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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

Penske And Porsche Atop The Podium At Rolex 24 At Daytona

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IMSA

DAYTONA, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Porsche Penske Motorsports Felipe Nasr held off the hard-charging Whelen Cadillac of Tom Blomqvist to win the twice around the clock Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

Nasr took the lead for the final time when the No. 7 Porsche crew gave him a quicker pit stop than the No. 31 Cadillac crew could manage for Blomqvist under a full-course caution with 43 minutes remaining. Blomqvist hounded Nasr for the last half-hour but could never get close enough to attempt a pass for the lead.  Nasr’s margin of victory was 2.112-seconds.

The victory was the first Rolex 24 At Daytona overall win for team owner Roger Penske in 55 years and the first for Porsche in 14 years.

“I’ll tell you, this goes down as one of the biggest wins we’ve had,” said Penske.

Penske’s last win at the Rolex 24 came in 1969 when Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons drove a Lola T-70/Chevrolet to victory.  Penske also claimed a class win in 1966.

“When you think about 1969, when we won here with a Lola, things were a lot different in those days,” said Penske. “Just to see the competitiveness, where six or seven tenths of a second was the difference after 24 hours of racing, it’s unbelievable.”

Three Rivers Karting

It was also the first Rolex 24 Daytona class victory for team owner Giuseppe Risi, whose Houston-based squad took victory in the Gran Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) as the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 claimed the class victory with drivers Daniel Serra, Davide Rigon, Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado.

“Giuseppe deserves it,” Calado said of the team owner who started competing in sports car racing in 1998. “He’s wanted it for a long time. I’m happy for him, and I’m happy for us. It’s a great way to start the year and puts us in good stead for the rest of the year.”

Risi has claimed multiple class victories over the years at Le Mans, Sebring and Petit Le Mans. But until Sunday, it had not celebrated victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

“This is the race that I was missing, that I really wanted to win,” said Serra, who drove the final stint. “Today is one of the happiest days of my racing career.”

The No. 18 Era Motorsport took the victory in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class with co-drivers Dalziel, Dwight Merriman, Christian Rasmussen and Connor Zilisch.

The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 claimed victory in the Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class with drivers

Winward Racing’s No. 57 Mercedes-AMG GT3 was victorious in the Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class, the car shared by Russell Ward, Philip Ellis, Indy Dontje and Daniel Morad.

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Debris Derails Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing Rolex 24 At Daytona

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Cadillac Racing

DAYTONA, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing’s Rolex 24 at Daytona started off on the front row and was going well until disaster struck just before half-way through the twice around the clock endurance race.

Sebastien Bourdais had just taken the lead in the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R when he ran over a piece of debris in the infield second of the speedway.  Moments later the car suffered a punctured tire, Bourdais slid off track and miraculously managed to stop the car just shy of hitting the tire barrier.

Bourdais limped the car back to pit lane for a tire change, but the No. 01 was two laps down. The No. 01 was still a lap behind the leaders at the 12-hour mark and was forced to retire with a mechanical issue in the powertrain.

“This end result is obviously disappointing because everyone at Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing has put in so much work to get to this point,” said Bourdais. “We showed that we had the pace to compete in this race, but things just didn’t fall our way. We continued to push until the very last minute.”

“I was really moving; I came through the field so easily,” said co-driver Renger van der Zande, who worked the No. 01 Caddy back to P4 before the issue. “The car was lightning fast and credit to Cadillac and the Ganassi team to give us such a big car to win a race like this. It’s just a shame it has to end like this so early.”

Three Rivers Karting

Several other GTP competitors suffered issues that removed their chance to contend for the win or put that chance in peril.

Just more than eight hours into the contest, the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 with driver Filipe Albuquerque slowed to a stop on track, bringing out the eighth full-course caution of the race. The car was carried on a flatbed truck to the garage area where it underwent a lengthy diagnosis before the team worked to replace the wiring harness. After a 90-minute repair, the No. 10 returned to the track but was nearly 100 laps off the pace.

“I started feeling something burning in the Bus Stop (Le Mans Chicane),” Albuquerque said. “I thought it was a GT (car) in front and said nothing, but then after I passed it the smell was the same. Then when I put it in seventh gear on the straight line, the engine died. I lost all the power in the car, all the systems.”

The No. 10’s sister car, the No. 40 WTRAndretti Acura, suffered what appeared to be a similar issue just before the 12-hour juncture when it came to a stop on track with Louis Deletraz at the wheel. But with help from the track safety crew, Deletraz restarted the car and lost just a lap.

The two BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8s were also still running, albeit several laps off the pace.

Porsche Penske Motorsports and the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac have been the dominant leaders in GTP and overall.

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Sports Cars

Rolex 24 at Daytona kicks off the 2024 Racing Season

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Chip Ganassi Racing

DAYTONA, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The 2024 racing season Saturday is underway with the twice around-the-clock Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

“I am really excited to get 2024 going,” said Sebastian Bourdais, driver of the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac. “I think the traditional start of the season with Daytona is always a fun one. It gathers a ton of drivers that you might not see the rest of the season, so it is a bit of an international event and gathering with a great atmosphere.”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s IMSA side of the operation started on the outside of the front row in the No. 01 Cadillac with Pipo Derani on the pole position in the Action Express Racing Cadillac as General Motors swept the front row.

“Obviously, the Cadillac was flying out there today,” said Derani, whose pole was his 10th career in IMSA competition. “It was just a privilege and a pleasure to drive such a car – really well balanced. There was great teamwork to improve what was needed for qualifying. The car felt on rails, and it was nice to enjoy and feel the full potential of GTP.”

Bourdais led the CGR charge logging his best lap time on his fifth of six total laps, which ultimately fell just 0.071 seconds shy of the pole-sitter.

“It was obviously a great day for Cadillac; you always want to go P1-P2,” said Bourdais. “For us, it was a solid effort, but we just didn’t quite get everything the way we wanted for that perfect run. But we have a really solid racecar and now we will just try to adjust things over the next week to get it the best we can for the race. We’ll try to execute as a team, with the drivers, and hope that we can come out of this with a watch.”

Bourdais and his teammate Renger van der Zande are no stranger to winning the watch.  Bourdais captured overall win in 2014 and the GTLM Class Winner in 2017.  van der Zande has two victories and and four podiums in ten Rolex 24’s as the CGR teammates took time out of their busy Daytona schedules to talk with The Pittsburgh Racing Now Podcast.

“We have been developing this car for a year now and lately we have found a lot of set-up options that work for us,” said van der Zande. “Reliability is the most important thing and that is certainly what Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac Racing bring.”

The Ganassi squad is deep and full of resources but it has been a few years since the stood atop the podium.

“The 01 Cadillac team is anxious to kick off the 2024 IMSA SportsCar Championship,” said Mike O’Gara, CGR’s Director of Operations. “We are ready to build on our Rolex 24 At Daytona success with the Cadillac V-Series.R after finishing third and fourth there in its debut race in 2023. It has been a few years since Chip Ganassi Racing has won overall at Daytona, but we feel confident that we can compete for another win and add to our eight victories there.”

Three Rivers Karting

Joining the CGR team at the endurance races are six-time NTT INDYCAR Series Champion Scott Dixon and two-time and defending Series Champion Alex Palou.

“I always look forward to Daytona; it’s a great way to kick off the season,” said Dixon. “I feel like we had a really good shot last year and the car speed was really good. The team has done a good job in the offseason to make things a little bit smoother and better.”

“I’m very excited to return to Daytona after competing with the team in the DPi era in 2022,” said Palou. “I’ve had the privilege of racing with Scott, Sebastien and Renger and I’m sure with all the preparation and knowledge that the team has, we’ll be able to fight for a win and maybe bring home some new watches at the end of January.”

2024 marks the second year of GTP competition in IMSA and having year under their belt with the new car is key compared to 2023.

“I feel like Cadillac has given us a very good car and we have a good understanding of the system,” said Bourdais. “We feel even more prepared and with the team that we can lean on, I think we have all the necessary ingredients to go for the win.”

“Anything can happen at Daytona, but we feel prepared with a nice blend of drivers to win this race,” said van der Zande. “It’s the biggest race of the season, the one you want to win and a big part of a championship. We’re there to win.”

Dixon said the key to any endurance race is surviving.

“The key is always to stay out of trouble and make sure you finish the 24 hours first and then hopefully have a good shot at trying to get a win,” said Dixon.  “I feel like we had a really good shot last year and the car speed was really good.”

O’Gara is thrilled to look at the men and women in his paddock and go to battle with them.

“It’s exciting to be returning with our IMSA veteran drivers Renger van der Zande and Sebastien Bourdais, and it is great to have Scott Dixon back again and then with a pleasant surprise in being able to add Alex Palou to lineup this year, as well. Having the opportunity to work with drivers, engineers and a crew of this caliber is an honor.”

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