It’s been more than a month since the last round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship but the grid have not been quiet in their preparations for the 2017 Sebring 12 Hours.
The second round of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, the Florida airfield has played host to epic battles down the years and this should prove no different as 46 cars in four classes get set to go once around the clock.
The time The Checkered Flag takes a look at the Prototype categories and the entries looking to claim overall victory and the last ever Prototype Challenge victory.
The Cadillac DPis which so dominated the Rolex 24 at Daytona are back to see if they remain as dominant in the second part of this Florida double-header and it will be Wayne Taylor Racing aiming for consecutive victories.
Taking on the challenge for WTR, or Konica Minolta to give them their proper name, will be a slightly different line-up this time round as Ricky and Jordan Taylor are joined by multi-talented Brit Alex Lynn.
Also flying the Caddy flag is Mustang Sampling Racing’s trio of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque who were agrieved to be finishing second – and by only half-a-second – after what could be described as a ‘controversial’ end to Daytona as they got unceremonously shoved off the track by the Konica Minolta team. This time, they’ll be wanting to get themselves out into a clear lead so that situation doesn’t unfold again…
The third and final Cadillac on the grid is the Whelen Engineering/Action Express Racing entry of Dane Cameron, Eric Curran and Mike Conway who will be out to make up for their poor result in the IMSA season opener.
Elsewhere in the 11 car category are the two Nissans of Tequila Patron ESM who are also out for some Sebring redemption. The #2 of Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and Luis Felipe Derani finished just off the podium last time out and they’ll be hoping they can upgrade that fourth to at least a third round the airfield.
The #22 of Brendon Hartley, Ed Brown, Bruno Senna and Johannes van Overbeek could only hope for a fourth in Daytona as they finished 23 laps behind the winner and their main objective is to not replicate that this time round.
Also looking for some joy in the Sebring sun is Rebellion Racing, their Oreca 07 didn’t much enjoy the banking but with Sebastien Buemi, Neel Jani and Nick Heidfeld peddling the car, it won’t be through lack of pace if the team fail to make the podium.
JDC-Miller Motorsports will also be running an Oreca at Sebring, they had some teething issues in the car’s debut race but with those issues hopefully settled, don’t put it past Chris Miller, Stephen Simpson and Misha Gokbherg to sneak a result if they have a good run, they’ve a lot of experience at the track in the past and know what it takes to survive the bumps.
The only other team to be running an LMP2, rather than a DPi, is PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports who are running a Ligier JSP217 for dab endurance hands Tom Kimber-Smith, Jose Gutierrez and Mike Guasch.
Looking to claim another podium in their rather attractive Riley/Multimatic is Visit Florida Racing, their crew of Marc Goossens, Renger van der Zande and Rene Rast have a good mix of speed and consistency that will help immensely as they race into the night.
Finally in the class is Mazda Motorsport. Last time out they had good pace but no long run durability as mechanical faults meant the two cars finished 40th and 46th.
The hope for the team will be that the #55 of Spencer Pigott, Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez and the #70 of Tom Long, Joel Miller and new addition Marino Franchitti will be able to turn that raw speed into consistent stints and a pair of decent results.
Prototype Challenge will be visiting Sebring for the last time this season before the class gets consumed by IMSA Prototype Lites and the LMP3 ruleset and because of this, it probably isn’t much of a surprise to see there are only four cars on the PC entry list.
It’s fair to say that the class didn’t cover itself in glory at Daytona but hopefully it will be a lot more competitive this time out.
Leading the entry list is the #38 of Performance Tech Motorsports which won at the speedway. Their crew consists of James French, Patricio O’Ward and Kyle Masson and all will be looking to keep their head down and focus on benefitting on the bad luck of others.
BAR1 Motorsports take up half the class with two entries, one for Don Yount, Buddy Rice and Daniel Burkett and a second for Marc Drumwright, Chapman Ducote, Gustavo Yacaman and Colin Thompson who will be battling for team honours as much as class crowns.
Finally in the class is Starworks Motorsport, and while I’d like to give the full line-up the team has only announced one driver according to the most recent entry list and that is James Dayson.
Keep an eye out on The Checkered Flag tomorrow for a detailed preview of both the GT classes – GT Le Mans and GT Daytona.