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New Year, New Season – IMSA Kicks off 2020 with the Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona

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IMSA

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.

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I don’t think Ganassi is finished in sports car racing however, at least not according the team owners Twitter account:

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.

Sports Cars

Chip Ganassi Racing Returning To IMSA Competition In 2021 With Cadillac

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Chip Ganassi Racing

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Seven-time Champions Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) are returning to IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car competition following a year hiatus from the sport.

CGR is partnering with Cadillac to field a Daytona Prototype international (DPi) entry beginning in 2021.

“We are very excited to welcome Chip Ganassi Racing to the Cadillac competition family,” said Rory Harvey, Cadillac Vice President. “Their success across many forms of racing, including sports cars, will be a great addition to our IMSA WeatherTech line-up.”

“Partnering with Cadillac is a tremendous opportunity for our team and we want to start delivering for them in January at the Rolex 24 At Daytona,” said team owner Chip Ganassi.

CGR has the greatest stretch in Rolex 24 At Daytona history highlighted by eight wins and three second-place finishes from 2006-2018.  Ganassi is the only team owner in history to win three-straight Rolex 24 At Daytonas (2006-2008).

“We can’t wait to get back to IMSA and fight for the overall win after several years competing in the GTLM class,” said Ganassi, who last partnered with Ford Motor Company to field Ford GT’s in IMSA and the World Endurance Championship (WEC).  That partnership resulted in several GTLM class wins including the prestigious 24-Hours of Le Mans.

In 2020, Cadillac scored its fourth consecutive Rolex 24 At Daytona win, and followed with wins at Sebring and Petit Le Mans en route to a second-place finish in the Championship.

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In 2019, they scored wins at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, Long Beach and Petit Le Mans.

The 2018 season saw the program win the Rolex 24 At Daytona en route to the Prototype Driver, Team and Manufacturer Championships.

The program began in 2017 when Cadillac teams won every title in the inaugural season of the IMSA DPi formula including a one-two-three sweep of the Driver Championship, along with the Team and Manufacturers titles.

CGR has seven Championships (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013) and 64 race wins to their credit since their introduction to sports car racing in 2004.

“Chip’s pedigree at winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona eight times as well as their championships in this form of racing gives Cadillac another stalwart team to compete for the 2021 IMSA DPi championship,” said Harvey.

Ganassi is already a member of the General Motors family as the NASCAR operation fields Chevrolet’s.

“Our relationship with General Motors has expanded from the NASCAR Cup Series and we couldn’t be happier,” said Ganassi.

Driver lineups and partnership details will be announced at a later date.

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Sports Cars

Mazda Wins 12-Hours of Sebring; Acura Team Penske Wins DPi Championship

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IMSA

SEBRING, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Mazda Motorsports captured the 12-Hours of Sebring endurance race with the No. 55 Mazda DPi, driven by Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell and Ryan Hunter-Reay, beating the No. 6 Team Penske Acura by 10.154-seconds at Sebring International Raceway.

The No. 77 Mazda DPi appeared to be headed for the victory but cut a left rear tire with 27-minutes remaining to bring out a full-course caution. That gave the lead to Tincknell in their sister car who brought the car home with the win with the No. 77 rallying to finish third.

“I said to myself, ‘This is what you dream of,’” Tincknell said. “Twenty minutes to go, leading one of the biggest races in the world. You just have to go for it, give it everything you have. No regrets. I just pushed like crazy.”

The DPi victory went to Mazda but the DPi Championship went to the No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05 DPi co-driven by Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and Alexander Rossi.

Forty minutes into the race, the left intercooler malfunctioned on the Team Penske machine, which took 25-minutes to repair.  The Acura returned to the race far behind the field with their championship hopes looking dim.

Team Penske’s hopes brightened when a collision between Oliver Jarvis in the No. 77 Mazda and Scott Dixon in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac forced Dixon to limp to the pits with a flat right rear and led to an extensive repair.

“I think there was no way he was going to make the corner,” Dixon said. “I kind of saw him coming and tried to give him enough without wrecking myself. I got off track a little bit in the hairpin and got dirty tires.”

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The No. 10 Cadillac returned to the race but was laps down and the WTR Caddy only finished one spot ahead of the No. 7, which was not good enough in the final standings.

The No. 7 Acura finished one point ahead in the final IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings in the driver, team and manufacturer categories.

“In racing, anything is possible,” said Castroneves, who picked up the first season Championship in his 23-year career. “We started the season with no points on the board and all of a sudden we’re battling for the championship. Unfortunately, in this situation, it was completely outside of our hands. We literally were waiting for things to happen, and they did.  It was destiny. I always say if it’s meant to be it will be, and I’m so glad it was our turn. You never give up. … We never gave up.”

“To me, Helio is Team Penske, and it was the privilege of a lifetime to get to drive for Acura Team Penske,” Taylor said. “To win it with him was one of the highlights of my life.”

The No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07, co-driven by Patrick Kelly, Simon Trummer and Scott Huffaker, took home the victory in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class.  The No. 52 claimed the team and driver championships Nov. 1 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

The Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R took home the victory in the GT Daytona class.  The GTD Championship went to the #86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX of defending series champion Mario Farnbacher, Matt McMurry and Shinya Michimi thanks to a third-place class finish at Sebring.  MSR takes home the class Championship by eight points over over nine other competing performance car OEM’s, include Porsche, Lexus, BMW, Ferrari and Lamborghini.

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Sports Cars

Acura Partners With Meyer Shank Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing For 2021 DPi Effort

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Acura Motorsports

TORRANCE, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Acura Motorsports is partnering with Meyer Shank Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing to field a pair of Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype International entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, beginning in 2021.

Meyer Shank Racing is the defending IMSA GTD class Champion and are the current leaders in all three major GTD title championships plus the Ohio-based team played a key role in the development of the successful Acura NSX GT3 Evo, parking it in victory lane in four consecutive seasons.

Wayne Taylor Racing has raced to two IMSA driver Championships and one IMSA team Championship in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype class. WTR has also captured eight IMSA manufacturer championships and has scored multiple victories in endurance racing’s most iconic events: The Rolex 24 At Daytona, Twelve Hours of Sebring, Petit Le Mans, and Six Hours at Watkins Glen.

The Acura ARX-05 to be fielded by Wayne Taylor Racing in 2021 IMSA Competition.

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“It is a pleasure to announce that Wayne Taylor Racing will be joining the Acura ARX-05 IMSA program in 2021, along with Meyer Shank Racing, which will build on our very successful partnership by moving up to the prototype ranks,” said Jon Ikeda, Acura Brand Officer. “We’re confident that both teams will help us build on the successes we’ve achieved to date in IMSA competition, as we continue to apply Precision Crafted Performance to all of our activities – on the race circuits of North America, in our production vehicles and in the marketplace.”

“When Acura and HPD chose Meyer Shank Racing to debut the Acura NSX GT3 in 2017, it was a big moment in our history. I’m really proud of building a championship-winning program and everything that we’ve been able to accomplish together with the NSX,” said Michael Shank, co-owner of Meyer Shank Racing. “As a team, we’ve been working toward the opportunity to go and fight for overall wins for a long time, and I am eager to get going with this program. But we have some work to do first, and we are 100 percent focused on bringing another IMSA championship home with the Acura NSX in 2020.”

“I am extremely excited to have this opportunity given to me by HPD and Acura Motorsports,” said Wayne Taylor, owner of Wayne Taylor Racing. “Since getting to know everyone at HPD and Acura Motorsports, I feel that they have a lot of respect for the Wayne Taylor Racing family. What I really like is that they have the same passion and vision as I do. I am looking forward to running the DPi for the next few years. I am equally excited to be able to bring my long-term partnership with Konica Minolta, Rick Taylor and Michael Mathe to the program. We all can’t wait to get started.”

The Acura NSX program will continue in IMSA 2021.

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