This year's Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge steps up a gear this weekend, with the drivers from the British F3 International Series scoring their first points as the single-seater championship begins in Monza, Italy.
The drivers signed up from the championship are hoping to go one better than 2010 champion Jean Eric Vergne, who came within a race of winning the Sunoco Challenge last year in a season where he romped away with the Formula Three title.
It is expected that the 2011 championship will be led by Vergne's successors at the Carlin team, and of the six car stable three drivers has put their names forward for the chance to win a race seat in the 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
South Americans Felipe Nasr and Carlos Heurtas – who have both topped sessions in pre-season testing – arguably lead the list of names, though F3 (and Carlin) sophomore Rupert Svendsen–Cook should be able to add to his sole 2010 win, and add the points to his Challenge account, as he aims squarely for the drivers' title.
“That's what I want to achieve,” said Svendsen-Cook. “I really want to win the Championship and I've prepared really, really hard over the winter to achieve that. I am with the best team, with the best people, so now it's down to me to do the job.”
All three newly recruited drivers for Fortec Motorsport – Carlin's main rivals last season – are also signed up for the Sunoco Challenge. Will Buller, Harry Tincknell and ex-Carlin man Lucas Foresti are joined by Hitech duo Scott Pye and Pipo Derani on a bulging Challenge entry list for the season.
Also attracted by the chance to drive at the legendary Daytona International Speedway is Bart Hylkema, who will drive for T-Sport in the Rookie Championship – the new name for the National Class.
The Avon Tyres British GT Championship and British Endurance Championship (BEC) are also eligible for the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge. This weekend's action also includes the second round of the BEC, the arrival of the F3 runners giving the first comparisons between series this year.
The British GT Championship begins on the Easter Weekend, when the British F3 Championship will also race at Oulton Park, Cheshire.
The Checkered Flag will be following the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge all year, with standings updates throughout the season