent most of the race inside the top-five but didn’t become a serious victory or championship contender until the final hour when a heavy thunderstorm turned the outcome on its head.

A final necessary fuel stop for Team Honda Racing and WRT’s need to re-set Frederic Vervisch’s stint length left the BMW in prime position when conditions required Full Course Yellow and Safety Car periods through until the chequered flag.

The pole-winning NSX shared by Mario Farnbacher, Renger van der Zande and Bertrand Baguette had dominated up until that point. Indeed, the sole Honda – which needed to win to have any realistic chance of scooping the Drivers’ crown – remained the de facto race leader for almost eight hours after initially resisting Jordan Pepper’s Bentley into Turn 1.

It only faced serious pressure in the seventh hour when Audi Sport Team Car Collection’s Patric Niederhauser moved to within 1.5 seconds. At that stage the winner would also lift the Drivers’ crown, but Midrand’s famously unpredictable weather was about to deny both entries.

90 minutes remained when the day’s first meaningful rain caught out Alex Buncombe whose stranded Bentley called for a Full Course Yellow. Walkenhorst were first to react to the deluge, which subsequently sent everyone into the pits for wet tyres. This was the moment that effectively ended Honda’s challenge: unlike its rivals, the team opted against also taking on fuel, leaving no choice but stop again for a full service before the finish.

Of course, the team wasn’t to know that, barring a few racing laps in torrential conditions, the rest of the race would be run either under FCY or behind the Safety Car. And with the lower speeds also reducing fuel consumption, the Honda ultimately lost out to those that only required a trip through the pits without stopping to re-set their stint lengths.

Car Collection’s chances ended when Mattia Drudi span in the treacherous conditions, which – with just over an hour remaining – prompted the FCY’s return, Honda’s final full service and Walkenhorst’s trip through the pitlane to re-set Nick Catsburg’s stint time.

By contrast, Audi Sport Team WRT opted to delay its final re-set. But when Frederic Vervisch finally emerged from the pitlane, the BMW had done just enough to take the lead.

Reversing those positions would have handed Matt Campbell, Patrick Pilet and Mathieu Jaminet the Drivers’ crown. However, third place for GPX Racing’s trio was more than enough for Porsche to retain its Manufacturers’ championship. The 911 yo-yoed up and down the order all afternoon after an unscheduled pitstop for a cut tyre left it out of sequence.

The Honda came home fourth – an undeserved result after dominating eight of the nine hours – while Car Collection’s Niederhauser, Christopher Haase and Drudi all starred at various points before the latter’s spin in torrential rain denied the Audi a genuine victory shot.

Walkenhorst’s second M6 couldn’t match the sister car but helped BMW secure second in the Manufacturers’ table by finishing sixth.

But there was disappointment at Dinamic Motorsport whose race slowly unravelled after Earl Bamber’s initial charge from 10th. His and Laurens Vanthoor’s championship chances were effectively ended by a cracked splitter, which required a lengthy pitstop to repair. The Porsche came home one place ahead of WRT’s second Audi, which was forced in at the end of lap one after tangling with the #8 Bentley.

Indeed, the British manufacturer endured a disappointing end to its factory GT3 story when a day that started so well for the championship chasing #7 crew went literally up in smoke at the start of hour three. Pepper and Jules Gounon ran second throughout their stints before Maxime Soulet’s day ended almost before it began.

Lechner Racing’s local Team Perfect Circle Porsche crewed by Andre Benzuidenhout, Saul Hack and Dylan Pereira completed the points-paying positions in 10th.


DRIVER QUOTES

Nick Catsburg – #34 BMW M6 GT3, Walkenhorst Motorsport: “Unbelievable. We are the champions in the drivers’ standings. Up to the final two hours of the race, we really did not expect that to happen. We hoped for something crazy to happen. Just like last year, it wouldn't be Kyalami if something mad didn't happen. It was just like that, apart from the fact that there was a restart at the end of the race last year. Congratulations to the team for getting it right. I am delighted to have won the race and the championship. I am a bit sorry for the Honda team. They dominated today and would have earned a good result.”

Augusto Farfus – #34 BMW M6 GT3, Walkenhorst Motorsport: “I am a bit speechless. It was a difficult year with many challenges on and off the track. I am very glad that BMW and the Walkenhorst Motorsport team stayed strong together. We delivered a very strong campaign. The race today wasn't easy but we executed very well. None of the drivers made any mistakes and the car worked very well. I am very happy with this championship. Let's celebrate!"

2021’s Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli campaign begins at the Total 24 Hours of Spa on July 31 – August 1.
 

 


2021 INTERCONTINENTAL GT CHALLENGE POWERED BY PIRELLI CALENDAR

R1 - Total 24 Hours of Spa - July 31 - August 1
R2 - Suzuka 10 Hour - August 21-22
R3 - Indianapolis 8 Hour - October 16-17
R4 - Kyalami 9 Hour - December 3-4

_____

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Honda’s Farnbacher storms to Kyalami 9 Hour pole

> Home favourites Pepper (Bentley) and Van der Linde (BMW) complete the top-three
> All five manufacturers feature in the Pole Shootout
> Results: Combined Qualifying |
Pole Shootout

 

Team Honda Racing will start the 2020 Kyalami 9 Hour from pole position after Mario Farnbacher set a new qualifying lap record ahead of tomorrow’s Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli championship showdown.

The German, who shares the NSX GT3 with Renger van der Zande and Bertrand Baguette, beat home favourites Jordan Pepper (Bentley Team M-Sport) and Sheldon van der Linde (Walkenhorst Motorsport, BMW) in the six-car Pole Shootout, which also featured Audi and Porsche.

But it was a tough afternoon for championship leaders Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor whose Dinamic Motorsport 911 could manage no better than 10th. 


UNSTOPPABLE NSX BLITZES GT3 POLE RECORD

Fastest in Pre-Qualifying. Then Qualifying proper. And finally in the session that really mattered: the sole Honda had a day to remember at Kyalami where Mario Farnbacher was simply untouchable en route to fastest time in the Pole Shootout.

The NSX had earlier topped the combined Qualifying session thanks to the joint efforts of Bertrand Baguette, Renger van der Zande and Farnbacher who, in Q3, became the first driver to ever record a sub-1m42s lap around Kyalami.

He then lowered that again by four tenths in the individual Pole Shootout when Jordan Pepper and Sheldon van der Linde emerged as serious threats to the Honda’s dominance. But Farnbacher had saved his best for last and unleashed a 1m41.581s midway through the 15-minute session to beat the Bentley by 0.142s.

Van der Linde improved late on but remained 0.310s shy of pole.

The remaining contenders finished some way adrift of the top-three. Christopher Haase’s factory Car Collection Audi emerged 0.04s clear of GPX Racing’s Porsche driven by Matt Campbell, who lies second in the standings with co-drivers Patrick Pilet and Mathieu Jaminet, while David Pittard rounded out the top-six in the second Walkenhorst BMW.

Earlier, WRT’s Audis both missed out on a Shootout spot by less than half-a-tenth. The #32 R8 beat its #31 stablemate to seventh place, while M-Sport’s second Bentley finished ninth.

But there was concern down at Dinamic where championship leaders Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber struggled for pace alongside co-driver Kevin Estre. Their advantage over Porsche colleagues Campbell/Pilet/Jaminet stands at just one point, while 13 covers a total of nine crews – including Farnbacher and Van der Zande – gunning for title glory tomorrow.

Porsche’s Manufacturers’ advantage over Audi and BMW is a more comfortable 33 and 36 points, respectively, but anything could still happen during the final nine hours of this most remarkable of racing seasons.

Watch unrestricted and uninterrupted live coverage of the 2020 Kyalami 9 Hour on SRO’s GT World Youtube channel and #IntGTC’s Facebook page from 10:30 SAST tomorrow. The race is also available on SuperSport TV across South Africa from 08:00.

The green flag drops at 11:00.

 


2021 INTERCONTINENTAL GT CHALLENGE POWERED BY PIRELLI CALENDAR

R1 - Total 24 Hours of Spa - July 31 - August 1
R2 - Suzuka 10 Hour - August 21-22
R3 - Indianapolis 8 Hour - October 16-17
R4 - Kyalami 9 Hour - December 3-4

 

 

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  sportscar vintage racing association 

www.svra.com


 

OMOLOGATO BECOMES SVRA's OFFICIAL TIMEPIECE

Omologato Watch Design Celebrates Iconic Motorsport Brands

 

Southlake, TX (December 18, 2020) – Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) announced today that Omologato is now the official timepiece of America’s premier vintage racing organization. Motorsport culture is the company's founding design principle. It has affiliations throughout the sport, including partnerships with world-renowned tracks such as Watkins Glen International and Monza.

 

"Omologato is rooted in motorsports culture worldwide," said SVRA CEO Tony Parella.  "Their slogan, 'Honoring the past by racing into the future,’ is what SVRA is about."

 

The company derives its name from Gran Turismo Omologato (GTO). Omologato is Italian for "homologate," a term referencing sports cars certified by a governance body as ready to race.   

 

“I’ve loved motorsport since I can remember, so to combine my love of design, watches, and racing to form my company is a privilege," said Omologato CEO Shami Kalra. "Everyone at Omologato will feel very much at home with SVRA and the entire SpeedTour format that includes two more of our partners, Formula 4 USA, and Formula Regional Americas that we joined with earlier this year."

 

The Omologato product line of dozens of handcrafted watches is affordably priced and designed with various racing themes. To capture the attention of fans and leaders of the sport alike, Kalra relies on a vast reservoir of stories and details to find inspiration. One watch has bricks etched into its back as an homage to the Brickyard. At the same time, another boasts the red numbers 7:22, which was the time-of-day Stirling Moss launched off the starting ramp for the 1955 Mille Miglia. Such detail captures the imagination of racers and triggers delightful tales of racing lore. All watches offer subtle design elements that reference the great race cars, legendary drivers, and world-class race venues.

 

Omologato will extend those design cues to SVRA with a special run of 250 special edition timepieces. Available on a first-come, first-serve basis, SVRA racers can request the number of the run that they also use on their car.    

 

Omologato joins other top-brand companies on the growing list of SVRA partners. Among them are Jaguar, Land Rover, NetJets, Sunoco, Avis, Mazda Motorsports, Big Machine Vodka, TireRack.com, RACELOGIC, Cook Wealth Management, Hawk Performance, F.A.S.T. Cooling, and Marathon Coach. SVRA's nationwide platform is at the heart of the organization's growth strategy. Agreements with powerful brands combine with the significant participation of legendary professional drivers and the paddock's high net worth demographic for more partnership attraction. This strategy provides three pillars for business expansion. Company officials report consistent annual triple-digit growth since 2012.

 

International Motor Sports Assoc. Sports Car Club of America
  

sportscar vintage racing assoc.  gt celebration racing series
  

 
 
 
 
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