New Year, New Season – IMSA Kicks off 2020 with the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The calendar says 2020 but for race teams around the country, they have been working on 2020 for quite some time now.
IMSA gets the 2020 racing season going with the annual Roar Before the 24, the first practice session at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the 58th Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 23-26.
Forty cars have been entered across four competing classes in hopes of capturing the twice-around-the-clock event.
Two-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch will be moonlighting at the roar, jumping into the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 that he will share with co-drivers Parker Chase, Jack Hawksworth and Michael De Quesada in the GT Daytona (GTD) Class.
The GTD Class is the largest class in the field with 18-entries from nine different manufacturers.
Also in the GTD field are two entries from the 2019 GTD Champions of Meyer Shank Racing – the No. 57 Heinricher Racing with MSR Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 with drivers Alvaro Parente, Misha Goikhberg, Trent Hindman and AJ Allmendinger and the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura of Mario Farnb acher, Matt McMurtry, Sinhya Michimi and Jules Gounon as well as the all-female lineup of Katherine Legge, Christina Nielsen, Tati Calderon and Rahel Frey in the No. 19 GEAR Racing powered by GRT Grasser Lamborghini Huracan GT3;
Eight entries are featured in the lead Daytona Prototype International (DPi) Class from three manufacturers. Defending DPi Champions Acura Team Penske No. 6 ARX-05 of Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya who will be joined by IndyCar teammate Simon Pagenaud. Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves will be joined in the other Acura Team Penske No. 7 by Alexander Rossi.
Also in the DPi Class are Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Caillas DPi-V.R. where defending race winners Renger van der Zande and Kamui Kobayashi will be joined by Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon.
Briscoe and Dixon used to drive in IMSA for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. Ford shuttered the factory GT Le Mans (GTLM) program after last season, leaving Ganassi off the grid for the first time since 2004.
I don’t think Ganassi is finished in sports car racing however, at least not according the team owners Twitter account:
We will be back in @imsa sports car racing someday I imagine! https://t.co/OFSMCLqC2s
— Chip Ganassi (@GanassiChip) December 27, 2019
Ganassi instead will add a third IndyCar for driver Marcus Ericsson as Pittsburgh Racing Now told you back in October (https://pittsburghracingnow.com/2019/10/08/chip-ganassi-adding-third-ntt-indycar-series-entry-for-marcus-ericsson-in-2020/).
The factory supported GTLM Class features seven entries, four of which are making their North American Debut this weekend: The new, midengined Corvette C8R’s of Corvette Racing with Antonio Garcia being joined by Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg with Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner joined by Marcel Fassler in the No. 4 Corvette.
The new-for-2020 Porsche 911 RSR makes its debut at Daytona with defending WeatherTech GTLM Champions Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 with Mathieu Jaminet. The No. 911 will feature Nick Tandy, Frederic Makowiecki with Matt Campbell service as endurance specialist.
The LMP2 Class features seven entries as well. Defending Rolex 24 Winners Dragon Speed return with Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman, Colin Braun and Harrison Newey in the No. 81 ORECA LMP2 07.
The No. 8 Tower Motorsport by Starworks ORECA with Ryan Dalziel and John Farano being joined by David Heinemeier Hansson and Nicolas Lapierre joining for the endurance events.
Defending LMP2 Championship PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports returns with two entries as well for drivers Ben Keating, Simon Trummer and Gabriel Aubry in a lineup that is still being determined.
In addition to the WeatherTech Championship machines, a 38-car field for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge will partake in three days of testing. Look for additional coverage coming up on Pittsburgh Racing Now.
The annual Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona takes place from Friday, January 3rd through Sunday, January 5th.
Porsche Penske Motorsport grabs IMSA GTP win at Long Beach
LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Porsche Penske Motorsport picked up their inaugural IMSA Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) win taking Saturday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Penske’s team elected to not take tires on their one and only pit stop of the day and the time savings on pit road proved to be the difference.
Nick Tandy kept the No. 6 Porsche 963 within striking distance of leader and pole winner Filipe Albuquerque and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura, who elected to take on new tires during their pit stop. The Penske drivers figured it was their best shot at the win.
“We kind of knew from practice and qualifying that our pace was probably not going to win us a race,” said Tandy. “We wanted to try something different, and one of our options was to try and negate the tire warm-up issue that many teams have had in GTP this year, so we went with no tires. What we didn’t know was how the tire was going to end up over the last 40 minutes because nobody had run the tire that long.”
Co-driver Mathieu Jaminet, who took over for Tandy, took to the lead but ran into lap traffic late in the race to set-up a 2-lap dual with the No. 10, who had Jordan Taylor now behind the wheel.
The Acura drafted the Porsche down Shoreline Drive and drew even under braking into Turn 1, but Taylor misjudged the maneuver and skidded wide into a tire barrier allowing third-place runner Connor de Phillippi in the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 to squeeze past.
The caution flag came out ending the racing with Jaminet and Tandy celebrating a monumental first win for the Porsche 963. De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly celebrating second place in the No. 25 BMW.
“(Taylor) had fresher tires and after I got caught in traffic with two laps to go, it made sense that he went for it,” said Jaminet. “I braked really late, and I saw him going past. I thought, ‘If he can make it stop, I’ll be impressed.’ I saw him lock up and he went straight in the fence.
“I knew it was going to be very close,” he added. “I just tried to make no mistakes with the traffic. As a team, you need to figure out the opportunities and take what’s there when it’s in front of you. Today was a real team effort, in the pits and with car No. 7. Everybody can be proud today.”
The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N, May 12-14 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Heartbreak for Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing at 12-Hours of Sebring
SEBRING, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Things were looking promising for Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing through the first eight hours of the 71st running of the 12-Hours of Sebring endurance race but disaster struck in hour nine.
Sebastien Bourdais was leading the field when things started going wrong on the No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R forcing the car to pit road. Smoke and flames could be seen coming out from underneath the bodywork as the car came down pit road.
“The No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R experienced a fuel distribution system issue,” Cadillac Racing said in a statement. “It is the first time we have seen it in testing — including a successful 24-hour test at Sebring International Raceway in November and two days of testing at the track in February — and race conditions. Cadillac Racing will figure out the root cause and prepare for the next race.”
“The team has worked hard to prepare for this race,” said Mike O’Gara, CGR Director of Operations. “We proved we have a fast race car and great pit stops. Some things happen that are out of your control, but that’s racing. I’m proud of the effort from the entire team, and I know we’ll keep at it and continue chasing this championship.”
The No. 01 Caddy started from the front row and led 120-laps in the race before the retirement with Bourdais grabbing the lead after just over an hour.
“It’s obviously pretty disappointing for everybody,” said Bourdais, a two-time 12-Hour winner. “The car was quick. Cadillac seems to have something that works pretty well at Sebring, so that’s really encouraging. I think we made some great progress from Daytona in performance, so that’s also encouraging for the rest of the season after finishing on the podium. It’s great to see the program heading in the right direction and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac are working very hard to make progress.”
6-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Scott Dixon added to the lead following the first driver change, building a 47-second lead before turning over the driving duties to Renger van der Zande following the fourth pit-stop, 4-hours and 7-minutes into the race.
“It was quite the race,” said Dixon. “The car was really fast and I felt like everybody on the team did a tremendous job. We had some ups and downs, but ultimately, we were top-three most of the race and led a good majority of it. Just bummed that it ended the way it did, and we didn’t win the race. It’s one that’s eluded me, and it would have been great to take this one. But, we had great speed, great teamwork and everybody did a hell of a job.”
van der Zande was just as quick, setting the fastest lap of the race (1:48.311) on lap 165.
“Sebring is a special one, and it’s a shame that it didn’t fall in our direction,” said van der Zande. “We had a strong Cadillac car here and while we’ve been testing all over, we’re still trying to improve things across the board. We’re still learning. We go deep to try to optimize performance. It’s just an unfortunate end to the race after showing so much speed.”
The No. 01 Cadillac crew will compete in their next IMSA race on April 15 in Long Beach, California.
Chip Ganassi Racing returning to the 24 Hours of Le Mans
DETROIT, MI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing is returning to the 24 Hours of Le Mans this June with the newly named Cadillac V-Series.Rs where they will compete for the overall win in the Hypercar class.
Ganassi will field two Caddy’s in the twice around-the-clock endurance event. The No. 2 Cadillac V-Series.R received an automatic entry based on its full-season participation in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook are the drivers.
The No. 3 Cadillac V-Series.R is a full-season IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship entrant in the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class, where it races as the No. 01. Sébastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon will be the drivers.
“We are all looking forward to Cadillac returning to Le Mans and challenging for the overall victory. It has been decades since an American manufacturer has achieved this and we will be strongly pushing to achieve our goal,” said Bamber, the overall winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2015 and 2017.
“We are thrilled to return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the full Cadillac Racing team,” said Rory Harvey, Global Vice President of Cadillac. “Over the last 20 years Cadillac Racing has built a legacy of winning on the track and we feel very privileged to return to Le Mans during this exciting new electrified era in racing.”
“Cadillac is excited to build on its racing legacy by competing against the very best internationally and at one of the world’s toughest races,” said GM sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser. “We’re proud to be representing the United States and the Cadillac V-Series.R is a great continuation of our racing heritage.”
Chip Ganassi Racing last competed in the 24-hours of Le Mans in 2018-2019 when they campaigned Ford GT’s in the LMGTE Pro Class. CGR took home the class win in 2016 with Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller taking the checkered flag 50-years after Ford’s first overall 24 Hours of Le Mans victory.