As 2017 draws to a close this week, the eyes of the racing world will be focused on Daytona International Speedway at the end of next week as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship returns to action with the three-day Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona test next Friday-Sunday, Jan. 5-7, 2018.
A field of 20 Prototypes and 30 GT race cars has been entered for the mandatory three-day test session as teams and a star-studded field of drivers kick their preparations into high gear for one of the world’s most prestigious endurance races, the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The 56th rendition of the twice-around-the-clock classic is scheduled for Jan. 27-28, 2018.
The 2018 Roar test offers race fans their first glimpse at 2018 WeatherTech Championship and IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge machinery, as well as some intriguing new enhancements. The Roar’s first-ever race, the one-hour, 45-minute IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda season-opener will be held on Saturday, Jan. 6 at 1:15 p.m. A WeatherTech Championship qualifying session will determine garage and pit lane allocations for each team in the Rolex 24 field on Sunday, Jan. 7.
This year’s Roar field includes a pair of 2017 Rolex 24-winning teams, including one with a markedly different driver lineup. While the 2016 GT Le Mans (GTLM) class-winning No. 66 Ford GT from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing features exactly the same driver lineup that won a year ago – Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais – the overall and Prototype class-winning No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team from Wayne Taylor Racing features just one returning driver for 2017, Jordan Taylor, alongside a pair of uber-talented racers in Renger van der Zande and past IndyCar Series champion and Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.
While two of Jordan Taylor’s 2017 co-drivers, Max Angelelli and four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, are not participating in 2018, his other co-driver, Ricky Taylor, with whom he also won the season-long 2017 WeatherTech Championship Prototype title, has moved to Acura Team Penske.
Ricky Taylor will share the No. 7 Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) machine with three-time Indy 500 winner-turned-full-time 2018 WeatherTech Championship racer Helio Castroneves as well as another IndyCar Series star in Graham Rahal, leading a pair of entries from the team.
The Prototype field will include a total of 10 DPi cars, with four Cadillacs, two Acuras, a pair of Nissan DPis and two Mazdas set to participate. There will be 10 LM P2 machines as well, including one Ligier LM P2 from United Autosports that will be driven by Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso.
The GTLM field will feature nine cars, among them the aforementioned No. 66 machine for the defending race champions as part of a two-car Ford Chip Ganassi Racing program. Defending GTLM series champions Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia also will be in the field in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R alongside their endurance racing co-driver, Mike Rockenfeller, as part of a two-car entry from the team.
A pair of Porsche 911 RSRs, the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE and a pair of debuting BMW M8 GTLM race cars from BMW Team RLL complete the entry list for GTLM.
The GT Daytona (GTD) class again will feature the largest class field with a total of 21 entries. Porsche, which won last year’s race with Alegra Motorsports, has three entries in the field, including the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R for two-time defending WeatherTech Championship GTD champion Christina Nielsen, who is teamed with Patrick Long, Mathieu Jaminet and Robert Renauer.
Nielsen moved to Wright Motorsports in the offseason after competing for Scuderia Corsa for the past two seasons. The Scuderia Corsa team will field a pair of Ferrari 488 GT3s, including the No. 63 WeatherTech entry for Alessandro Balzan – with whom Nielsen co-drove to back-to-back titles – as well as Cooper MacNeil, Gunnar Jeannette and Jeff Segal.
The pair of Scuderia Corsa machines are half of a class-leading total of four Ferraris entered for the Rolex 24. The GTD field also includes three entries apiece from Acura, Mercedes-AMG and Lamborghini. Lexus and Audi each will have a pair of GTD machines, while BMW has one in the GTD field.