Tuesday, January 24, 2017

ROLEX 24: Monster GTD class set to invade Daytona's High Banks...

Will The Racer's Group's return to its Porsche 911 roots garner another unexpected victory at Daytona? (Image source: autoweek.com)
Shirley, Ah NO Jokes 'bout; Oh Never Mind! Surely one of the most competitive classes, and definitely the largest...

Of the 55 entries taking part in this year's Roar Before the 24, (Jan 6-8) approximately half or more were contesting what's fast becoming a true manufacturer's playground, with an impressive mix of nine different makes. With entries from Acura, Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lexus, Mercedes and Porsche.

And instead of trying to "Handicap" every Bloody entry, I'll just try highlighting what little I've gleamed from each brand to date;  along with noting various IndyCar "Ringers," i.e.; current drivers along with past Open Wheel Racing participants.

As there's a total of three current IndyCar Drivers taking part, along with a few more that have been discarded...

(2) Acura NSX GT3
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6 turbo
Team: Michael Shank Racing
This is one of the heralded three Factory newcomers this season, as MSR will run a brace of Acura's with a mix of Sports Car Aces from the past DP (Daytona Prototype) and GT classes.

As the No. 86 will feature Oswaldo Oz' Negri Jr. & Jeff, Not Steven Seagull full-time. Tom Dyer will run the Endurance events and The Graminator, nee Graham Rahal will run Daytona.

The Seester' #93 pairs Andy Lally & Thy Leggy Juan', nee Katherine Legge of Champ Car and Indy 500 fame contesting the full season, while Mark Wilkens will run all the Enduros' with "The Dude!" RHR, aka Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indy 500 champion contesting Daytona. As both Hondre' IndyCar drivers are using the Rolex as a winter's Off-season tune-up.

Hard to believe it was five years ago when MSR won the Rolex 24 overall with the aforementioned Oz' Negri, John Pew, A.J. Allmendinger and his good buddy, the late Justin B-I-G' UNIT Wilson...

(1) Aston Martin Vantage GT3
Engine: 6.0-litre normally aspirated V-12
Team Aston Martin Racing
Know absolutely nothin' about this team, other than it's running the famous #98 and features a mix of solid drivers with ex-Formula One's Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, son of triple F1 world champion "Niki-the-Rat" as part of the driving quartet.

(3) Audi R8 LMS
Engine: 5.2-litre normally aspirated V-10
Teams: Alex Job Racing, Montaplast by Land-Motorsport  and Stevenson Motorsports
Have already briefly covered my ex-Homeboyz' No. 23 Alex Job Racing's (AJR) switch to Audi this year, as their press release claims that the Audi R8 LMS has been updated this year.

This trio of entries could be sleepers, as the #57 Stevenson Motorsports are familiar; as think they're past GTD class winners? Whilst I cannot find any information regarding the No. 29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport entry.

(1) BMW M6
Engine: 4.4-litre V-8 turbo
Team: Turner Motorsports
Zero  inkling 'bout this team, or if they participated at the Roar Before the Rolex 24?

(2) Ferrari 488 GT3
Engine: 3.9-litre V-8 turbo
Teams: Scuderia Corsa & Spirit of Race
Defending IMSA GTD Class champions Christina Nielsen &
Alessandro Balzan are back to defend their crown in the #63 Prancing Horse, with Matteo Cressoni & Sam Bird, an ex-GP2 Hot Schue helping out with the driving chores.

The No. 51 Spirit of Race is totally unknown to Mwah, as it flies the flag 'O Switzerland and believe it's making it's Rolex 24 debut.

As too bad "Symona-Symona" (de Silvestro) couldn't pull "Double Duty" aboard the No. 51 like her Kiwi' V8 Supercars compatriot "The Giz'" (Shane van Gisbergen in the #50 AMG Mercedes...

(9) Lamborghini Huracan GT3
Engine: 5.2-litre normally aspirated V-10
Teams: Change Racing, DAC Motorsports, Dream Racing Motorsport, Ebimotors, GRT Grasser Racing Team, Konrad Motorsport and Paul Miller Racing
For Mwah, I'll be most interested to see how the #18 DAC Motorsports three quarters Hosers' lime-up does, with current Indy Lights competitor Zachary Claman De Melo being the KuhNuck driver with the longest name on the totally Bacon; Err Kuhnaidiun driving roster! As Yank' Anthony Massari is NOT like the others; Hya!

(Other Hurricane runners include the No. 16 Change Racing, the #27 Dream Racing Motorsport Lambo. Italy's No. 46 Ebimotors, GRT Grasser Racing Team's two car entry, as the Austrian flagged squad will enter the No's 11 & 61.

Konrad Motorsport has changed quite a bit since it's Saleen S7R GT Le Mans days, now running one of the plethora of Huracan GT3's,  with the #21 on its flanks - while I've never heard of this Paul Miller Racing squad, running the No. 48.

(2) Lexus RC F GT3
Engine: 5.0-litre normally aspirated V-8
Team: 3GT Racing
Have previously scribbled 'bout this new Factory Toy-Yoter squad. As the legendous' Scotty "Scooter" Pruett and Sage "Dangerboy" Karam are the famed No. 14's full-time chauffeurs, whilst ex-A.J. Foyt Enterprises IndyCar driver Union' Jack Hawksworth slides behind the keyboard of the Seester' #15 with Robert Alon for the season.

Past longtime AJR/Team Seattle Stud Ian James and BAD ARSE Sports Car Ace Dominik Farnbacher join the team for the Endurance events, as Dominik, who's won the Rolex 24 GTD class previously in a Riley Viper will co-drive the #15, with James getting seat-time in the No. 14.

(4) Mercedes AMG GT3
Engine: : 6.2-litre normally aspirated V-8
Teams: Lone Star Racing, Riley Team AMG/Riley Motorsports - Weathertech Racing and SunEnergy 1 Racing
Interestingly, Mario Farnbacher, one of AJR/Team Seattle's past winners alongside Ian James, takes over the seat vacated by his brother Dominik for the North American Endurance Cup events - aboard the No. 33 AMG Team Riley entry. With reigning V8 Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen part of the Riley Motorsports Weathertech Racing's #50 mount.

And whilst I know Nothin' about half of the racing teams campaigning this chassis new to IMSA GT Daytona class competition, ergo (#80) Lone Star Racing & (#75) SunEnergy1 Racing. I've heard the Merc' described as a stunner, drawing a crowd when just sitting parked in the Paddock.

And it's also apparently Bloody Fast! As ex-IndyCar driver Tristan Turbo' Vautier, who's joined by Boris Said and Aussie Kenny Habul, the president of SunEnergy in the No. 75 sliced his way to top of the class's Time-sheets during one Roar Before practice session.

(5) Porsche 911 GT3R
Engine: 4.0-litre Flat-Six, normally aspirated

Teams: Alegra Motorsports, Cor Autosport, Manthey Racing, Park Place Motorsports and The Racer's Group
While I'm partial to the No. 73 Park Place entry, who I've scribbled 'bout recently, they'll have their Nomex gloves full for not only best Porsche GTD Honours but scoring that most elusive class victory.

As Stuttgart's represented with the second most entrants, trailing only the "Hurricane" runners. Although I've got NO idea who this #28 Alegra outfit is?

Meanwhile, Manthey Racing's #59, as NO idea if they're running any retro themed Brumos colours in deference to running the past team's legendary number? Saw Porsche Factory Hot Schue Sven Müller  cap the Roar Before by setting the class's fastest time Sunday.

As suppose it's appropriate that the lone German Porsche team was fastest, Ja-Ja...

And probably shouldn't overlook the No. 54 Cor Autosport entry, who's Driver lineup's pretty stout with John Bennett, Colin Braun, Nick Johansson and Porsche Factory Ace Patrick Long.

Whilst the wily Kevin Buckler, who won Daytona overall in a Porsche 911, has rejoined the fold with his long running The Racer's Group (TRG) #991 troupe including ex-Champ Car Star Jan "Van Hagar" Heyland...

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