Two fairly high-profile names have joined what is already a very deep GT class field for this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona. Emanuele Pirro joins the APR Motorsport Audi team in its Rolex Series debut, while Jeroen Bleekemolen joins the TRG Porsche five-car effort in the defending champion entry.
Pirro, an Audi stalwart for nearly two decades, enjoyed his greatest success with five wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two American Le Mans Series championships. He made a handful of appearances for Drayson Racing in that team's Lola Judd in 2010, and starred at Sebring and Utah.
"The Rolex 24 At Daytona has a very special meaning for me," said Pirro. "It was my very first car race outside of Italy, driving the Lancia Montecarlo Turbo in the World Endurance Championship opening round. My racing experience was very limited and the longest race I had done was 25 minutes. I remember the first time I saw the track I was almost shocked! After this fantastic experience, when I came back to Italy I was celebrated as a hero. I never went back and now, after 31 years, I am really excited about it."
Pirro and Venezuelan driver Nelson Canache complete APR's lineup, which also includes full-season drivers Dion von Moltke and Dr. Jim Norman, with third driver Ian Baas.
Bleekemolen vaults the driver lineup of TRG's No. 67 Porsche to one of the early favorites. He joins Spencer Pumpelly, Wolf Henzler, Marc Goossens and Steve Bertheau in a pure TRG entry, after driving in the collaborative TRG/Black Swan/GMG entry in the 2011 Rolex 24.
The Dutchman has driven the last two seasons in ALMS for Black Swan Racing. In his career, Bleekemolen secured several Porsche Supercup titles and the 2010 ALMS GTC class title. He also drove a Rebellion Racing Lola Toyota LMP1 coupe in 2011 endurance races.
TRG has four additional Porsche GT3 Cup entries, and either of the team's trademark No. 66 or No. 68 cars also could figure into the overall equation. The No. 66 will feature Patrick Pilet, Ben Keating, Allan Simonsen and Dominik Farnbacher, while Keating also will be aboard the No. 68 with Carlos Gomez, Kevin Estre, Chris Cumming and Damien Faulkner. The team's No. 64 and 65 entries have primarily gentlemen drivers, although ex-Formula 1 and IndyCar driver Eliseo Salazar is in the team's No. 64.