VIPER – This is SRT Motorsports' biggest test to date. The Vipers return for the first time since Baltimore, where the No. 91 failed to start following a heavy practice accident by Dominik Farnbacher. Since that date, for more than a month, it's been a thrash to rebuild and reload one of the team's two cars.
Both driver lineups are bolstered – IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay makes his much anticipated Viper debut alongside Farnbacher and Kuno Wittmer, while Jonathan Bomarito partners with Tommy Kendall and Marc Goossens in the sister No. 93. Both RHR and Bomarito have endurance experience, although RHR's has been in prototypes whereas Bomarito, a Mazda RX-8 veteran, is well suited to the rigors of GT endurance racing.
With a class win unlikely, the goal for both cars has to be to get to the end and put a period on the brief debut season.
LOTUS – Rather quietly, Alex Job's squad has improved the second half of the season. This marks the Evora's second endurance race (six-plus hours) in Job's hands; barely sorted at Monterey, the car retired early in May.
The disadvantage of having a gentleman second driver in Bill Sweedler is negated for a longer-distance race. He and Townsend Bell are joined by the most experienced Evora driver on the market in Lotus factory shoe Johnny Mowlem, who will be able to provide a wealth of feedback and insight into the car.
Like the Viper, it's not an outright threat on pace but can set itself up for a strong finish simply by circulating and avoiding reliability pitfalls. And, to be fair, Bell and Sweedler already have an endurance race victory this year – they co-drove AJR's winning GTC class entry at Sebring with Dion von Moltke.
GTC – ALMS' least heralded and perhaps least appreciated class ends its season with a respectable seven-car entry, although only four of the cars have run full-time. Cooper MacNeil clinched the class title at VIR co-driving with Leh Keen, and for the second time this year Alex Job Racing has played the driver ratings card to its advantage in signing a third driver who is probably better than his FIA classification would indicate (von Moltke is a Silver-rated driver).
Poor luck has tended to strike the other full-time cars for the rest of this year. Green Hornet, for instance, has only a single win despite Damien Faulkner's run of poles – poor luck has struck the green No. 34 in almost every race this season. TRG has been rather inconsistent, not for anything Spencer Pumpelly has done but more for fluidity in his co-drivers, all who start the race and tend to hit trouble. JDX has improved from its first season and nabbed its first win at Mid-Ohio, but not with its normal driver lineup – Michael Valiante is a better talent than his results would indicate.
The part-timers are Competition Motorsports, back again with helicopter movie pilot David Calvert-Jones, an IMSA GT3 Cup regular making his ALMS debut alongside its two normal drivers. NGT has two cars entered but neither has an inspiring driver lineup.
The most glaring omission from the class field is Jeroen Bleekemolen, who won his first three starts in class this year for three different teams (TRG, JDX, Job) and was second for NGT last race at VIR. He is racing in the Australian V8 Supercars' event at Surfers' Paradise as one of the guest drivers this weekend. With only one Platinum or Gold-rated driver allowed, the generally accepted fastest driver in class won't be in this year's field – which opens the door for most of the entries to take a class win.