IMSA News And Notes: Roar Before the Rolex 24
TUDOR Championship Kicks Off New Year With 'Roar' Test
The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship paddock will 'roar' to life for the first time in 2015 this weekend with the annual Roar Before the Rolex 24 test at Daytona International Speedway Jan. 9-11.
The three-day test is the lone official IMSA test of the offseason and the final dress rehearsal for teams competing in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 24-25.
Among the 53 teams entered across the TUDOR Championship's four classes are 10 different automotive manufacturers and current and former stars from various disciplines of racing, including NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula 1 and international sports car competition.
Opening practice for the Roar Before the Rolex 24 begins Friday at 10:20 a.m. ET. A total of eight sessions will take place between Friday and Sunday, including a 90-minute night practice on Saturday beginning at 6:45 p.m. ET.
Joining the TUDOR Championship at the test will be the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge which kicks off its season Jan. 23 at Daytona International Speedway.
Roar Success Good Indicator For Rolex 24
Looking for an early favorite for the Rolex 24 At Daytona? Look no further than the time sheets at this weekend's Roar Before the Rolex 24.
One year ago, two of the four eventual winners in the Rolex 24 topped the charts in the final test of the offseason. All four of the fastest teams in the Roar Before The Rolex 24 finished the race in the top five.
"The key to a successful race is successful testing," said CORE autosport owner/driver Jon Bennett, who finished second in last year's Roar before winning the race in the PC class. "Successful testing is not as straightforward as it seems. We will come to the Roar with a plan to gather the most useful experience possible."
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 takes on added importance in 2015 with the test moved back one week from previous years. With one less week between the test and the Rolex 24, teams will have to plan for the limited time to make adjustments before race day. While any number of variables can change the outcome of a 24-hour race, one thing will be a certain: fast cars at the Roar will equal fast cars in the Rolex 24.
Ligier JS P2 To Make Official Daytona Debut With Two Cars This Weekend
The Ligier JS P2 made its TUDOR United SportsCar Championship debut in 2014 at Circuit of the Americas with high expectations after a successful launch earlier in the year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Those expectations were met when Alex Brundle promptly put the No. 42 OAK Racing Honda-Powered Ligier JS P2 on the pole and finished second with co-driver Gustavo Yacaman.
This weekend, the car built by Onroak Automotive makes its first official laps at Daytona International Speedway at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 with a pair entries filed by Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian and Krohn Racing.
While both teams are veterans of the 24-hour endurance classic, the shift to the Ligier JS P2 is a new and exciting challenge. To reduce the learning curve, both teams shook down their cars prior to this week's test.
Krohn Racing received delivery of its new Judd-powered Ligier JS P2 in late November and immediately began an extensive testing program that saw the team test in Estoril, Portugal, as well as a private test at Daytona in December.
"The primary goal is to get back to a winning combination of car, engine and driver," said Krohn Racing owner/driver Tracy Krohn, who will be joined by Brundle, Olivier Pla and Nic Jonsson in the Rolex. "We had a lot of success in the past with Daytona Prototypes and different engine combinations. We expect more from this Judd/Ligier in the way of performance.
"Testing has gone pretty well and we have already incorporated many of the things that we have learned from those different tests as well as having gained overall knowledge of the performance of the Judd/Ligier car at different tracks."
Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian recently completed the first test with its Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 at Palm Beach International Raceway. The 2012 Rolex 24 winners shook down the new car with drivers John Pew, Ozz Negri, AJ Allmendinger and Matt McMurry and gathered notes that will help the team get up to speed quickly at Daytona.
"The test was all about integrating the team with the car and it was really, really good," said team owner Mike Shank. "The team to car integration was really good. There is still a lot to learn, it's a big mountain to climb. Ligier did a wonderful job with the car and we're really impressed with the Honda."
Porsche North America Looking To Defend Rolex 24 Victory In GTLM Class
Porsche is no stranger to success in the Rolex 24 At Daytona with 76 victories, including a record 27 GT class victories.
In the always-competitive GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, Porsche was strong out of the gate in 2014, adding to its legacy of victories on big stages, winning both the Rolex 24 and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida with its pair of Porsche 911 RSRs. While those victories helped propel Porsche to the TUDOR Championship manufacturer title in the GTLM class, as well as the GTLM championship in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, things won't be easy in 2015 as a total of 10 GTLM entries look to return to victory lane in the Rolex 24 on Jan. 24-25.
Corvette Racing, BMW Team RLL, Risi Competizione, Aston Martin Racing, Team Falken Tire and AF Corse hope to play spoiler, a role that begins this weekend in the Roar Before the Rolex 24. One year ago, Nick Tandy, Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet opened the year with the fastest lap in the Roar and carried that momentum into a Rolex 24 victory in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR.
"Daytona is always a good track for Porsche because to start the year you need reliability, and that is a strong point for Porsche," said Joerg Bergmeister, who will drive the team's No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR. "We have a long test schedule that we have to go through. (We have) a lot of setup changes we want to try on the Porsche North America cars so we'll try and optimize the most we can these three days of testing. As track time is somewhat limited on race week, the more knowledge you can learn during the test weekend the better off you will be for race weekend."
This year Porsche returns with eight factory drivers set to compete in the GTLM class, including Patrick Long and Wolf Henzler in the No. 17 Team Falken Tire customer entry. A trio of factory drivers share the two factory entries.
The No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR will be shared by Tandy, Pilet and Marc Lieb, while the No. 912 entry will be driven by Bergmeister, Frederic Makowiecki and Earl Bamber.
"We are not underestimating the competition or resting on our successes," said Porsche Motorsport North America President/CEO Jens Walther. "We learned a great deal last year with the debut of both cars in the TUDOR Championship and we are fully prepared to put what we learned into practice in 2015."
Sweedler, Bell Look To Follow-Up Rolex 24 Win With New Team
Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell enjoyed a memorable TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season in 2014, winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the GT Daytona (GTD) class, as well as the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup thanks to podium finishes in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida and the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen while driving for AIM Autosport.
This season the duo joins forces with the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 team, an organization that won at Detroit and Indianapolis Motor Speedway one year ago. The new pairing hopes to share similar success in the Rolex 24 later this January.
"Daytona can't come soon enough for us," said Sweedler, who along with Bell also will be joined by Jeff Segal and Anthony Lazzaro in the Rolex 24. "We are excited to be getting our season started with Scuderia Corsa. We are feeling the pressure after winning last year's race to be as competitive as possible at Daytona.
"It is great to have Jeff back with Townsend and myself, and Anthony will be a great addition to the lineup. He's another guy with a huge amount of experience in the Ferrari and I think we'll have one of the strongest lineups in GTD for Daytona."
Already class winners at Daytona and Sebring, Bell and Sweedler will add another endurance race to their schedule in 2015, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The duo, as well as an American driver to be named at a later date, will drive a Scuderia Corsa entered Ferrari 458 Italia in the GTE-Am class.
"After racing at Daytona, Sebring, and Petit Le Mans this is going to be a dream come true. It's very exciting to bring an all-American lineup to Le Mans and to compete behind the wheel of a Scuderia Corsa Ferrari. We will have a competitive team, car and a strong driver lineup. I am grateful to everyone that has helped to make this happen and we look forward to representing the IMSA TUDOR Championship well."
Goikhberg Rides IMSA Ladder System To TUDOR Championship, Rolex 24
The name Mikhail Goikhberg may be relatively unknown to some fans of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, but thanks to the IMSA ladder system that's about to change.
Goikhberg is following in the footsteps of fellow TUDOR Championship drivers Sean Rayhall and Tristan Nunez as drivers who have advanced their careers with championships in the IMSA-sanctioned Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda. This weekend he will make his competition debut at Daytona International Speedway in the No. 85 JDC/Miller MotorSports ORECA FLM09 at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 official test.
In 2014, Goikhberg, from North Vancouver, British Columbia, won nine of 14 rounds this season while driving the No. 10 JDC MotorSports entry in the IMSA Development Series. He clinched his first championship with three rounds remaining in the season.
The series veteran took command of the 2014 championship by winning five of the first six races and never relented. His title came after finishing third in the championship in 2013 and second in 2012.
With his championship, Goikhberg earned a full-season Premium Entrant Membership Package to take with him to the PC team of his choice next season, as well as free entries for all 10 rounds of the TUDOR Championship.
TUDOR Championship, Etc.
John Wright has teamed up with Patrick Dempsey for the 2015 Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup. Wright Motorsports will field the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT America with Madison Snow and Jan Heylen for the full season, and will compete under the Dempsey/Wright Motorsports banner at Daytona with Dempsey and Phillip Eng completing the lineup. Wright has been busy behind the scenes at the Rolex 24 since 1993. He prepared the class-winning Porsche for Franz Konrad in 1998, and has several podium finishes – including the 2014 Rolex 24. Dempsey had one of his strongest runs in the 2011 Rolex 24, when he led for nearly one hour and finished third.
Rubens Barrichello will be making his second run in a Daytona Prototype when he joins Brendon Hartley, Robbie Kerr, Tor Graves and Scott Mayer in the No. 7 Starworks Motorsport Dinan/Riley. The 11–time Formula One winner came up nine minutes short on fuel in his debut DP drive at Indianapolis in 2013, finishing fourth in the race won by Starworks.
Racers Edge, Mantella Autosport Expand Teams For Testing
Racers Edge Motorsports and Mantella Autosport will have an expanded presence in 2015 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Grand Sport (GS) competition, bringing multi-car teams to this weekend's Roar Before the Rolex 24 testing.
Racers Edge is expanding to a three-car operation. Joining the No. 78 Xborder Foods & Wine Ford Mustang Boss 302R of Bob Michaelian and Chris Beaufait will be the No. 10 Legistics Mustang of Ricardo Flores and Nick Galante, and the No. 57 Lira Racing/Gary Yeomans Ford Mustang of 17-year-old Michael Lira and Timmy Rivers.
"We've got good cars and strong drivers, and I can't wait to get back into action," team owner Jon Mirachi said. "The No. 10 and No. 78 cars are set for the full season, with the No. 57 running six (of 10) races, depending on Michael's ARCA and NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule."
Mantella Autosport debuted in 2014 GS competition with an Aston Martin Vantage. For 2015, the team will run a pair of Chevrolet Camaros, the No. 80 Camaro Z/28.R for returning drivers Antony Mantella and Mark Wilkins, and the No. 8 Camaro Z/28.R for team newcomers Martin Barkey and Kyle Marcelli.
A pair of new GS teams will debut at the Roar. Puerto Ricans Bryan Ortiz and Roly Filgueras will share the No. 00 Zero Zero Motorsport Ford Mustang Boss 302R, while TLSS Motorsports debuts with New Yorkers Ken D'Arcy and Sam Schultz in the No. 89 The Little Speed Shop BMW M3.
A number of GS contenders are hedging their bets for the Roar, with two-time team champion Rum Bum Racing, Multimatic Motorsport and Rebel Rock Racing listing their drivers as "TBA" for the session. Returning contenders include two-time 2014 winner Kris Wilson with Max Riddle in the No. 07 TRG-ARM Aston Martin Vantage, and Rob Ecklin and Steve Phillips in the No. 99 Automatic Racing Invisible Glass Aston Martin Vantage.
Continental Tire Challenge will have a pair of one-hour practice sessions on Friday beginning at 9 a.m., in addition to a pair of sessions on Friday and Saturday. The season begins at 1:45 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 23, during the Rolex 24 At Daytona weekend.
Four New Teams Join Street Tuner Class At Daytona
The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Street Tuner (ST) paddock will be joined by four new teams at this weekend's Roar Before the Rolex 24 testing.
Next Level European will debut as a satellite team of BimmerWorld Racing. Next Level will field a pair of BGB Motorsports-built Porsches, the No. 38 Cayman for Dan Rogers and Seth Thomas, and the No. 83 Cayman for Greg Liefooghe and Eric Zimmermann. BimmerWorld will run a pair of BMW 328i (F30) models, the No. 81 for Tyler Cooke and Andrie Hartanto, and the No. 84 for James Clay and Jason Briedis.
Alara Racing, Goldcrest Motorsports and Crucial Motorsports also will race in the class.
No drivers are listed for the No. 34 Alara Racing Mazda MX-5. Goldcrest will field the No. 36 Strategic Wealth Racing Porsche Cayman for Matthew Dicken and John Lewis. Driving the No. 86 Crucial Motorsports BMW 128i are Sam Scheckter and Aaron Nash.
The two most recent ST championships will participate in the test. Defending champ Eric Foss returns in the No. 56 Murillo Racing/Mosing Motorcars Porsche Cayman, joined by 2014 Daytona pole winner and co-race winner Jeff Mosing, along with Justin Piscitell. Terry Borcheller and Mike LaMarra, the 2013 champs, return in the No. 23 Burton Racing/Automotive Chemicals BMW 128i.