This weekend marks the start of the 2016 WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, as the teams and drivers prepare for the Daytona 24 Hours with a three day test.
The ‘Roar Before the 24’ takes place on January 8-10, featuring all four IMSA championship classes – Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona.
Traditionally the test allows for one final comparison of the 50-plus entries that are set to take part in the 54th running of the Florida enduro. This year much interest will be bestowed upon the new teams taking part, including the return of Ford to international sportscar racing.
A healthy mix of Prototype machinery
Ford’s operating team, Chip Ganassi Racing, will be hoping to defend its 2015 Daytona 24 Hours title with a two-car Prototype effort. The American team has two Riley-Ford DPs for the Roar, featuring Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon in the #02 machine and Alex Wurz, Brendon Hartley, Lance Stroll and Andy Priaulx in the #01 car.
Further DP entries come from VisitFlorida Racing (which has a completely revised lineup for 2016), Wayne Taylor Racing, Action Express Racing (times two), and Highway to Help.
With the 2017 LMP2 regulations on the horizon there is a notable increase in the number of non-DP runners this year. Russian outfit SMP Racing will provide a Roar debut to its promising BR01 Nissan, while Extreme Speed Motorsports and Michael Shank Racing will both run a Ligier JS P2 Honda each.
Mazda Motorsports will be a team to keep an eye on this weekend, following its adoption of a new two litre petrol engine in place of the troublesome SKYACTIV diesel setup that was used last year. Jonathan Bomarito, Spencer Pigot and Tristan Nunez are listed in the #55 car, while Joel Miller, Tom Long and Ben Devlin are to test the #70 machine.
Another particularly interesting entry is the DeltaWing project, now running under the Panoz DeltaWing Racing banner. PC star Shaun Rayhall will accompany Andy Meyrick, Andreas Wirth and Katherine Legge at the Roar, with the team hoping to build on last year’s impressive preseason test in which the DWC13 split the DP field.
Braun and Bennett Return to Prototype Challenge
Eight cars are penciled in for the spec prototype category, with PC champions Colin Braun and Jon Bennett eager to get their season off to a good start. Mark Wilkins and Martin Plowman complete the CORE Autosport lineup in the hope of repeating last year’s fastest lap.
After a successful foray into LMP2 in 2015, Chris Cumming will return to his PC roots this weekend with Starworks Motorsport. The Canadian driver is part of a strong lineup, featuring Alex Popow, Renger van der Zande and British IndyCar racer Jack Hawksworth.
Starworks will not be returning to the P class this year, instead opting for two PC entries. Mark Kvamme, Sean Johnston and Maro Engel are the three drivers thus far announced for the second car.
PC entries from PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, BAR1 Motorsports (times two), Performance Tech Motorsports and JDC-Miller Motorsports complete the class order.
GTLM Brings the Heat
One of the big talking points heading into the Roar Before the 24 is the titanic array of manufacturer-led GT entries. Ford may be the headline act, but its Chip Ganassi/Multimatic-run effort is just one of several new-for-2016 projects that will be on display at the weekend. Ferrari, the historic rival to the blue oval’s Le Mans success in the ‘60s will showcase its new 488 Italia with Risi Competizione, Scuderia Corsa and WEC champions SMP Racing operating the three cars.
The Ford GTs will run with three drivers each: Joey Hand, Dirk Muller and Sebastien Bourdais are placed in the #66 car while Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Stefan Mucke form the #67 trio.
BMW is the third team to bring a new car to the Roar, with the M6 GTLM replacing the iconic Z4 model. Two cars for BMW Team RLL are listed, featuring a largely unchanged lineup to last year. Bill Auberlen, Augusto Farfus, Bruno Spengler and Dirk Werner will drive the #25 car, while Graham Rahal, Lucas Luhr, John Edwards and Kuno Wittmer (the only new addition) are listed under the #100 entry.
Porsche set the pace at the Roar in 2015 and will be looking to do the same this time around. Two 911 RSRs are ably run again by CORE Autosport, with a complete lineup of factory-backed drivers. #911 will be driven by Kevin Estre, Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy, while #912 recruits the services of Earl Bamber, Fred Makowiecki and Michael Christensen.
The mouthwatering GTLM lineup is completed by Corvette Racing, which brings a pair of works C7s to the 3.5 mile speedway. The empty space left by Ford-bound Ryan Briscoe has been filled by former DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller – who is alongside Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen – while Audi LMP1 star Marcel Fassler joins Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin in the other car.
Entries aplenty in GTD
The GTD field is a real mixed bag, and has attracted the participation of several new cars as well as a number of star drivers with the arrival of GT3 specification.
One of those drivers is Force India F1 star Sergio Perez, who is listed to test the TRG-AMR Aston Martin that he has recently formed a partnership with. However, Perez is not scheduled to participate in the Daytona 24 Hours itself.
No fewer than five Lamborghini Huracans will be present at the Roar, with two of the entries coming from stalwart German outfit Konrad Motorsport. Ferrari’s new 488 GT3 will also get track time with Scuderia Corsa, which has recruited the services of 2015 star Christina Nielsen. The latest rendition of the Audi R8 LMS, although more seasoned than its Ferrari counterpart, will also make its Roar debut this weekend. Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge outfit Stevenson Motorsport has confirmed two cars, while the Flying Lizard/Krohn Racing combo will make its public test debut with one R8.
Several BMW works drivers will be on hand to test the two M6 GT3s that will be entered at the Roar. Turner Motorsport has Jens Klingmann and Marco Wittmann listed alongside US drivers Bret Curtis and Ashley Freiberg in the #96, while the #97 features Michael Marsal, Maxime Martin, Markus Palttala and Jesse Krohn.
Older GT3 models will provide a comparison between the different generations of machinery. Spirit of Race enters a Ferrari 458 this weekend, while Riley Motorsports is back with its much-loved Dodge Viper GT3-S. Add five Porsches and two Aston Martins (including a works entry!) into the mix and the 2016 GTD class becomes one of the most diverse ever seen at the Daytona Roar.
In 2016 the Roar will be split into eight sessions over three days. Test sessions will range from one hour to two and a half hours in length, and will take place both during the day and at night.
The weekend will be shared with the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge, which has 21 entries listed for six sessions over the course of the three days.
IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship Schedule
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