Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

24 Hours of Daytona, 2013 Preview // Your guide to familiar F1 names and faces in the Grand-Am endurance event

Published by Pat W

Late January. The distractions of Christmas and New Year are a fading memory and yet the F1 launches and tests have yet to begin. We've gone without racing for two months! What to do?

How about following a sportscar race? This weekend's 51st Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona features an all-star cast including several former F1 drivers and several current IndyCar, NASCAR and DTM stars. As it runs outside the 'regular season' it attracts drivers from all over the racing world. Add them to the existing Grand-Am field and you have a very impressive line-up!

Why should a Formula 1 fan care? Two reasons:

  1. At least 14 drivers have F1 experience (15 if you count F1's ex-Safety Car driver Oliver Gavin!). Several have F1 race wins. This is a good chance to see what they are up to nowadays.
  2. You are starved of live racing and apart from Crashed Ice (we'll take a break for that), what else are you going to watch?

About the 24 Hours

Since 2000 the race has been the first round of the Grand-Am Rolex Series. Fortunes have changed as the race has moved from series to series and it had its lean years, thankfully it has been regaining stature recently. If Allan McNish gets a waiver from Audi to do this race because he wants to win a watch, you know it has to be something worthy of your attention.

Daytona International Speedway circuit map

The race is run on the 'roval' configuration of the famous Daytona International Speedway. There is a little road course section sitting inside NASCAR's Turn 1. It may look and sound simple in theory but thanks to the oval it is a fast track and that makes it punishing on engines, gearboxes and brakes.

#TheFuture

Since 2000 there have been two top sportscars series in North America: the ALMS and Grand-Am. Last autumn came a surprise announcement: the two would merge to form a single championship in 2014! Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen, hopefully Petit Le Mans (even if under a new name) - all in the one series. Wow! Leading officials from each series took to Twitter under the hashtag #TheFuture to discuss ideas and inspirations with fans and concerned drivers alike.

Unfortunately there were some hard decisions - there's no room next year for LMP1 cars like the Audis and Toyotas (Audi will be at Sebring this year 'to say goodbye'). Those will still race at Le Mans and in the World Championship (WEC). The other classes from each series will remain.

That's for #TheFuture. Here in 2013 both series continue apart but integration has started already and you will see ALMS and Grand-Am personnel working at each other's races. Despite being a takeover this is being handled as a true merger and is far friendlier and more inclusive than the IndyCar example!

There are two main classes in Grand-Am racing, DP and GT, plus a new class called GX for experimental tech. There are top drivers in all classes.

I will cover the Formula 1 names, other famous faces and various top contenders. I'm not including every car, if you'd like to see a full entry list plus a photo of each car I recommend the DailySportscar.com Spotters Guide.

Daytona Prototype Class

Not as technologically-advanced as Le Mans Prototypes and certainly nothing like as fast, though they do have a lot of horsepower and provide good racing. Riley chassis have won this event since 2005. BMW currently has the strongest engines. Entry: 17 cars.

Montoya and Sam Michael at Williams in 2007
Montoya and Sam Michael at Williams in 2007Credit: WilliamsF1
No.TeamCarDrivers
#01Chip Ganassi / Felix SabatesRiley - BMWJuan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon, Scott Pruett, Charlie Kimball, Memo Rojas
#02Chip Ganassi / Felix SabatesRiley - BMWDario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Scott Pruett, Jamie McMurray, Joey Hand

Chip Ganassi Racing start as the favourites. The biggest budget, the best driver line-up and recent changes in the Balance of Performance are in BMW's favour. That said this is a long race and they suffered a lot of mechanical problems last year. The two Scotts are entered in both cars.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#2Starworks MotorsportRiley - FordAllan McNish, Sébastien Bourdais, Ryan Dalziel, Alex Popow
#6Starworks MotorsportRiley - FordBrendon Hartley,Jan Charouz,Gaetano Perez,Ivan Bellarosa,Scott Mayer

The #2 car has one of the best line-ups in the field. Allan McNish is determined to win this race after getting so close last year, Bourdais is no slouch in anything he drives apart from an F1 car, Dalziel (that's 'Dee-el' to you) is fast becoming one of the best sportscar guys around, and Popow is the solid amateur bankrolling it all - he's no idiot behind the wheel.

Unfortunately for Brendon Hartley and Jan Charouz at least one of their teammates is an idiot - you may see the hashtag #ScottMayerExperience floating around Twitter. He gets lapped within 5 laps of getting in the car. I've never heard of the other two.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#38 Star MotorsportCorvette DPAnthony Davidson, Nic Minassian, Stephane Sarrazin, Pedro Lamy, Enzo Potolicchio

Davidson's return to competition after his Le Mans accident. Potolicchio split from Starworks, set up his own team, and recruited much of Peugeot's former line-up! The only question marks are over how a brand-new team will perform, and if/when/where Lamy will crash it. Enzo is solid for a monied amateur.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#5Action Express RacingCorvette DPChristian Fiitipaldi, Joao Barbosa, Brian Frisselle, Nelson Piquet Jr, Felipe Nasr
#9Action Express RacingCorvette DPChristian Fiitipaldi, Joao Barbosa, Mike Rockenfeller, Burt Frisselle
Renault put a roof over Nelson Piquet Jr's head in 2009
Renault put a roof over Nelson Piquet Jr's head in 2009Credit: DPPI

Fittipaldi and Barbosa anchor both cars, Rockenfeller on loan from Audi will be rapid. Piquet Jr has speed on his day. Each car has a Frisselle of their own (is that good? I don't know), and 2011 British F3 champ Nasr (sounds-like-Massa) was the surprise of the race with his speed on his race debut one year ago.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#10Wayne Taylor / VelocityWWCorvette DPRyan Hunter-Reay, Max Angelelli, Jordan Taylor

Current IndyCar champion Hunter-Reay joins the former SunTrust team, which always seems to run into difficulties at Daytona. Ryan ought to be solid. Max 'The Axe' is fast and Jordan Taylor, son of the team owner, is the bright young star of Corvette's ALMS programme.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#42Team SahlenRiley - BMWSimon Pagenaud, Wayne Nonnamaker, Dane Cameron

Sahlen steps up from GT for the first time so will be finding their way. Simon Pagenaud is the man to show them, always one of the top drivers when he was at Peugeot and very quick last year in IndyCar. Dane Cameron and the younger Nonnamaker should hold their own in a normal Grand-Am week but against this Daytona field? Hard to see it.

The #43 car of older-generation Joe and Will Nonnamaker and team sponsor Joe Sahlen will only make up the numbers.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#60Michael Shank RacingRiley - FordJustin Wilson, Marcos Ambrose, Ozz Negri Jr, AJ Allmendinger, John Pew

Last year's winning team has to be one of the favourites. It retains the same line-up with the addition of NASCAR driver and former V8 Supercar star Marcos Ambrose who'd initially signed as a sub for an injured Ozz Negri, who has subsequently been cleared to drive.

The #6 MSR car of Valiante, Yacaman, Goncalvez and Cumming may be in the mix in the middle of the pack but it'll take reliability issues of others for them to move up.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#90Spirit of DaytonaCorvette DPOliver Gavin, Richard Westbook, Antonio Garcia, Ricky Taylor

There isn't a bad driver in this Spirit car which should be leading the Corvette charge. Gavin has been winning for Corvette in the ALMS for years. Westbrook is still fairly new to DPs but knows how to win a GT race. Garcia and Taylor are quick too, the latter is Jordan Taylor's brother (see #10).

Honorable mentions: #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing. The red car can be quick but often seems to run into trouble. Memo Gidley, Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney and Darren Law are a good line-up and if the car works okay they might get a top five finish.

You'll also see CART champion Paul Tracy racing in the #77 Doran Dallara-Ford but as an older-generation car against a field of new ones it doesn't stand a chance. The other entries I haven't mentioned can be ignored totally.

GT Class

Don't be fooled, the second class is no worse off for quality drivers among its top teams and if you watch other sportscar racing you'll know how much fun the GT race can be! Cars are a mixture of European GT3 cars (but a little less advanced) and bespoke cars to Grand-Am.

Entry: 36 cars, I'm going to have be very selective.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#13Audi Sport/Rum Bum RacingAudi R8 Grand-AmMarkus Winkelhock, Frank Biela, Christopher HaaseMatt Plumb

One-time Spyker F1 starter Winkelhock is joined by Audi factory drivers Biela (long time career Audi driver) and Haase (quick in European GT3). RBR won the GT title last year with a Porsche.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#21Dener MotorsportPorsche GT3Rubens Barrichello, Tony Kanaan, Felipe Giaffone, Nono Figueiredo, Ricardo Mauricio
Barrichello putting in the hours at Williams, in 2011
Barrichello putting in the hours at Williams, in 2011Credit: LAT

After their IndyCar exploits last year The Rubens & Tony Show makes a surprising reappearance at Daytona. They're a part of an all-Brazilian two-car team and Figueiredo anchors both cars. Kanaan has some endurance experience from Andretti-Green's run in the ALMS with Acura. I've no idea who is in the #20 car. Realistically it would be a good result if this team completed the 24 Hours and to do so within the class top ten would be an achievement.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#23Alex Job RacingPorsche GT3Jeroen Bleekemolen, Damien Faulkner, Cooper MacNeil, Marco Holzer
#24Audi Customer/Alex JobAudi R8 Grand-AmFilipe Albuequerque,Oliver Jarvis,Eduardo Mortara,Dion von Molke

AJR are running both a Porsche and an Audi, an interesting challenge. Both cars are stacked with talent including 'hired guns' GT specialists from outside, and it'll be interesting to see which comes out on top. Either or both cars should be threatening for the win near the end, or a podium at least.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#44Magnus RacingPorsche GT3Nicolas Armindo, Andy Lally, Richard Lietz, John Potter

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present your new favourite GT team, you'll see why later. The #44 is the defending winner of the GT class at the 24 which was their first ever win. During the race they will have a continuous live web feed from the pits. They're a fun team and they do it while raising a lot of money for charity. They're also running a second car (#45) with drivers from the support race series.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#56AF-WaltripFerrari 458Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip, Rob Kauffman, Rui Aguas

Two NASCAR stars join road-course specialist Aguas and owner-driver Kauffman. I'm not just including them because Kauffman complimented me on my own blog this week, no sir. Aguas will be reliable and Waltrip has made starts at Le Mans but this style of racing will be new to Bowyer who's background is short track oval racing. It'll be interesting to watch him adapt! Different teams have different aims and I suspect these guys would be very happy with a top five finish.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#57Stevenson MotorsportsCamaro GT.RJan Magnussen, Robin Liddell, John Edwards, Tom Milner

At many tracks this would be a good pick and once again the driver line-up is faultless, however the Camaro is a brick aerodynamically - you don't want a brick at Daytona.

No.TeamCarDrivers
#61R.Ferri / AIM MotorsportFerrari 458Giancarlo Fisichella, Max Papis, Toni Vilander, Jeff Segal

With Fisico and Vilander aboard this ought to be the lead Ferrari, just don't tell Rob I said so.

Honorable Mentions: There are a lot of potential winners I haven't even mentioned. Different cars featuring Boris Said, Nick Tandy, Johannes van Overbeek & Scott Sharp, Olivier Beretta, Sascha Maassen, Marc Basseng, Emmanuel Collard & Roman Dumas, and so many others. This is what you call a STACKED field. I just can't pick a winner.

GX Class

This is a brand new class supposedly showcasing new technology. The Maxda has a new diesel engine which is unusual for a GT car. It isn't clear why the Porsche Cayman is in this class but it is considerably faster than the Mazda. Despite this the Porsches are still slower than the entire GT field. Entry: 6 cars.

The only really notable drivers are Marino Franchitti, James Hinchcliffe, Jonathan Bomarito and Sylvain Tremblay in the #70 SpeedSource Mazda, although you do have DP class-winner David Donohue linking up with the quick Shane Lewis in the #16 Napleton Porsche which is my tip for the class win - if any of this class gets beyond halfway.

Resources

The race starts at 3:30pm EST, which is 8:30pm GMT. For even more information about the race, head to the official Grand Am site. There's excellent audio coverage from Radio Le Mans who are broadcasting from the UK with live reports from the track. As mentioned above, the Spotter's Guide on Daily Sportscar is really useful, and I recommend reading their headlines for all the in-depth news.

Enjoy the race - I'll leave you with a preview from Magnus Racing, enjoy!