Rolex 24 Entry List
The Daytona Prototype field is going for a quality over quantity mantra with its number of entries for this year's Rolex 24. The transitional year for the class sees a mix of new bodywork for the third generation DPs, with an additional year for the grandfathered second generation cars. Initially, the DPG3s were about 1 to 1.5 seconds off the second-gen pace at December's test, but the gap closed at January's Roar Before the 24.
For the DP preview, we'll split the field into third-gen Corvettes and Rileys and the previous second-gen entries. The DPG3s should win on their debut, but the old guard of entries will be there to pounce if attrition begins to take a toll on the new cars. There are nine G3 DPs and five grandfathered G2 entries for a total of 14. GTs outnumber the DPs by greater than a three-to-one ratio (46 to 14), which will make navigating the slower traffic one of the greatest challenges facing all these entries:
No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley: Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Graham Rahal, Joey Hand
The lineup, crew and team are the same although the car's not for the defending Rolex 24 at Daytona overall champions. The only comparable experience in getting a new car for the otherwise bulletproof CGR team would be 2004, when the team made its Rolex 24 debut with the same car it would run through last year – chassis No. 004. Pruett said the team was underprepared on that occasion, but has since evolved to become one of the most well oiled machines in the field. After three wins and two runner-up finishes in the last five Rolex 24s, it takes a near-perfect effort to beat this bunch.
No. 02 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley: Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya
Ganassi's “all-star” sister car won this race in 2006, but its main goal for 2012 is providing a clear divide between when Montoya is in the car, and when he isn't. The Colombian made things rather interesting for his three co-drivers in 2011, and had revenge exacted on it throughout. This car's lineup is fractionally lesser than its sister car, but that said, still among the top ones in class.
No. 5 Action Express Racing Chevy Corvette DP: David Donohue, Darren Law, Christian Fittipaldi
Action Express's second car finished ninth in 2011 and employs a different strategy for 2012. While it had Fittipaldi and Max Papis in the team's No. 9 entry, which finished third, the No. 5 had Buddy Rice and Burt Frisselle alongside the usual pairing of Donohue and Law. Fittipaldi now joins this entry for 2012, which with three top drivers is almost a better bet than its sister car, which has four. Donohue and Law have worked together for years, and the challenge is for these two to master the Corvette after years in a Porsche, which shouldn't be too hard a task.
No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley: Ryan Dalziel, Alex Popow, Enzo Potolicchio, Allan McNish, Lucas Luhr
This car provides Starworks team principal Peter Baron a better chance of pulling a Rolex 24 upset. Dalziel is the only one with an overall Rolex 24 win, although McNish and Luhr have class triumphs. Additionally, he hasn't been lacking for mileage this winter – he, Popow and Potolicchio embarked on a world tour of endurance racing at Dubai (24 hours) and Abu Dhabi (12) in a United Autosports-entered Audi R8. After his early accident at last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, McNish (RIGHT) must store an equal amount of patience to his unquestioned pace, as Audi gives him special dispensation to run a Ford this race.
No. 9 Action Express Racing Chevy Corvette DP: Joao Barbosa, Terry Borcheller, J.C. France, Max Papis
Barbosa and Borcheller were part of the team's Rolex 24 overall win on its debut in 2010, and Papis of course made his introduction on a worldwide stage with his spellbinding drive in the MOMO Ferrari 333SP in 1996. So those three can help the Gary Nelson-led team to its second win in three years, although it's a big change for the team switching from a Porsche Riley to a Corvette. Having Iain Watt's engineering services, though, is a bonus for the Florida-based team.
No. 10 SunTrust Racing Chevy Corvette DP: Max Angelelli, Ricky Taylor, Ryan Briscoe
SunTrust has only one Rolex 24 win but is primed to score a second with its three-driver lineup. That's the same recipe that won in 2005, when Angelelli co-drove with Ricky Taylor's father Wayne and Emmanuel Collard. SunTrust starts 2012 with the same driver lineup that finished fifth a year ago, and a flashier livery with a vibrant orange and white adorning its new Corvette. With Angelelli's tenacity, Taylor's pace and Briscoe's headiness as one of the race's top “ringers,” this is easily one of the favorites.
No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley: Ozz Negri, John Pew, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Wilson
Shank's made a career out of turning small seeds into big trees – by maximizing his resources however small they might be. That tree hasn't yet borne the fruits at Daytona, but every year the team seems to get closer and closer to that elusive first Rolex 24 victory. Negri, Wilson and Allmendinger are reunited for the first time since 2006 – when they finished second – and with Pew having developed his skills the last few years, this could be the year Shank breaks through.
No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Chevy Corvette DP: Antonio Garcia, Richard Westbrook, Oliver Gavin, Jan Magnussen
GM has not designated a factory team for its Corvette DPs, but Spirit of Daytona will serve as the de facto one given its lineup of four GM factory drivers. GM has given Antonio Garcia and Richard Westbrook – Corvette Racing's third drivers in endurance races in 2011 – the full season duties in the SoD Corvette DP with Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen joining them at Daytona. It won't be the same Corvette Racing the quartet is accustomed to in ALMS, but Troy Flis' squad did everything but win in 2011, and will provide more than ample preparation for its Daytona assault.
No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevy Corvette DP: Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, Memo Gidley
The GAINSCO “red dragon” serves as more than just a sentimental favorite. Stallings' career as a Rolex Series owner has included everything but a Rolex 24 victory, and with Gurney's father Dan winning the inaugural three-hour Daytona Continental in 1962, a win for Alex Gurney in 2012 would be perfect symmetry. Fogarty and Gidley will provide the necessary speed and support, with Gidley getting his first real crack at a team that can win the race. Like Flying Lizard in GT, GAINSCO has always been stuck under a lingering black cloud in 24-hour races, and hopes it lifts this year.
No. 2 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley: Miguel Potolicchio, Maurizio Scala, TBA, TBA
Originally projected to have three IndyCar drivers on board, this car is now in jeopardy. Tuesday afternoon, Tony Kanaan tweeted "Guys, unfortunately I will not race at the Daytona 24H this Saturday. The funding that the Starworks Motorsports team had went away…" Kanaan was slated to drive with fellow IndyCar pilots Hunter-Reay and Viso, alongside Potolicchio and Scala. If the car runs, it should provide some fireworks for as long – or little – as it is on track, but that is now a question mark.
No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley: Felipe Nasr, Jorge Goncalvez, Gustavo Yacaman, Michael McDowell
Shank's second entry for 2012 again bears No. 6, but this car is the one that the team ran in partnership with United Autosports to fourth place and still on the lead lap a year ago. McDowell's the lone proven commodity, leaving youngsters Nasr, Goncalvez and Yacaman as the wild cards. They have speed to burn in their Rolex 24 debuts, and how they handle endurance racing for the first time will determine how high or low this car can go.
No. 50 50+ Predator/Alegra BMW Riley: Byron Defoor, Brian Johnson, Jim Pace, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Carlos de Quesada
Of the 14 DP entries, the 50+ Predator/Alegra entry is the least likely to contend for a win or podium, but that doesn't mean the team won't have a blast competing. AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson and historic racer Byron Defoor assembled the team, and added two former Rolex 24 overall winners (Pace, EFR) and a class winner (de Quesada) to its lineup. It's a grandfathered car and a new team; still, in a lineup where de Quesada (43) is the only driver under 50, it's far from inadequate. It won't be quick, but could secure a top-10 finish overall simply by gathering laps and avoiding reliability pitfalls.
No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola: Colin Braun, Nic Jonsson, Tracy Krohn, Ricardo Zonta
Krohn's main ambition for 2012 is the FIA World Endurance Championship, but that hasn't stopped him from pulling out the old Lola DP and running it for another go at the Rolex 24. For endurance races, Krohn knows what he's doing with a tried-and-true formula that has brought the team a number of strong finishes. With a lineup of drivers that run a consistent pace and don't fall too far behind the overall leaders, the team has often been in contention for podiums. A year ago, the team finished sixth, only one lap down to the top four cars on the lead lap. Braun, Jonsson and Zonta aren't all-stars, but are dependable endurance racers.
No. 77 Doran Racing Ford Dallara: Burt Frisselle, Brian Frisselle, Paul Tracy, Dr. Jim Lowe
Kevin Doran's Daytona career has brought much success as a team owner and chassis builder, so it would be fitting if he can experience more success in the 50th anniversary Rolex 24. Doran was involved with the Ferrari 333SP program with the late Gianpiero Moretti, and also secured the first Rolex 24 overall win for a DP with the Bell Motorsports Pontiac Doran in 2004. The team enters this year with the lone second-gen Dallara in the field and a lineup that features the Frisselle brothers, Paul Tracy back in a DP for the first time since 2007, and neurosurgeon Dr. Jim Lowe. In one of the oldest cars in class, the quartet might need to adopt a “run slower and hope for attrition” strategy to post a solid result.
HOW TO WATCH
The Rolex 24 will unfold live on SPEED on a multi-faceted platform, with 15.5 hours live on SPEED TV and the remainder of the race streamed online on SPEED.com. More than 25 hours of coverage begins on Sat. Jan. 28, at 2:30 p.m. ET with green-flag action beginning an hour later at 3:30 p.m. ET. Online coverage begins at 11 p.m. ET Saturday night, with TV coverage resuming at 9 a.m. ET Sunday morning. On-air talent includes Bob Varsha, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs, Dorsey Schroeder, Calvin Fish and Tommy Kendall in the broadcast booth, with Brian Till, Chris Neville, Jamie Howe and Greg Creamer on pit road, and Justin Bell serving as the in-race reporter for Magnus Racing.