Monday, January 21, 2013

ROLEX 24: 2013 Daytona Classic - Questions abound over Defending DP winners

As typical, this coming weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway; January 26-27 will once again kick off major motor racing in the United States and feature another bumper crop of B-I-G name drivers, with several Open Wheel Racing Starz competing, not to mention luminaries from the Sports Car world along with ex-Formula 1 and ‘RASSCAR drivers in the mix...

 And I said questions abound over the reigning overall champions of Michael Shank Racing (MSR)  since upon my initial crack at this year’s preview (Dec 31) Shank’s two Riley-Ford DP’s, (Daytona Prototype) the No’s 6 & 60 were both listed as TBA.

As I’m ‘ARSE-sumin’ there was some lingering doubts over AJ Almendinger’s inclusion? Although in his defense, NASCAR did reinstate him from his substance abuse infraction, not to mention that he made multiple starts for the Minnowesqe Phoenix Racing team in the latter stages of the 2012 season... Thus, there should be NO Problema over Almendinger being eligible to defend his Rolex title in 2013, as hopefully AJ will be reunited with co-winner Justin ‘BIG UNIT Wilson once again, while I just noticed that Marcos ‘Tazzy Ambrose was slated to test with MSR in The Roar Before on Jan 4-6...

IndyCar Participants
Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti will once again be part of the two car Target Armada; this year being paired with Jamie McMurry & Factory BMW DTM driver Joey Hand behind the keyboard of the No. 02 Riley-BMW DP.

Meanwhile Juan Pablo ‘MAC Montoya will be reunited with Scott ‘Scooter Pruett, Memo Rojas & Rolex debutant “G2” driver Charlie Kimball in the No. 01.

As always, looking like a strong contender for victory is “le Hamburgular” (Sebastain Bourdais) aboard the star-studded No. 2 Starworks Riley-Ford DP

“Symone Pagenoe” is another Frenchman worth looking out for, as Simon Pagenaud has always been brutally quick whilst piloting the ultra competitive Peugeot’s at Circuit de la Sarthe (Le Mans) and surely must be a factor at the controls of the No. 42 Riley-BMW DP this year.

Thee Mayor ‘O Hinchtown, aka James Hinchcliffe will return to Daytona Beach once again competing in the newly created GX Class aboard a Mazda 6 diesel; co-driving the No. 70 with Marino Franchitti, Jonathan Bomarito and Sylvain Tremblay - looking to be the class favourite.

Ex-IndyCar driver ‘Rafa Matos will be part of the four man “Squadra  Brasilia,” spending seat time behind the wheel of the No. 64 Squadra Corsa GT Ferrari 458 Italia.

And although I’d ‘LUV to see Pagenaud atop the podium this year, my sentimental pick for winner instead will go to the most likely unheralded  No. 5 Action Express Racing’s Corvette DP with ex-CART racer Christian Fittipaldi alongside ex-Formula 1 competitor  turned ‘PickemUp racer “Nielsen Pickett Junior,” aka  Nelson Piquet Jr. sandwiching rising star Felipe Nasr in the cockpit.

On the final day of Twenty-twelve, Doran Racing confirmed that thee irrepressible “Thrill from the West Hill,” a la Messer Chrome Horn, aka Paul Tracy or simply ‘PT would be joined for this year’s Rolex 24 by Dr. Jim Lowe, Jon Bennett and Colin Braun Behind the wheel of the team’s No. 77 upgraded “Gen-3” Riley-Ford DP machine.

And the hits just keep on coming as another late announcement was that ‘rubino  (Rubens Barrichello) will be making his Rolex 24 debut alongside his “Younger Brother” ‘TK “Follow-your-Schnoz” Kanaan in the GT Ranks.

And once again, Memo Gidley will co-drive the No. 99 Bob Stallings Racing Corvette-DP, as the “Red Dragon” looks to break their Daytona 24hrs jinx...

Last Minute Announcements
And although I’d already discovered that ex-CART winner Massimiliano “MAD MAX” Papis would be back at Daytona aboard the No. 61 AIM Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia in the GT class, it was announced on Jan 3 that this would now become the squad’s “All starz” car with Mad Max pairing with Jeff Segal and Ferrari Factory drivers “Fishy-fellah” (Giancarlo Fisichella) and Toni Vilander.

Also announced the day prior to the pre-season test was the additions of RHR, nee Ryan Hunter-Reay to the Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Corvette DP line-up, while ‘TAG, aka Alex Tagliani was announced as one of the drivers for the No. 8 Starworks Riley-Ford DP entry - with his co-drivers still not being revealed.

And Justin Wilson was indeed back behind the wheel of MSR’s No. 60 Riley-Ford DP, joined by Oswaldo ‘Ozz Negri, John Pew and Marcos ‘Tazzy Ambrose; while A.J. Allmendinger showed he’d lost none of his winning form by putting the No. 60 atop the timesheets on Day-1 during a 12-lap stint.

MSR’s ‘Seester-car, the No. 6 will once again feature Indy Lights drivers Gustavo Yacaman and Jorge Goncalvez partnering with Michael Valiante and Chris Cumming.

Bruno Junqueira apparently tweeted he’d gotten just 4-laps in due to some sort of issues, but he liked it! Uhm, you like it now, you’re gonna learn to ‘LUV I-T! Hee-hee-hee... (As I saw the tweet on the Grand Am website upon Day-1 testing activity) As look for the SFHR substitute driver to be paired with Simon Pagenaud in the Team Sahlen No. 42 racecar...

Viva la France
On top of my favourite French twosome - I notice that it looks like the ex-Peugeot hired guns have come Across-thee-Pond to attack the high banks of ‘DayToner... Having spotted discarded CART driver “McNicholas” (Nicolas Minassian) and ex-WRC racer St├ęphane Sarrazin; both competing in the Big Boyz category aboard the appropriately named 8-Star Motorsports team’s No. 3 Corvette DP, alongside ex-Peugeot teammates Pedro Lamy and ‘ANT, nee Anthony Davidson, as Venezuela’s Enzo Potolicchio must truly feel like the team’s 5th wheel of this ex-French Factory Works driver quartet. Then again since Enzo owns the team, may be it’s the Peugeot Boyz who feel somewhat adrift? Now if only “Nicky” could find his passport!

Reigning Indy Lights champion, and hopeful IndyCar rookie this year; Tristan Vautier will team with two other rising stars: FF2000’s Spencer Pigot and Team USA Formula Ford champion Tristan Nunez aboard the No. 00 VISIT FLORIDA Racing/SpeedSource/Yellow Dragon with  Yojiro Terada and Joel Miller also co-driving the Mazda 6 diesel in the GX class. As I think it’d be awesome to see these young whippersnappers beat up upon the class rival No. 70 entry...

GT Class
There’s at least four B-I-G NAMES competing in the GT ranks this year; ‘Whale obviously more than that, yet I’m guessing the focus will be upon the aforementioned duo of TK & Rubino moonlighting in the No. 21 Dener Racing Porsche 911. While once again Mikey “Ah Shucks” Waltrip will bring his Ferrari 458 Italia to the party along with team driver Clint “Fisticuffs” Bowyer in the No. 56.

The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro has a pretty stout driver quintet featuring the likes of past Star Mazda and Toyota Atlantics champion John Edwards, (not the politician) ultra BAD ARSE GM Factory Boyz ‘MAGS, nee Jan Magnessen, multiple Grand Am winner Robin Liddell, Tommy Milner and the relatively unknown Daniel Graeff.

This is just a small smattering ‘O local talent, as I know, what about all of the ‘KuhNucks from next door Vancouver, BC, eh? Hey! You try typing down everybody’s name; Otay? Thus I just kept to my home state, along with some ‘Ol Crooner from Oregon; Hya!

Not sure if there’s any homegrown talent behind the wheel here, but Parkplace is a local car dealership...

No. 72: Parkplace Motorsports - Porsche GT3 Cup
Chuck Cole, Grant Phipps. Mike Vess and Alex Whitman.

No. 73: Parkplace Motorsports - Porsche GT3 Cup
Patrick Lindsey, Jason Hart, Patrick Long and Spencer Pumpelly.

No. 99: Bob Stalling Racing - Corvette-DP
John “CCR” Fogarty; Bend, Oregon. (Transplanted Californian - Two-time Toyota Atlantics champion...)

Ex-Champ Car Boyz
No. 21/23: Dener Racing - Porsche 911; Max Wilson? (Since it appears his name mysteriously disappeared off the entry list on Jan 7th...)
No. 87: Vehicle Technologies - Dodge Viper; Jan “Van Hagar” Heylen

My Picks
Currently there’s 17 DP’s, 34 GT’s and six GX’s entered for the race, which I attempted counting from the semi-official entry list found upon Zed Internetz.

As once again I’m torn between Justin & AJ vs. Dalziel’ & McNish, although I’d prefer seeing the “Brasilian Bombers” No. 5 of Fittipaldi, Nasr & Piquet win overall. With my second choice being the TCH (Team Chrome Horn) No. 77 while my third pick goes to the Dynamic Scottish Duo behind the keyboard of the No. 2 Starworks entry, or should I root for an unlikely repeat victory by the No. 60?

Yet I’d enjoy seeing either of my Dark Horse picks of France’s Dynamic Duo “Gene Gerard + le Hamburgular,” nee “Symone & Sebastain,” France’s “S-squared.” As I’m not sure who’d be Inspector Cluesoe or “Kato?” Of this Frenchie Open Wheel Racing tour de force win, albeit on paper ‘SeaBasses driver line-up looks far more stout than Pagenaud’s No. 42; HELL! Even le French twosome’s No. 3 looks far stronger, as who’d uh-thunk I-T? That I’d actually be hoping for Bruno ‘Whineybags Junqueira to join Pagenaud behind the wheel.

While I’ll definitely be rootin’ for the No’s 72 & 73 of local exotica car boutique dealer Parkplace Motorsports - and would ‘LUV seeing my “Homies” (that’s ‘Dawgstah speak...) Western ‘Warshintonian entrant pull off the unthinkable with a class victory... You’ve gotta be somewhat more realistic, albeit I’ve never heard of any of the #72’s drivers and alas, I’d have to go with the stronger line-up of the ‘Seester #73 car instead. Hey, you can’t go against Porsche Factory “Hot Schue” Patrick Long, and Spenser Pumpelly is no slouch either...

thus my first choice is the No. 73 to take the wood to the TRG Porsche Panzerwagon armada; with my second choice being the No. 61, with my final podium  position for class victory being a three-way tie between the No’s 31, 57 & 64, albeit not necessarily in that order. As how can you not root for Boris Said, Rafa, Edwards or ‘MAGS!

And I’m definitely pullin’ for the double ought, No. 00 to be victorious in the newly created GX class - as I still don’t fully understand this classes objectives, as it pits three clean diesel’s vs. Porsche Cayman GTR’s and a lone Lotus Evora; but Zoom Zoom; Err GO number Zero-Zero...