A sneak preview of what to expect begins this weekend with a two-day open test session at Sebring International Raceway (Nov. 16-17), followed by two days of testing at Daytona International Speedway next Tues. and Wed. (Nov. 19-20).
Fans are welcome at both tests. Sebring is offering tickets at the gate for $10 per day, which will allow access to certain areas of the 3.74-mile circuit but no paddock access. At Daytona, fans may watch testing for free from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands via access through the lobby of the Daytona International Speedway ticket office. Fans may get a closer look at testing through a DIS track tour.
With testing set to begin at 8 a.m. ET on Saturday morning, a number of competitors have begun making announcements regarding their 2014 plans. Following is a recap of announcements from the past week:
MAZDA TO INTRODUCE SKYACTIV-D SMART DIESEL-POWERED PROTOTYPES IN 2014
Mazda Motorsports made headlines on Thursday morning by announcing plans for a pair of SKYACTIV-D Smart Diesel-powered race cars that will race in the Prototype (P) class of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
“This is the most significant step Mazda has taken towards returning to the global racing stage since our overall victory at Le Mans in 1991," said John Doonan, director of Mazda Motorsports. “And thanks to our SKYACTIV-D Mazda6 racecars winning nine of 12 GRAND-AM Rolex [Series] GX races and the GRAND-AM GX Manufacturers Championship this year, we’re confident that our two prototype cars will challenge the best North America has to offer."
The development of the race cars is being led by owner/driver Sylvain Tremblay and his South Florida-based SpeedSource Race Engineering. Tremblay recently tested the car at Sebring International Raceway.
“As a racer, you always want to be in the fastest class," said Tremblay, who contributed to Mazda’s Manufacturers Championship-winning effort as both a driver and team owner. “The development of the Mazda SKYACTIV-D was a great deal of work by Mazda and SpeedSource and it will be quite the task to take this to the front of the prototype class in only our second year of competition. Mazda and SpeedSource will have a busy November and December of testing as we prepare for Daytona."
FLYING LIZARD MOTORSPORTS, PAUL MILLER RACING TO FIELD AUDIS IN GT DAYTONA
Flying Lizard Motorsports and Paul Miller Racing this week announced plans to enter the GT Daytona (GTD) class, and both teams will utilize the Audi R8 LMS.
Flying Lizard will field a pair of Audis for a to-be-announced driver lineup. The California-based team enters GTD after taking the team championship in the 2013 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila PatrÂ¢n GT Challenge class. The team will field both cars in the Sebring and Daytona tests.
"This is certainly a substantial change for the team as Porsche has been a great partner for many years," said Flying Lizard driver and team principal Seth Neiman. “Equally, Audi is a great company with a spectacular racing pedigree, a serious commitment to GT racing, and a clear commitment to forging an alliance to continue both of our winning traditions far into the future. They know how to win, we know how to win, and we both are totally focused on doing just that. This is a strong foundation for a long and successful relationship."
The Paul Miller team will be led by driver Bryce Miller in the No. 48 R8. Like Flying Lizard, Paul Miller Racing will also test at Sebring and Daytona, with reigning Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida champion Benoit Treluyer set to test the car alongside Miller.
“While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my seven-year run with Porsche, I couldn’t be more excited to start a new chapter with Audi," Bryce Miller said. “Audis have been my daily driver for many years, and I’ve long been a fan of their brand and their cars. They’ve had many successes at the highest levels of the sport, earning a prestigious place in motorsports history, and this makes driving the Audi R8 LMS an honor for any racing driver."
MOMO NGT MOTORSPORT TO RACE IN GTD WITH CISNEROS, GIERMAZIAK
One of the top contenders in the 2013 ALMS GTC class, MOMO NGT Motorsport remains in the Porsche fold in 2014 with this week’s announcement that the team will field the No. 30 MOMO Porsche GT America for co-drivers Henrique Cisneros and Kuba Giermaziak in the GTD class.
The team also announced plans for Danish racer Christina Nielsen to join the team for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona as well as a fourth driver to be named later.
“The team is very excited to enter the new GTD class," said MOMO co-owner and driver Cisneros. “It will be fun to compete against so many brands after racing exclusively with Porsches for four years.
“Kuba is a rock star behind the wheel. He’s always fast and consistent. We have shared many fantastic races over the years with a victory at Petit Le Mans and this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona, which we led for the majority of the race. I can’t wait to see what we can do together."
FIRST PIECE OF THE PUZZLE IN PLACE FOR MUSCLE MILK PICKETT RACING WITH PC ENTRY
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing made its first of a series of announcements in what is expected to be an ambitious 2014 TUDOR Championship season for the team which won back-to-back P1 championships in the ALMS.
The team announced a full-time entry into the Prototype Challenge class, returning to PC action for the first time since a partial season in 2012. The driver lineup is still to be announced, but Steven Doherty and Brian Heitkotter are slated to share the team’s No. 12 ORECA FLM09 at the Sebring test. The team is not currently entered for testing at Daytona.
“With the changes in sports car racing, we knew we would be going in a somewhat different direction for this coming season," said team owner Greg Pickett. “We studied many different options for 2014, including other racing series, but at the end of the day, our heart is in sports car racing. We couldn’t be more pleased to be a part of the TUDOR Championship."
LEVEL 5 MOTORSPORTS LAUNCHES CUSTOMER PROGRAM, PLANS TO EXPAND
After winning its fourth ALMS championship in 2013, Level 5 Motorsports announced plans for a customer program and an expansion to both the PC and GTD classes alongside its arsenal of P-class machinery.
The team’s stable currently includes a pair of HPD ARX-03b/Honda prototypes, two Lola prototypes, three ORECA FLM09 PC cars and two GTD-class eligible Ferrari 458s. The team will set up shop this weekend at the Sebring test to introduce the program to potential customers.
“We’re expecting there will be a good representation of drivers for testing at Sebring from both America and Europe," said team manager David Stone. “We’re looking forward to showcasing Level 5’s impressive paddock, and with credentials like ours, we’re confident that people will trust us to get the job done for them."
GAINSCO/BOB STALLINGS RACING SETS ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA DRIVER LINEUP
The No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP will feature a familiar lineup for the TUDOR Championship debut with this week’s announcement that regular co-drivers Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney will be joined for the Rolex 24 At Daytona by Darren Law and Memo Gidley for the second consecutive year.
“We are very excited about entering our 10th year of professional sports car racing and we are especially happy to have continuity in our race team and the driver lineup for the Rolex 24 At Daytona race," said team owner Bob Stallings. “Alex, Jon, Memo and Darren will be back in the (No.) 99 ‘Red Dragon’ Corvette Daytona Prototype for this grueling, 24-hour race, and we are ever optimistic that this year could be the one."
The team’s previous best result in the Rolex 24 was a second-place run in 2008.
BARBOSA, FITTIPALDI RETURN TO ACTION EXPRESS RACING
Action Express Racing will return its championship-contending driver pairing from last season’s Rolex Series DP class. Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa joined forces midway through the season one year ago and quickly went on to score a pair of victories at Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen.
“Having Joao and Christian together again should be a very strong combination," said team manager Gary Nelson. “We saw last season that they not only work well together, but they also have great communications with Iain (Watt, Action Express Racing technical director). We want to build on the progress that the team made last year, and having this line-up for the No. 5 Corvette DP should help us do that."
Action Express Racing won the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2010 – the first race for the organization – and will again be competing with a Corvette DP in 2014.