Rolex 24 At Daytona Field Includes Drivers From 25 Countries And Six Continents
January 18, 2018
Maybe more than any other year – at least in recent memory – the world will be watching when the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship kicks off on Jan. 27-28 with the 56th Rolex 24 At Daytona.
U.S. television coverage begins on FOX at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 27 and includes complete domestic streaming throughout the 24 hours on FOX Sports GO. International, flag-to-flag coverage is available on IMSA.com and a variety of international television outlets, as well as IMSA Radio commentary on RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio.
Drivers representing every continent except Antarctica – and a total of 25 countries in all – have been entered to drive one of the 50 cars on this year’s Rolex 24 entry list. A complete breakdown of the countries represented by drivers in the field – led by the United States with 60 drivers – is as follows:
United States – 60
Germany – 18
Great Britain – 18
France – 12
Italy – 9
Brazil - 8
Switzerland – 7
The Netherlands – 6
Austria – 5
Canada – 5
Portugal – 5
Mexico – 5
Colombia – 4
Spain – 4
Denmark – 3
South Africa – 3
Australia – 2
Belgium – 2
Finland – 2
New Zealand – 2
Argentina – 1
China – 1
Ireland - 1
Russia – 1
Sweden – 1
The star-studded entry list includes the world’s best sports car racers – IMSA and FIA World Endurance Championship series champions, and previous Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans race winners – as well as a two-time Formula 1 World Champion, four Indianapolis 500 winners, five IndyCar Series champions and two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race winners.
The 20-car Prototype field includes the defending Rolex 24 At Daytona-winning Wayne Taylor Racing team, with a dramatically different driver lineup in its No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. Jordan Taylor, the team’s lone returning driver, will be joined by past IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and Taylor’s new full-season co-driver, Renger van der Zande, a past WeatherTech Championship Prototype Challenge class champion.
Ricky Taylor, who co-drove to the Rolex 24 win and the 2017 Prototype class championship with Jordan Taylor, is part of an all-star driver lineup from Acura Team Penske. Ricky Taylor will share the No. 7 Acura ARX-05 DPi car with three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves – his new full-season teammate in the WeatherTech Championship – and Graham Rahal, who won the 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona and owns multiple IndyCar race victories.
The No. 6 Acura DPi will be shared by three-time Rolex 24 At Daytona and two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya, 2016 WeatherTech Championship Prototype champion Dane Cameron and 2016 IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud.
Two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso is bringing substantial international star power as he competes in his first Rolex 24 At Daytona in the No. 23 United Autosports Ligier LMP2 along with a pair of talented young co-drivers in Lando Norris and Phil Hanson. Another active F1 racer, Canadian Lance Stroll, will share one of the Jackie Chan DCR JOTA team’s pair of ORECA LMP2 cars, the No. 37 entry alongside Felix Rosenqvist, Robin Frijns and Daniel Juncadella.
The Prototype class also includes a number of other recent Rolex 24 At Daytona winners, including Tequila Patrón ESM, which won in 2016. One member of that winning lineup, Scott Sharp, will share the team’s No. 2 Nissan DPi with Ryan Dalziel, the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona winner, and Olivier Pla. In the team’s No. 22 entry are two more drivers from the 2016 winning lineup, Pipo Derani and Johannes van Overbeek, and Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre.
Another team to watch in a stacked Prototype field is Action Express Racing, with its pair of Cadillac DPi race cars. Co-driving the team’s No. 5 Mustang Sampling entry will be multi-time Rolex 24 overall winners Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi – who also won back-to-back WeatherTech Championship Prototype titles in 2014 and 2015 and have won every Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup since its inception in 2015 – and Filipe Albuquerque, who now joins Barbosa as a full-time driver for the team in 2018.
In the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi will be 2016 Prototype co-champion Eric Curran with his new full-season co-driver, Felipe Nasr, as well as Mike Conway and Stuart Middleton. Nasr was quickest in the qualifying session for garage and pit selections during the Roar Before The Rolex 24 earlier this month.
Moving to the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing returns to defend its 2017 Rolex 24 victory with the same three drivers in its No. 66 Ford GT, WeatherTech Championship full-timers Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller and past IndyCar champion Sebastien Bourdais. In the team’s No. 67 entry will be Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and the winningest active IndyCar driver, Scott Dixon.
Corvette Racing, which has won the last two WeatherTech Championship GTLM titles, kicks off its 20th anniversary season with its familiar pair of entries, the No. 3 Corvette C7.R for 2017 series champions Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen and their endurance teammate Mike Rockenfeller. In the No. 4 Corvette will be 2016 GTLM co-champions Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner with co-driver Marcel Fassler.
The GTLM field also includes a pair of Porsche 911 RSRs, the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE and a pair of new BMW M8 GTLM race cars from BMW Team RLL.
The GT Daytona (GTD) class once again boasts the largest field in the Rolex 24 with 21 cars from and eight different manufacturers. Not unlike the Prototype class, the defending GTD championship-winning drivers, Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan, also will be racing for different teams in 2018.
Nielsen, who took back-to-back WeatherTech Championship GTD titles with Balzan as her co-driver, has moved to the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R for 2018. She will go in search of her first Rolex 24 victory with full-season co-driver Patrick Long – America’s only Porsche factory driver – and Porsche hotshoes Robert Renauer and Mathieu Jaminet.
Balzan welcomes new full-season co-driver Cooper MacNeil to the lineup for the No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3 with endurance teammates Gunnar Jeannette and Jeff Segal. Scuderia Corsa will field a second entry for 2014 Rolex 24 GTD winners Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell, who will be joined in the No. 64 machine by Frank Montecalvo and Sam Bird.
AJ Allmendinger, a 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona overall winner and one of two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race winners in the field (joining Montoya), is part of a two-car Acura NSX GT3 lineup from Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian. He will share the No. 86 machine with Katherine Legge, Alvaro Parente and Trent Hindman.
Ferrari leads the GTD entry list with four cars in the field, followed by three apiece from Porsche, Mercedes-AMG and Acura, two each from Lexus and Audi and one BMW.
In addition to kicking off the 2018 WeatherTech Championship season, the Rolex 24 At Daytona also serves as the first event of the four-round Patrón Endurance Cup season that also includes the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and Motul Petit Le Mans. At Daytona, Patrón Endurance Cup points will be awarded at six-hour intervals.
On-track activities for the Rolex 24 At Daytona get under way on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 9:20 a.m. ET with a one-hour practice session. There will be a total of three practice sessions on Thursday, as well as 15-minute qualifying sessions for each of the three classes beginning Thursday at 3:55 p.m. ET. Qualifying will be streamed live on IMSA.com.
Friday’s activities include a fourth and final practice session from 9:40 to 10:40 a.m. ET, as well as the first of two IMSA-sanctioned Ferrari Challenge races and the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge, which opens the 2018 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season at 1 p.m. ET.
Following a pre-race autograph session in Daytona International Speedway’s UNOH Fanzone from 12 to 12:45 p.m. ET, the grid will be open to race fans in attendance from 1:05 to 2:20 p.m. ET. The green flag is scheduled to drop on the 56th Rolex 24 At Daytona at 2:40 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 27.