The symphony of sports car sounds once again will be heard over the next two days at Daytona International Speedway with a two-day test including the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda.
The WeatherTech Championship, which has 18 entries across its three classes, will have four on-track sessions spread out over two days of testing. The entry list includes 10 Prototype (P) cars, five GT Le Mans (GTLM) entries and three GT Daytona (GTD) race cars with a primary aim of gathering data on new-for-2018 race cars or cars that have undergone some evolution since the end of the 2017 season.
The Prototype class will include both Acura Team Penske Daytona Prototype international (DPi) entries: the No. 6 Acura ARX-05 shared by Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron and Simon Pagenaud and the No. 7 entry for Helio Castroneves, Graham Rahal and 2017 WeatherTech Championship Prototype champion Ricky Taylor.
The other half of the 2017 championship-winning driver lineup, and the 2017 Prototype champion team, also will participate in the test. Jordan Taylor, who won the season title alongside his older brother, will welcome his new co-driver, Renger van der Zande, to the cockpit of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R for Wayne Taylor Racing.
Fresh off last week’s driver lineup announcement and new-for-2018 livery unveiling, Mazda Team Joest will break cover with its pair of Mazda RT24-P DPi race cars. Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell are slated to share the No. 55 Mazda, with Oliver Jarvis and Rene Rast ticketed for the No. 77 machine.
Tequila Patron ESM, which closed out the 2017 season with a victory at Motul Petit Le Mans, will have one Nissan DPi at the test, the No. 2 machine to be shared by Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel. However, one of the team’s other full-season drivers for 2018 will be in another car at this test, as Pipo Derani will share the Gibson V8-powered No. 9 Ligier LM P2 with Will Owen for constructor Onroak Automotive.
In January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, Owen will be part of the United Autosports lineup that also will include Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso. Including the aforementioned Onroak entry, the test will include a total of four LM P2 machines.
JDC-Miller Motorsports, which ran among the frontrunners in many 2017 WeatherTech Championship events, will be present with its No. 85 ORECA LM P2. Incumbent JDC-Miller driver Stephen Simpson will be joined by Simon Trummer – who was introduced last week as the team’s first driver for its second entry in 2018 – and Robert Alon, who raced a Lexus RC F GT3 last season for 3GT Racing in the GTD class.
Another group moving from GTD to Prototype in 2018 is CORE autosport, which will have Jon Bennett and Colin Braun aboard its No. 54 ORECA LM P2 machine. CORE is a multiple championship-winning team in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class that moved to GTD for the 2017 season, and is returning to its Prototype roots next season.
Another long-time team from the PC class – which concluded its WeatherTech Championship run in 2017 – is BAR1 Motorsports, which is fielding the No. 20 Multimatic/Riley LM P2 Prototype in the test for a trio of drivers that includes Don Yount, Tomy Drissi and Gustavo Yacaman.
In the GTLM class, the new BMW M8 GTLM will make its public debut for BMW Team RLL. John Edwards and team newcomer Connor De Philippi, who was introduced last week as one of the team’s full-time drivers for the 2018 season, will share the No. 25 machine.
The GTLM field also will include the full 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona-winning driver lineup of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 66 Ford GT as part of a two-car entry from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. In the team’s No. 67 Ford GT will be Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Ernie Francis Jr.
The only driver listed for the lone GTLM Ferrari at the test – the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE – is Toni Vilander. Patrick Pilet and Laurens Vanthoor will share the lone Porsche – the No. 912 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR.
In the GTD class, Jack Hawksworth will handle the driving responsibilities in the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3. Joerg Bergmeister and Michael de Quesada will co-drive the No. 28 Porsche GT3 R for the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona GTD class-winning Alegra Motorsports. Rounding out the GTD entry is Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports.
The IMSA Prototype Challenge series, which will host its inaugural race at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Jan. 6, will have a pair of one-hour sessions on Tuesday. The entry list features five LM P3 machines and six open-cockpit Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) race cars. The race during the Roar will be one hour and 45 minutes in length, kicking off the series’ new-for-2018 endurance racing format.
The Continental Tire Challenge will follow a similar testing plan on Wednesday, with a pair of two, one-hour sessions as well. Five GS cars – including new Mercedes-AMG, Audi and BMW race cars – and seven cars from the new-for-2018 TCR class have been entered. The Continental Tire Challenge also will participate in the three-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona test on Jan. 5-7 ahead of its four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge season-opener at Daytona on Friday, Jan. 26.
While the December test is not open to the public, tickets for both the Roar Before The Rolex 24 and the Rolex 24 At Daytona are on sale now at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.