Tuesday, January 23, 2018

ROLEX 24: Come On Down, Who'll be the Next GTLM Entrant to win at Daytona in 2018?

Can the new BMW M8 GTE Coupe, specifically the #25 be victorious at Daytona this year? (Image source: bmwblog.com)
And who'll win the third edition of IMSA's current GT Le Mans rules, which I believe were set for 2016-18 - with Corvette and Ford being tied with one W' apiece...

As not only had I forgotten that Ford's latest iteration of its legendous' GT won last year's event, but per tipicali here on Thy Isle 'O Nofendersville, where time simply Zoom-Zooms' by, I've had very little lately due to finally getting to re-charge Thy Batteries from another just concluded marvelously wonderful two weeks Roadtrip.

Hence, I didn't have time to follow the outcome of this year's Roar Before test session, and having just returned a week's time before the Grid's set for this year's Daytona 24hrs, naturally am playin' Ketsup to Poond Out the multitudes of this year's three IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship Classes, specifically the plethora of Rolex 24 contestants.

Hey, You try analyzing 50 Car/Driver/Team combinations; SHEISA!

And although I actually first began studying the lower tier GT Daytona runners first following Santa's arrival, instead, I began with the Big Brother Grand Touring Le Mans (GTLM) Class for obvious reasons, i.e.; least competitors and most stable line-ups - which only sees one manufacturer unveiling a new "Hammer" for this year's GTLM Scrum, which surely will be another good 'Ol fashion Donnybrook Especially with two less contestants evening the Pitch.

(2) Corvette Racing
Chassis: Corvette C7R
Engine: 5.5-litre normally aspirated V-8
#3) Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller
#4) Oliver Gabin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler

The "Fly Yellow" Stingray Vettes' were simply outclassed, or was that Out-gassed, Eh? As "the General's" kept the driver lineups intact. Including former Audi Overall  24 Heurs du Mans winner's Marcel Fassler and Mike "Rocky" Rockenfeller remaining for the endurance events.

Last year saw the No. 3 of MAGS' (Jan Magnussen) Garcia and Rocky' (Rockenfeller) Hmm? Why do I feel a Rocky & Bullwinkle Joke coming on here? Cymbol Crash please! With the trio ultimately finishing fourth in class as the highest finishing Stingray.

As the mid-engine runners, especially the "Blown" turbos seemed to have the legs' upon the Vettes', yet their reliability and precision Pit stops shouldn't be overlooked. Not to mention they've won the championship the past two consecutive years, and the drivers should know their mounts inside 'N out.

(2) BMW Team RLL
Chassis: BMW M8 GTE
Engine: 4.0-litre V-8 Turbo
#24) John Edwards, Augusto Farfus, Nicky Catsburg and Jesse Krohn
#25) Bill Auberlen, Connor De Phillippi, Alexander Sims and Philipp Eng

Bobby Rahal, Dave Letterman and Mike Lanigan keep Thar decade long tenure as BMW Team RLL  rolling on, with the biggest change being the debut of BMW's M8 GTE coupe propelled by a smaller four-litre V-8 twin-turbo lump'. Whilst the Driver line-ups get tweaked.

Martin Tomczyk AND Augusto Farfus will join the WEC effort, With Farfus Contesting THE ENTIRE deutsche Touren Wagen Masters (DTM) season. While  Catsburg & Eng will pull "Double Duty" by also competing abroad in the World Endurance Championship campaign.

Yet most notably is the changing of the guard, with longtime Bimmer Billy' making way for Connor De Phillippi     to contest the full season. As Auberlen will contest just the Enduros' along with his Brand Ambassadorship role. While Kuno Wittmer and Bruno Spengler are effectively replaced by BMW Junior recruit Jesse Krohn and Philipp Eng, while Tomczyk moonlights in GT Daytona.

Only knock upon the M8 is that it's brand new, and invariably will run into teething issues, regardless of how much testing it's completed before its first true Baptism under Fire...

(1) Risi Competizione
Chassis: Ferrari 488 GTE
Engine: 3.9-litre V-8 turbo
#62) Toni Vilander, James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Davide Rigon

Once again, Maranello's represented by the lone entry of its latest Prancing Horse, campaigned by Houston's Risi Competizione, whom even with their Scuderia connection, seem to still be struggling financially? As reportedly they'll only be sending one driver to the Roar Before.

Although that's just what I read via Racer magazine prior to going on Holiday the weekend of The Roar Before, then noticing upon return that they've added a second Italiano, nee Messer Rigon, a Scuderia Ferrari test driver to the roster...

Also, not sure what's going on with 'Ol "Fishyfellah," nee ex-Formula 1 Ace Giancarlo Fisichella, who's been replaced by another Italiano this January.

Although Alessandro Pier Guidi is a longtime Tintop Pilote, with much experience with la Scuderia Me Thinks? Along with having won the 2014 Rolex 24 GT Daytona class aboard a Ferrari 458 Italia.

Pier Guidi's reportedly signed a contract with Ferrari, and at age 34, I'm wondering if Maranello feels the older Fishyfellah's getting a 'Wee bit long in thou tooth?

Meanwhile, James Calado, who briefly led the class near the race's finish last year, before getting "Duped" by eventual class winner Dirk Muller, who's pass was so brazenly impressive that it also enabled Porsche's Patrick Pilet to slip by! Seeing Calado wind-up third in class, will obviously wish to rectify this fading outcome.

(2) Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Chassis: Ford GT
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6 turbo
#66) Joey Hand, Dirk Muller and Sebastian Bourdais
#67) Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon

Just like his IndyCar Team, Cheeps' slimming down to just two cars for this year's Rolex 24, albeit with the defending class winner, aka the No. 66. As funny how a year screams by and Yuhs forget that riveting finish put on by Dirk Muller...

As Cheeps' North American IMSA Drivers are all back, with two current 2018 IndyCar chauffeurs in tow, Ganassi's Number One Man Scott Dixon, whilst ARSE-Sumedly le Hamburgular', nee SeaBass', aka Sebastain Bourdais will be itching to continue his rehab after last year's monstrous Shunt at Mother Speedway during qualifying!

(2) Porsche GT Team
Chassis: Porsche 911 RSR
Engine: 4.0-litre normally aspirated Flat-six
#911) Patrick Pilet, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy
#912) Gianmaria Bruni, Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber

Upon Porsche withdrawing from the vaunted WEC Hybrid Prototypes category last year, two thirds of its` winning 24 Heurs du Mans trio move Stateside this season to bolster Weissach's GT Le Mans North American "Works" squad.

With New Zealander Earl Bamber and United Kingdom's Nick Tandy taking one seat apiece respectively, whilst Bamber's Countryman Brendon Hartley graduates to Formula 1, becoming the first Kiwi in F1 in some three Bloody Decades!

Fifty percent of last year's driving lineup's been retained, including two-thirds of le "Frenchie's," Pardon Mwah Monsieur, Uhm, continuing this year with Tandy now being the meat in le Ménage Twah between Pilet and Makowiecki; Hya!

Belgium's Vanthoor returns, although now with two new Co-drivers, the aforementioned Bamber, and former Minardi Formula 1 driver ) Gianmaria Bruni, whom extricated himself from being a factory Prancing Horse Pilote last year.

As the new & improved mid-engine 911's had a season's racing underneath it's belt and should be a Contendah' with its stout Driver pairings...