Can the "little Car that Could!" Mazda's RT24P with the smallest displacement engine be victorious this year? Specifically the No. 55? (Image source: roadandtrack.com)
As who'll make history as the Sport's first new Prototype to win Daytona now that the 'Ol Grand Am DP's have been retired...
The biggest news for this year's 55th running of the Rolex 24 is the new top flight Prototype (P) category, now that the 'Ol Daytona Prototypes (DP) are no longer allowed. With the class being effectively split into two rival factions, the IMSA Daytona Prototype International's (DPi) and the Le Mans LMP2 competitors - with the DPi allowing manufacturer specific Bodywork vs. LMP2's approved suppliers with Spec engine and ECU.
Interestingly, it appears that both groups are represented equally with three manufacturers apiece. And the relative lack of IMSA entrants makes me think of when the Daytona Prototypes were brand new during the Grand Am days before the class steadily increased in size.
As it'll be interesting to see who prevails overall and how equal in performance the two sides 'O thee Puddle are, and who'll ultimately win the race...
According to Zed Internetz', found the following seven entrants listed for this year's Rolex 24...
Cadillac DPi VR
Engine: 6.2-litre normally aspirated V-8
Teams: Action Express Racing & Wayne Taylor Racing
#5) João Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque
#10) Jordan & Ricky Taylor, Max Angelelli and Jeff Gordon
#31) Dane Cameron, Eric Curran, Mike Conway and Seb Morris
Surely A-L-L eyes will be focused upon Wayne Taylor's spiffy, brand new No. 10 Cadd-Oh-Lac', with RASSCAR' legend Jeffry "Pretty Boy" Gordon moonlighting alongside its regular driver trio, which sees The Brother's Taylor joined by Max "the Ax" Angelelli, who'll retire from racing following the event.
Yet (AXR) Action Express Racing's two car squad shouldn't be overlooked, after all having won the last three consecutive Daytona Prototype (DP) class championships, twice with the formable Duo of JB', aka João Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, now piloting their No. 5 "Mustang Sally;" Err Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi, with NO Mach 5 jokes here; Hya! As João 's Countryman Filipe Albuquerque joins the Mustang Boyz for the Rolex 24 event.
the team's Seester' car features the reigning (DP) champs Dane Cameron & Eric Curran aboard the #31 Welland Engineering Caddy, with some Dude known as Mike "Ice-Ice, Baby!" Conway joining them at Daytona.
Whilst Conway's "Union Jack" brethren Seb Morris, a GP3 racer's name just appeared after the Roar Before 24...
Engine: 2.0-litre Inline-4 turbo
Team: Mazda Motorsports
#55) Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez and Spencer Pigot
#70) Tom Long, Joel Miller and James Hinchcliffe
Suppose the Biggest Name on the Mazda Driver Roll is thee "Mayor 'O Hinchtown" Eh! As the KuhNuck's still fresh upon everyone's radar after finishing runner-up in the latest Dancing With the Stars contest - While last year's rookie IndyCar driver Spencer Pigot who capped off his partial season for Ed Carpenter Racing, (ECR) having just been confirmed for another IndyCar season with ECR, is the other guest chauffer.
And whilst I don't know Nothing 'bout Messer's Long & Miller, Jonathan Bomarito's name was bandied about as a possible US F1 driver - Along with representing Team USA abroad.
While I've been High upon Tristan Nunez ever since Tacoma Bureau Chief Mary Ellen read me a story 'bout him in an obscure Portland "Fishwrap" awhile ago, having named him my 2012 nifSTAR winner...
Nissan Onroak DPi
Engine: 3.8-litre V-6 turbo
Team: Extreme Speed Motorsports
#2) Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and Pipo Derani
22) Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek, Bruno Senna and Brendon Hartley
Extreme Speed Motorsports (ESM) is ex-IndyCar racer Scotty Sharp's concern funded by Ed Brown and his Tequila Patron patronage, as ESM is the defending Rolex 24 Overall winner's, albeit the team's now campaigning new DPi Prototype's clad in Nissan bodywork.
Pipo Derani was the revelation 'O North American Sports Car racing last year, with the Brazilian wringing the neck of Tequila Patron ESM's Ligier JSP2 Honda to victory at Daytona when coming from behind! And then duplicated the feat next at Sebring to give ESM back-to-back endurance wins.
Have lamented much over the year's here on No Fenders over how past overall Rolex 24 and Le Mans class winner, and ultimate BAD ARSE Ryan "Razzle-Dazzle" Dalziel never got his fair shot in Indy Cars.
Meanwhile, that other Brazilian's name should be familiar, as that's the late Ayrton Senna's nephew Bruno, an ex-Formula 1 Pilote joining the All-Star circus at DayToner - who team owner Scotty Sharp sez' is wickedly quick!
Whilst the fourth Hot Schue on the #22's roster AIN'T NO Slouch either! Since Kiwi' driver Brendon Hartley, not only is a Factory Porsche LMP1 Pilote', but also won the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship aboard Porsche's amazing 919 Hybrid.
As these "Blown" Nissan's are sporting Onroak bodywork, for which Onroak Automotives the parent company of Ligier, which won the race last year. But think the verdict's still out upon the Nissan turbocharged lumps'.
And although I don't expect them to win, suppose they shouldn't be discounted, since perhaps these are proven LMP2 spec units that race at Circuit de la Sarthe?
The FIA sanctioned World Endurance Championship's (WEC) "Junior" )Le Mans Prototype) LMP2 category competitors will only be allowed to race with one of four designated chassis suppliers chosen by the ACO, the governing body of le 24 Heurs du Mans: Oreca, Ligier, Dallara and Riley. while only one engine's allowed, along with a single ECU supplier.
Engine: 4.2-litre normally aspirated V-8
Teams: DragonSpeed, JDC-Miller Motorsports and Rebellion Racing
#13) Neil Jani, Nick Heidfeld, Sebastien Buemi and Stephane Sarrazin
#81) Loic Duvall, Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman and Nicolas Lapierre
#85) Mikhail Goikhberg, Stephen Simpson, Chris Miller and Mathias Beche
Interestingly, the No. 81 DragonSpeed entry is owned by American ex-Formula 1 hopeful Elton Julian, who was the last Yank' to test a F1 chassis for Larrousse in 1994 before Scott Speed finally flew the Stars 'N Stripes in Formula One for Toro Rosso in 2006.
As Loic Duvall, & Nicolas Lapierre's names are familiar to Mwah, both from competing in the 24 Heurs du Mans, whilst my apologies to the #85 JDC-Miller Motorsports entry, whom I don't recognize any of their drivers.
Yet many eyes will probably be focused upon the All-star quartet of Rebellion Racing's lucky number 13 - with such luminaries as ex-Champ Car, Works Porsche LMP1 Hot Schue and reigning Le Mans winner Neil Jani. Joined by three former Formula 1 Pilotes', most notably "Quick Nick" Heidfeld and the "Two Sebastian's," aka Sebastien Buemi & Stephane Sarrazin. With the latter duo having considerable seat-time in the top-tier LMP1 Hybrid Factory rides for Toyota and Peugeot.
Rebellion Racing's given up upon the LMP1 Privateer class, which only had one lone class competitor vs. the team's yearly intra-squad Scrum for bragging rights as the unheralded champions. Hence, opting in favour of some "True" racing in the much more competitive LMP2 class this year, along with their Debutante outing at Daytona.
Ligier JS P2 17
Engine: 4.2-litre normally aspirated V-8
Team: PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports
#52) Tom Kimber-Smith, Jose Gutierrez, Mike Guasch and RC Enerson
This Ligier entry, for what I'm Cornfuzed over. since what's the difference between an Onroak and Ligier Sports Car? See's the No. 52 sporting two familiar sounding names, with the lesser known Kimber-Smith's also from racing in WEC, where I believe he's won LMP2 Honours; which he's achieved three times, most notably for Mwah with Razzle-Dazzle' Dalziel for Starwork Motorsports in 2012.
Also Kimber-smith almost swept the PC (Prototype Challenge) North American Endurance Cup races in 2015, winning that year's Rolex 24, 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans.
As Kimber-Smith won Daytona aboard his current team's past PC class entry with one of his co-drivers being Mike Guasch, with PR1/ Mathiasen Motorsports having stepped up to the B-I-G' BOYZ category this year for Daytona...
But the name that jumps out to Mwah upon this driver's roster is IndyCar phenom RC Enerson, as the 19yr old teenager mightily impressed with his brief outing for Dale Coyne Racing last year, but like many talented youngsters is currently looking for a ride.
Engine: 4.2-litre normally aspirated V-8
Team: Visit Florida Racing
#90) Renger van der Zande, Marc Goossens and Rene Rast
Probably the most unknown of A-L-L the Top-tier competitors to Mwah, as I didn't even know Riley Technologies was awarded one of the four LMP2 chassis supplies, which they're partnering Oh KanaDuh's Multimatic to produce.
As Visit Florida Racing is another of the ex-Corvette DP runners a la Action Express Racing & Wayne Taylor Racing who had to upgrade this year after the (Daytona Prototypes were no longer eligible.
As believe last year their guest co-driver was RHR "The Dude!" Ryan Hunter-Reay? Since I know he's driven for them before. While Mark Goossens name is familiar, as he's been around Sports Car racing for awhile now, as I tend to recall him being one tough Hombre who was part of Paul GOOFY! Gentilozzi's Rocketsports Racing Factory Jaguar XJR GT team during its American Le Mans Series days.
So just how did the DPi runners vs. LMP2 Boyz' stack-up? Y'all can check out Marshall Pruett's typical Yeoman-like assessment in;
The most overlooked and least interesting segment of IMSA's Weathertech SportsCar Championship for Mwah, is the Prototype Challenge (PC) category, which perhaps is withering on the vine with its scant amount 'O participants this year?
As the biggest name in the category arguably is 2004 Indy 500 winner Buddy "Hot Rod" Rice's return to full-time racing this season aboard the No. 20 BAR1 Motorsport sentry, whom among the quintet 'O chauffeurs for Daytona includes "The Yack!" aka Gustavo Yacamán, a past (2009-2012) Indy Lights competitor who battled vs. James Hinchcliffe - amongst others for championship honours. Peaking with third place overall in 2012, but never quite made the next step to Indy Cars.
As just look for the bright green Gas Monkey sponsored PC entry to find Rice, Yacaman & Company...