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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.

Three Rivers Karting

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

JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac Wins 12-Hours of Sebring

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Photo: IMSA

SEBRING, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Sebastien Bourdais, driving without the top element of the rear wing of the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac, took home the overall win in IMSA’s 12-Hours of Sebring for JDC-Miller Motorsports and co-drivers Tristan Vautier and Loic Duval.

Bourdais crossed the finish line 1.45-seconds ahead of Harry Tincknell and the No. 55 Mazda.  Bourdais said he lost the element with just under 19-minutes left in the event and was fortunate he didn’t lose control of the car.

“I’m just really lucky that I didn’t stuff it in Turn 17 before I made the adjustments,” Bourdais said. “That was a very, very close call there. At the same time, thankfully I had enough of a gap to (Tincknell) that he didn’t pass us by the time I collected myself. I didn’t know it was the rear wing until I got out of the car (in victory lane), but I knew something had happened aerodynamically.”

The No. 48 Cadillac co-driven by Jimmie Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi and Simon Pagenaud finished third followed by the Acura Dpi’s of Meyer Shank Racing (Dane Cameron, Olivier Pla, Juan Pablo Montoya) and Wayne Taylor Racing (Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, Alexander Rossi).

Three Rivers Karting

The No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac finished 2-laps down in sixth.  The CGR Caddy was one of the dominant cars in the event but got clipped by the BMW of Connor De Phillippi with 71-minutes left in the race.

“It was very frustrating,” said Scott Dixon, who was behind the wheel of the Ganassi machine at the time. “It was a very late call from the pits, so I was scrambling to get everything undone. On my way into pit road there was another car there and I had nowhere to go. I feel bad for the team, because everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing did a fantastic job.”

The Ganassi team’s misfortune opened the door for Bourdais, who just put his head down and somehow kept Ticknell behind him.

“Every corner that was coming, I was like, ‘Man, how am I going to do this one?’” Bourdais said. “The flip side of (the broken wing) is that the car was extremely fast down the straightaway, too. I was very hard to pass there.”

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season resumes May 14-16 with the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio.

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Heartbreak for Chip Ganassi Racing in Rolex 24 at Daytona

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Chip Ganassi Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s return to IMSA sports car racing was going along as planned in this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance race.

The No. 01 Cadillac Daytona Prototype International (DPi), driven by Renger Van der Zande, Kevin Magnussen and Scott Dixon, started seventh but quickly made their presence known leading 225 of the races 807-laps.

A battle to the end was shaping up between CGR and Wayne Taylor Racing in the race’s final half hour.  CGR brought Van der Zande in for his final pit stop and WTR brought their new Acura ARX-05 to pit road and changed just left side tires and was able to get out ahead of the No. 01 by about 5-seconds.

Van der Zande, who used to drive for WTR, put the hammer down and chased down Filipe Albuquerque in an epic duel between the two drivers.

Disaster struck a few minutes later for the Ganassi team when Van der Zande had to come to pit road because of a cut right rear tire.

Three Rivers Karting

The Ganassi team quickly changed the tire but the battle was over at that point as WTR raced to the victory and CGR settled for a fifth place finish.

Team owner Chip Ganassi was proud of his team, especially since the program came together late in 2020.

Magnussen knew the team had a car capable of winning, which is something the second generation driver didn’t have a chance to do the past few years in Formula One.

The Ganassi team did serve notice that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.

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Wayne Taylor Racing Wins Rolex 24 At Daytona

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IMSA

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) is the 2021 winner of the Rolex 24-Hours At Daytona endurance race.

WTR’s Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 crossed the finish line 4.704-seconds ahead of the Ally Cadillac of Action Express Racing to capture the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class victory as well as the overall victory.

The victory was the third straight for team owner Wayne Taylor, who switched manufacturers from Cadillac to Acura in the off-season, and WTR’s fifth overall.

Filipe Albuquerque drove the final stint of the race and survived a late race battle with Chip Ganassi Racing’s (CGR) Renger Van der Zande, who was forced to pit road after cutting a tire with just over 7-minutes remaining in the twice around-the-clock race.

Three Rivers Karting

“He was fast,” said Albuquerque of Van der Zande. “He was faster than me, obviously. But I thought there must be tire trouble. Physics tells you that. When you push too hard, something happens. When you go off track as well, something goes bad. I was not expecting that to happen. When he blew, we were lucky. But there is nobody who has ever won Daytona or any championship without luck.”

WTR’s victory tied CGR’s record of three straight overall wins in the event. The Ganassi team went back-to-back-to-back from 2006-2008.

Co-drivers Helio Castroneves, Alexander Rossi and Ricky Taylor (son of team owner Wayne) exalted in winning the Rolex watch, which is awarded to all of the class winner.

“So much went into this,” said Ricky Taylor, who scored the second overall Rolex victory of his career. “It was definitely a test of trust and a testament to preparation and sticking to a plan. We skipped all of the offseason testing because the guys needed time to do everything properly. They know how to win this race. I feel like we were all lucky to be a part of it.”

The next race for WeatherTech IMSA Sports Car Series is the 12-Hours of Sebring, March 17-20 at Sebring International Raceway.

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